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Which opera would you recommend to a first-timer?

Share your recommendations of the show you think is perfect for a newcomer.

By Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media)

3 June 2015 at 11.25am | 54 Comments

‘People’s reactions to opera the first time they see it is very dramatic; they either love it or they hate it. If they love it, they will always love it. If they don’t, they may learn to appreciate it, but it will never become part of their soul.’ So said Richard Gere’s character in Pretty Woman. Whether or not you think the remark perceptive or pompous – seeing your first opera is a potential make-or-break exercise.

In the 2017/18 Season The Royal Opera House stages three operas we think are great for newcomers – La bohème, Tosca and Don Giovanni. Inspired by this classic trio, we asked our Twitter following which is the opera that they’d recommend over all others for first-timers:

Which opera would you recommend to a newcomer?

By Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media)

3 June 2015 at 11.25am

This article has been categorised Opera and tagged by John Copley, by Kasper Holten, by Richard Eyre, don giovanni, first, La bohème, La traviata, new, newcomers, Production, recommendation

This article has 54 comments

  1. AlisonC responded on 3 June 2015 at 11:41am Reply

    I don't think I agree with the quote - if you take to the concept it may not matter which one you see first.

    After someone dropped out at the last minute, a friend brought an opera first-timer to the recent ROH Parsifal. It wouldn't be my recommended introduction, but she seemed to enjoy it and said she'd come again.

  2. Anne Ilsley responded on 3 June 2015 at 12:31pm Reply

    My two eldest a girl abd a boy aged eight and nine saw Aida and on tbe edge of their seats the whole time. Came out humming Triumphal March !!

  3. StephenM responded on 3 June 2015 at 12:59pm Reply

    Something with good arias such as Tosca, Madame Butterfly, or La Boheme

  4. James responded on 3 June 2015 at 1:21pm Reply

    Definitely Carmen. Excellent music that most people will recognise and an easy to follow story. It was my first Opera too!

  5. Kevin Murray responded on 3 June 2015 at 1:32pm Reply

    Puccini's works have probably recruited the most opera newbies!My first live opera experience was Anthony Besch's production of Tosca by Scottish Opera.I knew I was hooked when Scarpia makes his 1st act entry with those chords thundering out from the pit which pinned me to the seat.Likewise the Te Deum at end of act was equally thrilling.Eventually I graduated to the whole spectrum of opera styles,Tristan und Isolde making such an impression on my soul I never thought possible !!

  6. Gill B responded on 3 June 2015 at 2:27pm Reply

    Die Fledermaus for its silly plot and delightful music

    • Ian C responded on 4 June 2015 at 8:01pm

      Die Fledermaus was my first, it's great fun. Though now I prefer Wagner :)

  7. katef responded on 3 June 2015 at 3:34pm Reply

    Definetely a Puccini opera, either Butterfly, Boheme or Tosca

  8. Lee Kefauver responded on 3 June 2015 at 6:17pm Reply

    My first opera was La Traviata performed by the Metropolitan Opera on its US tour to Boston. I was 15 years old and immediately became the opera "nut" I am now. My uncle and grandmother took me. They then introduced me to the Saturday afternoon Met broadcasts where I was able to learn about so many other operas.

  9. John R responded on 3 June 2015 at 6:35pm Reply

    My first opera was La Traviata, when some friends had a spare ticket, and I was hooked, and haven't looked back since.

  10. Manole Banuta responded on 3 June 2015 at 7:30pm Reply

    Maurice Ravel's "Spanish Hour" is short, has a funny action and shows the immense capabilities of an orchestra.
    Rossini's "Barber of Seville" for its huge quantity of music.

  11. I recently brought to newbies to the MET.

    One was Hoffmann, and the other Don Carlo.

    Both loved the evenings, though the Hoffmann was too long for my friend’s working schedule.
    Other friends said Don Carlo was ridiculous for a newbie. But she enjoyed it. Was glad she came.

    The three you have for the summer are all great...full of melodies and chances to laugh and cry.

    It all depends upon the production.

  12. Yehuda responded on 3 June 2015 at 9:06pm Reply

    Maybe not an obvious one, but I think Wozzeck could be a good one. It's not obviously 'operatic', which could be a plus for some first-timers, the plot isn't convoluted and the music, which has its own beauty, is not difficult to assimilate (its language is not miles away from some film scores). And the drama is pole-axingly powerful.

  13. James Mather responded on 3 June 2015 at 10:33pm Reply

    Turandot. Silk and big numbers. But not the ENO production set in a restaurant and introducing a novel additional character. Ruinous.

  14. Sonja Figueiredo responded on 3 June 2015 at 10:35pm Reply

    La Traviata!

  15. Micol responded on 3 June 2015 at 10:46pm Reply

    I would recommend " Carmen",

    I love it!

  16. martin rosenthal responded on 4 June 2015 at 6:09am Reply

    La Rondine. Puccini's most tuneful and beautiful opera, A simple story, no one dies, no murders, no hate our revenge. A sad ending--yes, but not very.

