A compilation of the most beautiful love arias for soprano with explanations and great YouTube videos.
TOP 10 OF LOVE ARIAS FOR SOPRANO
ANCORA UN PASSO
from MADAMA BUTTERFLY by Giacomo Puccini
Plot: Pinkerton, an American naval officer, is stationed in Nagasaki and has the matchmaker Goro show him a country house he has purchased. Goro has also arranged for fifteen-year-old Cio-cio-san to be his wife. Goro announces the arrival of Butterfly. She appears with her friends and is excited to join her future husband.
The arrival of Butterfly is one of the most beautiful scenes written by Puccini. Cio-cio-san’s entrance is effectively written and at the same time touching. She is happy (“I am the happiest girl in Japan”) and sings a beautiful aria accompanied by the chorus of her friends. The orchestra’s music is stunning; Puccini has three solo strings (one each of viola, violin, and cello) sing the endless melody in parallel with Cio-cio-san’s voice.
This scene evokes thoughts of “La bohème” for many a listener. Puccini repeatedly quotes musical themes and motifs from Japanese culture in the opera. We find a beautiful example at the end of this passage, where Puccini ends Cio-cio-san’s aria with a celestial motif. It consists of a pentatonic melody played by harp, flutes and glockenspiel, an instrumentation combination Puccini borrowed from Japanese music.
Listen to this inspired and moving scene with Mirella Freni. Magical how she conjures up the famous high D (3:15).
PUSKAI POGIBNU YA (LETTER SCENE)
from EUGEN ONEGIN by Peter Tchaikovsky
Plot: Tatyana went for a walk with Onegin, she felt strangely attracted to him, while Onegin walked coolly beside her. In the evening in her room, she can not fall asleep. The sensitive Tatyana realizes that she has fallen in love with Onegin. She sits down at her desk and writes a rapturous love letter. First thing in the morning, she has it delivered to Onegin.
The letter scene is one of the great monologues in opera history. Tatyana goes through all emotional states in this famous scene – from hopeless despair to ecstatic elation. The monologue is divided into four sections, each of which could stand alone. The introduction describes Tatyana’s ardent longing. The vibrant tremolo of the strings reflects inner turmoil and discord. The change in the orchestral introduction to rapid sixteenth notes with plucked eighth notes of the agitated heartbeat mimics her agitation over whether to write the letter. Soon Tatyana sets in with her resolution, “Puskai pogibnu y” (and if it were my end). The chanting becomes more feverish, increasing in waves to the high ace and ending with the decision to sit down at the desk immediately “vezdye, on predo mnoyu!” (Everywhere I see him!). When Tatyana sits down at the desk, she falls silent, the orchestra calms down and begins a new introduction, this time quiet.
Tatyana takes the pen in her hand, but after a few bars the singing stops. What should she write? Onegin’s motif appears, sung tenderly several times in the oboe.
But she hesitates: “ne v silakh ya vladyet svoyei dushoi!” (I have not the strength to force my heart). What is the alternative? Tchaikovsky quotes Tatyana’s loneliness motif in the flutes:
With Onegin’s motif in the orchestra, she begins to write “zachem vi posetili nas?” (why did you come to us?), she lays it all bare. She writes the confession to her anguish of soul. Tchaikovsky increases the tempo more and more, the music becomes more and more urgent. Then the mood changes abruptly as the oboe sings the confession of love motif:
Tatyana takes up the motif hesitantly and tenderly at first: “Kto ti: moi angel li khranitel” (Who are you? My guardian angel or a cunning tempter?) The fear of rejection is great, but she wants to try. As she signs the letter, glorious brass and jubilant strings sound and Tatyana ends the aria with trembling words.
Anna Netrebko’s letter scene is simply magnificent. She masters the intimate parts of this piece, her singing is subtle, the piani are breathtaking, only to produce ecstatic top notes a little later in great fervor from her full throat.
BATTI, BATTI O BEL MASETTO
from DON GIOVANNI by WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART
Plot: On the day of the wedding, Don Giovanni tries to seduce the bride Zerlina. The latter has invited the wedding party to his castle. In the garden, the groom Masetto makes a scene to his future because he suspects that she wants to respond to his advances. Zerlina swears her fidelity to him.
This piece is one of Mozart’s magical love songs. Even if Zerlina wraps her Masetto around her finger in this aria and Mozart composed teasing moments with trills, it is still a beautiful love aria. Mozart’s beautiful idea of the solo cello, which tenderly caresses her voice during this aria, deserves special mention.
