Seven "Lesser Known" Operas You Should Know

  • Melody Nicolette

There are plenty of great operas out there that aren’t part of the “Big Ten.” Some of the ones included on this list are more well-known than others; some of which are very rarely performed. If you know them, great! If you don’t, here are some exciting stories to delve into. Enjoy!

Die Fledermaus (Strauss II)

Absurd premise, outrageously funny, stellar music. The audience favourite (Adele) has almost nothing to do with the actual movement of the plot, but that’s not going to stop her from stealing the show.

The Medium (Menotti)

Incredibly powerful and frightening hour long, two act opera that leaves you with disquieted long after it’s done.

Elektra (Strauss)

A highly modern and impressionist take on the Greek myth, deep in horror and blood. Not for the faint of heart, but thankfully only around 90 minutes long.

Billy Budd (Britten)

Beautiful and angelic foundling-turned-sailor inspires both deep loyalty and jealousy--both of which are ultimately his undoing. Billy Budd forces us to examine what justice truly means. The only opera by a major composer with an all male cast.

(A quick note: it takes less time to read the Herman Melville novella it was based on than it does to watch a full performance of the opera. :) )

Dialogues des Carmélites (Poulenc)

Another achingly beautiful piece that forces us to examine what justice truly is, using the backdrop of the end of the French Revolution and the real-life  Martyrs of Compiègne. An examination of the relationships and love women share between each other, loyalty and what is means to be brave. 

The Ballad of Baby Doe (Moore)

Based on the true story romance between Horace Tabor and Elizabeth "Baby" Doe. One of the few American operas in semi-standard repertory. Steeped in sweeping nostalgia and Americana, The Ballad of Baby Doe is a poignant examination of true love.

Dog Days (David Little)

Post-apocalyptic America, blurred lines between man and beast, survivalism, and friends in strange places.

Honourable Mention:

Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht (Be still, stop chattering), BWV 211 (also known as the Coffee Cantata)

While Bach had not written a true and proper opera, and this is classified as a cantata, Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht is essentially a mini-opera, and 18th century coffee version of Reefer Madness.