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Jeruba's avatar

What's the first opera you ever saw performed, either live on stage or on film?

Asked by Jeruba (41917 points ) September 15th, 2013

And did you choose it, or was it chosen for you?

If you’ve never attended or seen (and heard) an opera, it isn’t necessary to post a reply to that effect. This question is meant for people who have.

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33 Answers

Sunny2's avatar

Hansel and Gretel. I’d been in a kid’s version of it in fourth grade and knew some of the “songs”. The opera was magic to me. During the prayer that Hansel and Gretel sang, angels came two by two down a flight of wide stairs and each step lit up as they stepped on it. I was smitten. I’ve done a lot of theater work during my life as a result.

Pachy's avatar

“Madama Butterfly,” on stage. It was thrilling, as are all of Puccini’s works. My parents, whose taste and interest in music had a lifelong effect on me, took me to see it.

hearkat's avatar

My mother took me to see Carmen when I was a teenager. I have always enjoyed singing, but I never enjoyed opera. I didn’t enjoy it then, either.

talljasperman's avatar

The nutcracker, My mom won tickets.

JLeslie's avatar

La Boheme. My grandmother had two season tickets to the opera, and I was in town one weekend when La Boheme happen to be playing so I accompanied her.

Is there a Nutcracker Opera? I only know it as a ballet.

Edit: would you count Les Misérable as an opera? If so I actually saw that first while on vacation with my boyfriend at the time. I personally have always considered it a musical, but I guess maybe it could be an opera.

glacial's avatar

Lucia di Lammermoor. I would say that it chose us, since a group of my friends had decided to go to “an opera” and it was the one that was on that season. Being the geek that I am, at the critical aria, I looked around wildly to see if anyone else recognized it as the one sung by The Diva in the film The Fifth Element.

zenvelo's avatar

Madama Butterfly at the Baths of Caracalla in Rome, July 1976.

Seek's avatar

Presuming that “What’s Opera, Doc?” doesn’t apply, I think my first was a film of The Phantom of the Opera, with Sarah Brightman as Christine.

I chose it of course. There is no one in my life who appreciates the fine performing arts with me.

Rarebear's avatar

I don’t remember. But I’ve been going to the Met series at my local theater.

SavoirFaire's avatar

La bohème at the Met. It was chosen for me (I was 15 or 16 at the time). I was visiting New York City as part of a competition choir.

We won.

DWW25921's avatar

As for opera I’ll admit I never have. But I did something close I think! My girlfriend and I went to see “The Sound of Music” in Tampa Fl years ago before we got married. It was outstanding! I almost saw “Cats” but than I had a thing and didn’t go.

gailcalled's avatar

Carmen. My tenth grade music teacher taught us in detail the story, the music, the lyrics, the themes, the drama, even the sexy aspects. Then she took the entire class to the Metropolitan Opera to see Rise Stevens in the title role.

I still remember how thrilled I was. I had had just enough high school French to be able to understand much of the libretto and most of the arias as they were sung.

I can still recite most of the words to the Habeñera by heart.

L’amour est l’enfant de Bohême,
Il n’a jamais, jamais connu de loi;
Si tu ne m’aimes pas, je t’aime;
Si je t’aime, prends garde à toi! Prends garde à toi!

gailcalled's avatar

@talljasperman: The Nutcracker is a classical ballet.

I would not call Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera, or Jesus Christ Super Star
classical operas. None of the singers use operatic techniques and therefore those works are generally considered musicals. There has been some heated debate, however.

The Sound of Music and Cats are categprically musicals.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I saw a moving Les Troyens at the Sydney Opera House 20 years ago. It was spectacular. Unfortunately, it remains the only one I’ve seen live, but I have enjoyed watching a few on television and listening to the recordings of others.

Leanne1986's avatar

I saw a filmed version of Carmen with Maria Ewing on TV and loved it so I bought tickets to see La Boheme shortly after. I have seen Carmen live twice and it remains my favourite.

Jeruba's avatar

To answer my own question: my first, I believe, was Amahl and the Night Visitors, which I saw for the first time the second year it was broadcast live during the Christmas season, and every year thereafter until I went off to college. My whole family watched it, so I didn’t pick it.