We hear Lucia Popp singing the aria with a warm and luminous voice.
GLÜCK DAS MIR VERBLIEB
from DIE TOTE STADT (THE DEAD CITY) by ERICH WOLFGANG KORNGOLD
Action: The bell rings, Paul is already expecting Marietta. He looks at the picture of his late wife Marie and is happy that God has given her back to him! Marietta enters and fascinated Paul marvels at her, so deceptively like his Marie. When he gives her a scarf, and she throws it over herself, he ecstatically exclaims, “Marie!” Marietta is a dancer passing through Bruges during an engagement. When she sees a lute in the apartment, she gleefully sings Paul a song. Paul is moved, it is exactly the song that Marie used to sing too.
This piece is Korngold’s most famous ever. It is a nostalgic solo piece (which turns into a duet) in the middle of a psychodrama. The character of this piece is song-like or even operetta-like. Already at the beginning, the orchestra sparkles, with glockenspiel, celesta and harp, a typical late-Romantic coloration. The bells of the celesta conjure a romantic, almost childlike naive mood.
A solo version for soprano, sung heavenly by Schwarzkopf, in slow tempo. The yearning of her voice, hoarse with excitement, languishes in the best sense of the word.
ABSCHEULICHER ... KOMM HOFFNUNG
from FIDELIO by Ludwig van Beethoven
Plot: Pizarro, the governor of the state prison, has arbitrarily locked away his political enemy Florestan in the maximum security area of the prison. He has panicked because the minister has announced an inspection and so would discover Florestan illegally detained. He has decided that Florestan must die and orders Rocco to kill the prisoner. But the latter refuses. Pizarro instructs Rocco to dig a grave, saying he will carry out the murder himself. (Now, alter is in a hurry) Leonore, Florestan’s wife, has let herself be hired as a jailer’s assistant. She overheard the conversation and must now hurry to save her husband. Love gives her the strength for hope.
The great aria of Leonore consists of three parts: Recitative, Cavatina, Cabaletta. In this form Leonore’s basic emotions are described – indignation, hope, ecstasy. The music Beethoven wrote for it unfolds an expressivity through its shattering and at the same time touching expression. It is a seven-minute par force performance by the singer, demanding both the highest dramatic expressivity and the most heartfelt lyricism. The Adagio that follows is one of the absolutely most beautiful passages in this opera. Leonore’s music and words are full of poignant hope and confidence.
TACEA LA NOTTE PLACIDA ... DI TALE AMOR
from IL TROVATORE by GIUSEPPE VERDI
Plot: Manrico has fallen in love with Leonora, who lives at the court of the Conte di Luna, his mortal enemy. Leonora reciprocates the feelings. To visit her, he has disguised himself as a troubadour. Leonora is in the courtyard of the castle in the evening, singing about her love for the mysterious troubadour who has entered her life.
This piece consists of a slow cavatina and a fast caballetta.
A brief clarinet motif brings us to the nocturnal scene of the secluded garden, romantically illuminated by a shimmering full moon. At the beginning of the Cavatina, the singer sketches the nocturnal mood with a soft and light “Notte placida” (silent night) transitions to a broader “Ciel sereno” (clear sky) to a luminous “La luna viso argenteo” (the moon’s silvery face). A fermata on “Muto” leads to the B part, the memories of the mysterious troubadour “Dolci s’udirò” (Lovely and tender sounded the strings of a lute) to be sung with great emotion. The first part repeats itself Cavatina ends in a great and ecstatic cadenza that leads to the high D flat.
While in the first part a contemplative, broad-flowing mood was in the foreground, in the cabaletta the form changes to a fast coloratura aria. Leonora expresses her joy with trills and a great final expansion into high C. The virtuoso piece is very demanding. The virtuosic piece is very challenging for the singer and must be sung with perfect legato to maintain elegance without the coloraturas losing luster.
Leonora was the role with which Price became a star: After a successful performance in Verona, she was invited to the Met by the Met’s then director, Rudolf Bing. The Trovatore in the 60/61 season marked her Met debut for both Corelli and Price. This ended in an unforgettable triumphant success for Price. The final ovation of the January 1961 performance lasted 40 minutes, one of the longest in Met history. Hear her magnificent voice in the 1963 televised version, from the Metropolitan Opera.