  17. Rhiannon responded on 4 June 2015 at 11:26am Reply

    The Marriage of Figaro! It is light hearted and very easy to love. I went to see it as a small child and thought it was ace!

  18. Tim Wood-Woolley responded on 4 June 2015 at 12:05pm Reply

    Without doubt, La Boheme. It's packed full of good tunes, the plot moves quickly and above all, it's short!

  19. trevor l responded on 4 June 2015 at 3:23pm Reply

    For the best chance of a hit, give me Yeoman of the Guard. Wonderful music, and a tragedy that's told with wit and humour to counterpoint the sadness - and in English! I'm sure that if it were in Italian and we didn't have so many preconceptions about G and S, it would now be part of the standard operatic repertoire. And I know it can work. Over 40 years ago I went to my first Yeoman expecting the usual froth. I left with an itch for more serious stuff that I've enjoyed scratching ever since.

  20. Kevin B responded on 4 June 2015 at 5:09pm Reply

    Puccini arias got me interested, Carmen was my first enthralling theatre experience, (thanks Jeannette), and La Traviata, (the suberb Richard Eyre production), clinched the deal.

  21. Zbynek Vydra responded on 4 June 2015 at 6:09pm Reply

    Puccini's La Boheme. Good story, thrilling music. Quite short. My first opera to see in TV was La Boheme - love for all the life.

  22. La Boheme. Great tunes. 4 short acts. Perfect for a beginner.

  23. Alena responded on 5 June 2015 at 12:08am Reply

    La Bohème!

  24. Roy Fernley responded on 5 June 2015 at 6:50am Reply

    I would recommend Tosca for a first opera. Great music, fantastic plot and a good introduction to opera.

  25. Agnes Gaillard responded on 5 June 2015 at 7:24pm Reply

    Carmen probably or one of the italians.. la traviata or

  26. Tony Boyd-Williams responded on 6 June 2015 at 2:47pm Reply

    Il Trovatore for the splendid dramatic and vocal opportunities for the soloists and chorus plus Il Barbiere di Siviglia for the equally splendid comic and vocal opportunities.
    These were the first operas I encountered in the late 1950's/early 1960/s and resulted in my life long love of opera,Grazie mille!

  27. al3x responded on 6 June 2015 at 4:19pm Reply

    - Barber of Seville by Rossini for the best know tunes, happy ending, funny story, lively music and the famous aria of Figaro, Largo al Factotum. It's sad to say, but I must confess that: when I was in the tenth grade, only a girl and me from the entire class of around 30 student went to Barber of Seville by Rossini. I should have convinced them to go, but I was afraid not to make fun of me and consider me a nerd, something that happened to me ocasionally. Also, the decision had to be made very quickly when the music teacher asked the class who wants to go to Rossini's opera. We were originally five students, but three girls didn't go anymore because the rain that occured when they were about to go. That's just sad. If you have never been to an opera before, the Barber of Seville is the perfect opera for you.
    - the beautiful opera by Giuseppe Verdi La Traviata, a masterpiece, but a very sad story though (it depends on the age of the beginner) or Carmen by Georges Bizet.
    - I would also recommend Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss, an operetta that is a real masterpiece of the Vienesse light opera.

  28. J23 responded on 7 June 2015 at 9:12am Reply

    I was eased in slowly to the concept of opera by performing in a university G&S and then six months later the magic flute! Totally different to going to see an opera live (as an audience member), but nevertheless I have been captivated!
    My partner on the other hand was struggling after 10 minutes into a production of carmen I was in. It is definitely not for everyone!

  29. Emily responded on 7 June 2015 at 5:12pm Reply

    I would recommend "L'elisir D'Amore" for a first opera. I've been watching the production with Rolando Villazon and Anna Netrebko all week - it's hilarious!

    As an eighteen-year-old, it's difficult to get friends to come with me to operas or classical concerts, even when they are pretty casual. It makes me sad that so many people have negative views about this amazing art, and that these preconceptions keep them from enjoying it! In my city, college student discounts make going to an opera or symphony concert about the same price as a movie (or even cheaper). I was so happy at the reactions I saw when I went to "La Traviata" with a class; my classmates kept asking me to keep them posted on future shows!

  30. jill holmes responded on 7 June 2015 at 6:14pm Reply

    Both of my boys were taken to The Magic Flute as first timers......both now hooked on opera!

  31. j Sabin responded on 8 June 2015 at 11:25pm Reply

    It was Britten's Death in Venice at ROH that did it for me

  32. Elizabeth Tebbutt responded on 9 June 2015 at 2:18am Reply

    I would recommend a light opera, with good melodies and some humour, so The Marriage of Figaro, The Barber of Seville or La Fille du Regiment would be my choices for someone who wants to 'get into' opera. Alternatively, a story that most of us know as La Dame Aux Camelias and Brindisi, the famous 'drinking song' would also be a good choice.