But sometime in there, I’m not sure when, I also saw Beethoven’s Fidelio broadcast on TV. I couldn’t have been more than ten at most. My mother explained the basic storyline to me in advance. I can still remember being moved by the touching scene where the prisoners emerge into daylight for the first time since their captivity began, and Leonora passes among them searching for Florestan. The integration of music and action and how deeply they expressed the emotionality of the characters made a strong impression on me and probably assured that I would grow up to be an opera subscriber season after season.

Adagio's avatar

The Phantom of the Opera and Hair, both live.

Sunny2's avatar

@zenvelo I saw Aida at the Baths of Caracalla and the grand march ended with a real horse drawn chariot coming full speed down center stage and veering off stage right. The next act opened with the silhouette of a sitting camel against a pyramid. As the music started, the camel rose and walked off stage. It was real. With the ancient pillars as a back drop, it was absolutely entrancing.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Carmen, Royal Swedish Opera, Stockholm, 1982. Up until then, if it wasn’t Hendrix or Zeppelin, it wasn’t music. My new wife’s life work became the protracted and wearisome challenge of my cultural education. She had finally found a challenge that could match her dynamic work ethic: a huge young brute who had not been poisoned with an institutional education in the arts.

Seek's avatar

Well, if one wishes to argue that Phantom doesn’t count, then my first was probably The Barber of Seville or The Mikado, both of which we’d watched in high school drama class.

wildpotato's avatar

I have vague memories of being entranced by Phantom of the Opera. Must’ve been when I was nine or so, visiting family in NYC. My first real experience with opera was in tenth grade when our music director took our orchestra to see The Italian Woman in Algiers in Philadelphia.

gailcalled's avatar

I heard bits of Die Fledermaus, by Johann Strauss, on our classical music radio station this morning. The announcer described it as an operetta, which means froth, lightheartedness, major keys, and happy endings but that still require trained operatic voices.

And as @Seek_Kolinahr reminded me, there is the oeuvre of Gilbert and Sullivan, which is light opera and can be sung by anyone, including the entire sixth grade of your kid’s school.

How many of us were in some performance or another of HMS Pinafore, The MIkado, The Pirates of Penzance or Iolanthe in school, raise your hands?

SavoirFaire's avatar

Raises hand.

gailcalled's avatar

Which part? A sister, cousin, or aunt, a British tar, a pirate, Nanki-pooh (or worse, Katisha) or one of the three little maids? Could you sing on-key? Did you remember your lines?

SavoirFaire's avatar

We did HMS Pinafore, and I played Ralph Rackstraw. Staying on key was not a problem for me by that point (I had been in two different competition choirs for several years), and neither was remembering my lines. For some reason, the only time I ever forgot my lines was when I did non-musical theater. Fortunately, I was a fairly decent ad-libber. Even more fortunately, one of my fellow actors was an amazing ad-libber. He once did a solid three minutes worth of material when the person who was supposed to start a scene forgot his cue.

JLeslie's avatar

If we are going to include HMS Pinafore then that would be my first. I think of Gilbert and Sullivan as musicals.

gailcalled's avatar

@gailcalled said: the oeuvre of Gilbert and Sullivan, which is light opera, a synonym for an operetta.

zenvelo's avatar

@Sunny2 Yes, it started me on a love affair with grand Italian opera. What a wonderful place for a performance.

gailcalled's avatar

I also saw Aida at the Baths of Caracalle, in 1957, and would swear that there were real elephants on stage and women hawking gelati in loud voices in the aisles, like peanuts at a ball game.

JLeslie's avatar

@gailcalled I just am admitting I don’t know exactly how to classify these things. So, if the OP wants to include HMS Pinafore that would be my first as a young child. My grandmother took me to that as well.

YARNLADY's avatar

Mine was Amahl and the Night Visitors. I bought a record with a set of little paper doll puppets and a paper stage when I was about 10 years old. I put the story on for my class, and the teacher liked it so much, she made me do it over and over for other classes in the library.

augustlan's avatar

Porgy and Bess. One of my uncles was working the show tour, so we saw it for free when it came to Washington, DC. I was pretty young at the time, and didn’t really appreciate it. I preferred light-hearted musicals at that age.

My young mind’s interpretation of the difference between “musical” and “opera”: In a musical, there is some spoken dialogue that isn’t sung, while in an opera, every single word is sung. I have no idea whether that is even close to true, haha.

mattbrowne's avatar

Die Zauberflöte by Mozart.

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