MON COEUR S-OUVRE À TA VOIX
from SAMSON ET DALILA by Camille Saint-Saëns
Plot: The priestess must seduce Samson to get behind his secret of his strength. Dalila doubts whether her spell still works on Samson. Samson appears full of doubts, knowing that he betrays his people. Dalila woos him, but Samson rejects her. Dalila tries pity, but Samson wants to remain strong. And yet he confesses his love to her. Dalila now sees her chance and promises him ecstasy, now it is about Samson.
Dalila may not be in love with Samson, but she still harbors feelings for him and tries to seduce Samson with her warm, erotic voice. The orchestra’s accompaniment is delicate, at times playful, and dispenses entirely with brass and percussion instruments. Saint-Saëns’ performance designation is “dolcissimo e cantabile.” The voice and orchestra shine in luminous major. The orchestra plays swelling and decaying chords that imitate a gentle, billowing breeze, an allegory for beauty and seduction.
But Dalila has not yet reached her final destination. She must get behind Samson’s secret. Sweetly, almost pleadingly, she asks Samson to speak to her, to dry her tears. The tone becomes more urgent and she repeats the ecstatic “versez moi l’ivresse” (Fill me with happiness) with which she wants to win Samson. A beautiful passage by the clarinet takes up the theme in a painfully sweet manner. The second part once again takes up the themes of the first part. The sound of the orchestra changes more and more with seductive oriental figures until the western harmonies are heard again in the last part. At the end, Samson surrenders, the piece becomes a duet, and he pines “Dalila, je t’aime” several times.
Elina Garanca has a seductive, rather bright mezzo-soprano that shines beautifully in this aria.
VOI CHE SAPETE
from LE NOZZE DI FIGARO by WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART
Plot:The young page Cherubino has angered the Count and must take up military service at his command. He bids farewell to the Countess with moving words.
Cherubino is a trouser role for a young soprano. He is the Count’s pageboy and at an age when emotions awaken. “Voi che sapete” is a sung declaration of love by an adolescent to all women. Mozart composed this touching scene in a naive, childlike tone. The aria opens with a graceful melody accompanied by syncopated violins imitating a guitar played by Susanna. Over time, the music becomes more intense. Mozart modulates the melody in small steps, evoking a passionate, mounting mood and giving the character of Cherubino an otherworldly glow.
Listen and watch a magical and hypnotically sung interpretation by Maria Ewing in the film adaptation by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle.
D-AMOR SULL-ALI ROSEE
from IL TROVATORE by Giuseppe Verdi
Plot: In the castle of Count Almaviva. The servants Figaro and Susanna are planning their marriage. Figaro has learned that his future wife has a tryst with the Count. He is beside himself. He wants to observe the meeting secretly. But the whole thing is a deception to trick the Count, Susanna has disguised herself as a Countess. Susanna knows that Figaro is hiding behind the bushes, and the aria is a declaration of love for him.
In swaying rhythm and accompanied by the tender pizzicato of the strings and lovely interjections of the woodwinds, Susanna’s rose aria unfolds. It is a beautiful, lyrical declaration of love for her future husband Figaro, and the utopia of a world where distinctions of class no longer exist. The aria is a significant resting point in the opera.
The rose aria has been sung by few as intimately as by Lucia Popp, perhaps she was the best Susanna on record / CD.
MILD UND LEISE (LIEBESTOD / LOVE DEATH)
from TRISTAN UND ISOLDE by Richard Wagner
Plot: The Prince has chosen Cenerentola as his bride. Arriving at the Prince’s castle, Cenerentola can hardly believe her luck. She wants to forgive her stepfather and sisters and asks for leniency. She embraces her relatives and they are all touched by her magnanimity.
As Isolde holds Tristan in her arms she realizes that he will die shortly, she hopes to spend at least one more hour with him. But he dies after their first embrace. Shaken, she collapses unconscious over the corpse. Soon Marke is at the door, enters and goes to Tristan’s bedside, shaken. He catches sight of Isolde, who is no longer responsive. Raptured, she has entered Tristan’s realm and her soul is leaving the world.
The so-called “Liebestod” is actually not a death, but as Wagner called the scene, a “transfiguration”, or as Isolde puts it: «Ertrinken – versinken – unbewusst höchste Lust!» (Drowning – sinking – unconsciously highest pleasure!). The opera fades away with the resolution of tension after four hours with the two famous B-flat major final chords.
Nina Stemme is the Isolde of our time. Listen to her grandiose transfiguration. Her voice has the punch and warmth that makes blissful.