by Bob Parvin

Arias by Composer and Opera
B, (Bellini), C, D, (Donizetti), F, G, H, (Handel), K, L, M, (Massenet), (Mozart),
O, P, (Puccini), (Rossini), S, (R. Strauss), T, (Verdi), (Wagner)

Opera Galas

Opera Concerts

Some of the “100 Greatest Singers”





YouTube is a wonderful resource for opera aria lovers as well as for people who are testing the water. I have made links to about 800 YouTube video performances comprising about 450 different arias and ensembles from over 100 operas organized by composer and opera. In many cases I have included more than one performance of an aria, so that we can compare different singers with different interpretations and capabilities and hear more singers from different eras. Some of the singers may seem ancient history to young people, but most of them have performed in the last 50 years in which I have been aware of opera performers.

If you want to search the links below for a specific singer, for example, you can use the Find function under Edit on your web browser. If you want to search YouTube on your own, go to YouTube and enter a search term (a composer, opera, aria, or singer). For example, if you want to find La Traviata arias sung by Renee Fleming, type both her name and the opera name (Fleming La Traviata). If you want to find duets sung by Fleming and Domingo, for example, type both of their names. You can search for particular concerts and galas such as a “Metropolitan Opera Gala” (there are several) and see what aria performances are included.

I have placed asterisks in front of 60 arias that I think may be the most familiar or most appealing to beginners. The aria performances that are marked with the pound sign (#) are from the opera performance on the suggested DVD.

When you view a YouTube video and want to see a full screen picture, click the tiny box just below the lower right-hand corner of the picture and to reverse the action, click the X in the same place or press Escape in the up right-hand corner of your keyboard. I enjoy most of the videos in the full screen mode.

I used the extensive Aria Database for reference purposes. It lists most of the arias in each opera and gives the pertinent information about them. For an explanation of voice types and other information go to Opera 101.

I also referred to The Grove Book of Operas (2006), which is an excellent one-volume reference book on operas that has very detailed synopses of 264 operas for opera buffs and mentions practically all of the arias and ensembles. I also referred to Ticket to the Opera described below.

An aria is best appreciated when heard in the context of the opera, and the least expensive way of seeing and hearing operas is playing DVD opera videos. For many of the operas I have suggested DVDs receiving the top five-star rating in most cases from most of the reviewers for where I buy my DVDs, either new ones from or used or new ones from their “marketplace.” Be sure to read the reviews and find out about the strong and weak points of the opera performance.

I have also included DVD suggestions for galas and concerts featuring great arias and singers and for operettas and musicals, which nearly covers the bases in American musical theater.

Occasionally, after I add a link, a video will be blocked, and there will be this message, “This video has been removed by the user.” When I catch them, I remove them. If you find one, I will appreciate your reporting it to me. I would also like to hear your suggestions for what YouTube performances should be added or subtracted.

You can send an e-mail message to me, Bob Parvin, at Substitute @ for X. (I’m trying to hide my address from spammers.)

Admittedly, opera like broccoli is something of an acquired taste, but we should give it a fair trial because it can grow on us. One of my early objections to opera is the sung dialogue between arias (recitative). It tells the story and is much less boring now that we have supertitles at the opera and subtitles on DVDs telling us what is being said.The arias give the characters a chance to express their thoughts and give the singers an opportunity show their stuff. Some arias are so melodic they stick in our heads and later set us to humming even though they may be a bit more complex than a song from the “Sound of Music.”To test the opera waters, a beginner might start with the aria performances below that are marked with an asterisk. They include most of the venerable war horses.Just as one needs to prepare for a Shakespeare play, one needs to prepare for an opera by reading the story if it is not familiar. I have included links to most of the stories. For more complete synopses go to the excellent OperaGlass Opera Index. For a short biography of the composer and a commentary on the opera go to The opera corpus in Wikipedia. Wikipedia is also a good place to search for the biographies of important opera singers.A second step in preparation for an opera (live or DVD) is to listen to its major arias listed below.The traditional names (incipits) of arias are the first few words of the song as in Le veau d’or est toujours debout! from Gounod’s Faust. In a few cases they also have common English names, and in the case of the Faust aria it is the Song of the Golden Calf.If you want to sound like An opera devotee go to Opera Pronunciation. This site Also has a lot of other good information about operas.When you need help with opera terminology, go to Glossary of Opera Terms. For the Websites of specific current opera singers go to Opera Singers. If pronouncing the names of the Italian arias is a problem for you as it is for me, go to Italian Pronunciation.

Opera DVDsThe ultimate opera experience is to get a good seat in an opera house presenting a good production of an appealing opera with an inspired performance by great singer-actors and by the orchestra, but that too seldom happens. Furthermore, the tickets to the top houses are very pricey especially if you get a seat where you don’t need your binoculars. However, since the advent of opera DVDs, we can have a great opera experience for all of the viewers in the room for about $20-30 including popcorn.

