What operas are best for newcomers?

Question

What are the best operas for newcomers to the artform?

Answer

Those choices really depend on what the newcomer to opera really wants to experience. For sheer spectacle, you could go with Verdi’s Aida. For the sheer glory of the human voice in all its virtuosity, an opera like Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor would fill the bill — and it also happens to be a powerful love story, a sort of “Scottish Romeo and Juliet.” If you want a full-throttle theatrical experience that would equal anything you’d see in the legitimate theater, there are a lot of choices — I’d put Britten’s Peter Grimes right up there, but also Bizet’s Carmen and Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. The latter two have the advantage of a lot of melodies that may already be familiar, even if you haven’t been to an opera before.

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