  33. Camilo Villarreal responded on 9 June 2015 at 3:12am Reply

    Everything is fine, if you like comedy Rossini and Mozart would be good, if you like drama and tragedy you may rather go for Puccini and Verdi. As long as it's not Wagner it will be fine.

  34. Ian and Janice responded on 10 June 2015 at 4:12pm Reply

    I have read with interest peoples views on a good first opera and would agree that Puccini would be a good a start lot of the tunes instantly recognisable from selected West End shows. There are many wonderful operas to be seen and screening of them gives more access to this form of entertainment. Personal favourites Pagliacci and Cavallaeria Rusticana

  35. I would recommend Hary Janos by Hungarian composer Zoltan Kodaly. It is full of catchy tunes, it is funny and it mocks Napoleon. :)

  36. Valentin Bondarenko responded on 13 June 2015 at 2:42pm Reply

    I would recommend La traviata from these 3, otherwise - La fille du régiment! Not only most beautiful music, but also - jolly and funny! I already tried this with some friends of mine - 100% success!

  37. Angela Nicholls responded on 15 June 2015 at 7:07pm Reply

    Don't discount Wagner. I was taken to see The Flying Dutchman as a child and it is still one of my favourite operas. Great tunes and a dramatic story. Carmen would also be good for a beginner. But I think Marriage of Figaro would be the best of all. The story is funny and the music is heavenly and very accessible. Or even Cosi Fan Tutte which my 9 year old sat through entranced.

  38. Davide responded on 16 June 2015 at 10:24am Reply

    Cav withiut the Pag

  39. Kathy responded on 19 June 2015 at 5:33pm Reply

    After seeing and loving Rent on Broadway, I saw the Met's La Boheme and loved it. Ten years later, I'm still an ardent fan. I would recommend Boheme or Traviata for a first timer.

  40. Nicku responded on 19 June 2015 at 9:52pm Reply

    haviing reached my twenties thinking I loathed opera I discovered Turandot and never looked back. I think it depends on what moves you. It was the drama and powerful personalities for me.

  41. Deanne Goddard responded on 20 June 2015 at 9:54pm Reply

    I made a terrible mistake and took my daughter to her first opera at the ENO to see Peter Grimes. We both walked out after Act 1 and we are now heading for Traviata

  42. Cade responded on 25 June 2015 at 5:58am Reply

    The Flying Dutchman - the gothic element, the power of love, stark contrasts and echoes of video game fantasy / myth scenarios plus its tunefulness - and it has zombies - would appeal to many teenagers. Adriana Lecouvrer another choice with easily accessible melody plus a love affair with rivalry, celebrity, revenge and a poisoning - good/bad sharply drawn.
    Traviata, Carmen, Aida, Tosca. Puccini seems to work for some.
    There's quite a wide range in just these few choices - the common elements are dramatic stories centred on the magnetic power of love, strongly defined characters and easily accessible melodic lines.
    (ROH should bring the Komische Oper Berlin's version and pruduction of Die Zauberflote to it's big stage - imax it :) for ROH - now that would make opera accessible and fun for a new young audience and very enjoyable for everyone of any age - the opposite of stuffy ).

  43. Yasmin responded on 26 June 2015 at 2:13pm Reply

    Carmen definitely. My boys aged 15,13 and 9 loved it.

  44. Ellen responded on 28 June 2015 at 8:28am Reply

    Anything but Idomeneo or Boris Godunov

  45. Jonathan responded on 7 July 2015 at 5:11pm Reply

    I would go for something by Handel or Vivaldi, one of their shorter operas - so much more zing and elegance than all this bel canto & classical stuff! And definitely not Mozart. I took someone to see a Handel opera in recital at the Barbican a year or two ago, they'd never been to the opera, and they absolutely loved it, and I knew they would throughout.

  46. Agnieszka responded on 15 July 2015 at 7:06pm Reply

    My first opera at ROH was La Rondine - I absolutely loved it and has been hooked ever since.

  47. Margaret Crawford responded on 21 December 2015 at 2:53pm Reply

    I would say CARMEN as it's more like a musical..

  48. Margaret Crawford responded on 21 December 2015 at 2:55pm Reply

    and Barber of Seville.

  49. Caroline Brooks responded on 12 August 2017 at 3:34pm Reply

    I would say Tosca is probably the best first time Opera. Wonderful, spine tingling music not too complicated a plot and above all emotionally electrifying.

  50. Peter Schwann responded on 20 September 2017 at 3:05pm Reply

    I would recommend Fidelio by Beethoven as it is packed full of punchy songs. It has a clear (and serious) story line, and is relevant today.

  51. Tristan Berlet responded on 14 December 2017 at 8:46pm Reply

    I would say I'll Pagliacci. It's only an hour, has lots of action and an easy to follow plot. It's also realistic, which is good for newcomers and, of course, has one of the most recognizable arias in all of opera, Vesti la Giubba. It's how I got started.

  52. Teodora responded on 13 April 2018 at 8:30pm Reply

    Tosca(my first),Die Zauberflöte,La Boheme or La Traviata

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