DVDs offer other advantages as well. We can reach back in time and see some of the great artists of yesteryear and current older artists when they were in their prime. We can watch the opera any time we wish and still have the DVD for future enjoyment. If the voice is small, we hearing-challenged people can turn up the volume. The DVDs usually have subtitles so that we can easily follow the story. Some are movie-type productions that add realism with the settings, but the lip-synching can sometimes be a bit too noticeable. Jean-Pierre Ponelle has directed some great opera movies. Many DVD operas are stage productions from some of the great opera houses, which I generally enjoy because I feel as if I’m in the audience.

With DVDs we have a “first row seat” where we can hear every vocal nuance and see every facial expression. For me this intimacy makes DVD operas more engaging than live performances from where I usually sit at the opera. We don’t have to look around someone’s head, listen to their coughs, or smell their perfume. We don’t have to wait out intermissions, but we can pause anytime to microwave the popcorn or make a pit stop. Many people enjoy the festive experience of going out to dinner and to the opera, but at my age I value the privacy, convenience, comfort, and economy of watching opera at home more than the glamour and glitter and the intriguing unpredictability of live theater. My wife and I watch a DVD opera almost every Saturday night, and I look forward to it all week. The cost is about the same as going to the movies, but we can replay the DVD as many times as we want. We can indeed have our cake and eat it!

Here is a marvelous opera aria DVD to start with: The Opera Gala from Baden-Baden.

To see 36 aria and ensemble performances by great artists (some a bit past their prime) on DVD, I recommend Metropolitan Opera Gala – James Levine’s 25th Anniversary (1996).

A great DVD performance of a full opera is L’Elisir d’Amore. It’s a good comic story and has great singing, acting, and staging.

If you don’t have a DVD player, you can buy a good one, Sony DVP-NS77H/S 1080p Upscaling DVD Player with HDMI, with the HDMI cable for less than $100. I bought this DVD player and cable and had enough money left over to buy four or five DVDs for what two seats at our San Francisco Opera cost with service charge and parking. With this player you can be enjoying high quality DVD video rather waiting for the price of Blu-ray disc players and discs to come down. For use with older TVs without HDMI the JVC XVN350B DVD Video Player (less than $50) would appear to be a good choice.

Opera Books, CDs, and BroadcastsOpera for Dummies by Pogue and Speck is an entertaining and informative book if you like the “Dummies” breezy style. It gives general information and synopses of the most popular operas. (You can buy a new book from’s used book dealers for about $7.00 plus shipping.)

If you want a book that gives more information about individual operas, I recommend the excellent Ticket to the Opera by Phil G. Goulding. It’s good reading, and it’s a good reference book. (Like-new copies are available from’s dealers for about $8.00 plus shipping.) It gives the plot, aria highlights, and commentary on 85 of the most performed operas at the Metroploitan Opera of New York. It gives the information needed before seeing an opera for the first time.

If you would like a CD with the popular arias, I recommend the album immodestly entitled The Best Opera Album in the World…Ever!, which contains 38 great arias and ensembles (about $12). For another good CD with 18 great arias go to The Most Famous Opera Arias, and for operatic duets go to The Most Famous Opera Duets. Buy these two CDs together for about $8.

To listen to operas on the air, listen to the Saturday afternoon radio broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera, or if you don’t have a local FM station that carries the broadcast listen live online by going to WETA.

The bottom line is that opera is now accessible to everyone!


ARIAS BY COMPOSER AND OPERABeethoven, Ludwig van (1770-1827)

Bellini, Vincenzo (1801-1835)

Berlioz, Hector (1803-1869) 

Bernstein, Leonard (1918-1990) 

Bizet, George (1838-1875)

Catalani, Alfredo (1854-1893)

  • La Wally: Story
    *Ebben ne andrň lontano [1] (Angela Gheorghiu as Wally, who is in love with Hagenbach, lamenting her father telling her to marry his friend or leave), [2] (Renee Fleming), [3] (Maria Callas), [4] (Renata Scotto), [5] (Eva Marton), [6] (Michaela Karadjian), [7] (Katia Ricciarelli), [8] (Pilar Lorengar), [9] (Anna Netrebko), [10] (Kiri Te Kanawa), [11] (Montserrat Caballe), [12] (Renata Tebaldi) 

Charpentier, Gustave (1860-1956) 

Cilea, Francesco (1866-1950)

  • Adriana LeCouvreur: Story
    Io son l’umile ancella [1] (Mirella Freni as Adriana who rejects Prince de Boullion’s compliments), [2] (Margaret Price), [3] (Kiri Te Kanawa), [4] (Raina Kabaivanska)
    Poveri fiori [1] (Montserrat Caballe as Adriana whose violets were returned not by her Maurizio but by his other lover), [2] (Magda Olivero)

Delibes, Leo (1836-1891)

Donizetti, Gaetano (1797-1848)

Dvorak, Antonin (1841-1904)

Flotow, Friedrich von (1812-1883)