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 Favourites, Gifts for... Opera Lovers

Are you looking for the perfect present for your opera-loving family and friends? We've picked out some of our favourite treats for opera enthusiasts: with highlights from the latest releases, books about the history of opera, biographies of opera's star singers and some great box sets, we hope you'll find something to suit every opera fan. (You can find our other themed gift guides here.)

New and award-winning opera recordings

Gerald Finley (Robert Oppenheimer), Julia Bullock (Kitty Oppenheimer), BBC Singers, BBC Symphony Orchestra, John Adams

Selected as our Recording of the Week when it was released in June, John Adams conducts the first audio recording of his 2005 opera Doctor Atomic. Gerald Finley leads a magnificent cast as physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, and 'his impressive achievement makes this a highly compelling first recording for this thought-provoking work' (James Longstaffe - Presto Classical).

Available Formats: 2 CDs, MP3, CD Quality FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Joyce DiDonato (Didon), Michael Spyres (Énée), Orchestre et Choeur philharmonique de Strasbourg, John Nelson

Winning Recording of the Year at this year's Gramophone Awards is just the latest in a whole host of accolades for John Nelson's glittering account of Berlioz's Les Troyens. With a 20-strong cast led by Joyce DiDonato and Michael Spyres as the doomed lovers, this triumphant recording is a worthwhile addition to any collection.

Available Formats: 4 CDs + DVD Video, MP3, CD Quality FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Philippe Jaroussky (Orfeo), Amanda Forsythe (Euridice), Emőke Baráth (Amore), Coro della Radiotelevisione Svizzera & I Barocchisti, Diego Fasolis

This world premiere recording of Gluck's most popular opera presents the score in the 1774 Naples version, with the title-role customised for male soprano and sung here by French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky. Diego Fasolis conducts I Barocchisti in a vividly theatrical account, which is sure to appeal to a wider audience than Orfeo completists: as well as filling a significant gap in the opera’s complex recorded history, it’s also essential listening on its own terms.

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Albina Shagimuratova (Semiramide), Daniela Barcellona (Arsace), Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Sir Mark Elder

In this new recording for Opera Rara Mark Elder is on a mission to present the score to Rossini's Semiramide as it would have been heard in Venice in 1823, playing up the music's debt to the great baroque masters. With a cast including Albina Shagimuratova and Daniela Barcellona, and a glowing performance from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, this fresh, taut recording is an absolute triumph.

Available Formats: 4 CDs, MP3, CD Quality FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Anja Harteros (Aida), Jonas Kaufmann (Radamès), Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Antonio Pappano

This multi-award-winning 2015 studio recording of Verdi's Aida really pulls out all the stops; from the sublime singing of Jonas Kaufmann and Anja Harteros to the astonishing emotional performance from Antonio Pappano's Santa Cecilia Orchestra, this is an account that's full of fresh insights and attention to detail. The luxurious finished product is no different, with insightful booklet notes and full texts and translations included.

Available Formats: 3 CDs, MP3, CD Quality FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Joseph Calleja (tenor), Vittorio Vitelli (baritone), Angela Gheorghiu (soprano), Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana, Ramón Tebar

Released in February this year, Joseph Calleja's outstanding Verdi album explores the composer's more dramatic repertoire; with Otello as the beating heart, the recital also includes excerpts from Aida, Il trovatore, La forza del destino and Don Carlo. The unaffected, passionate singing on display makes this a recording to treasure.

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Delphine Galou (Giustino), Emöke Barath (Arianna), Accademia Bizantina, Ottavio Dantone

Naïve’s mammoth Vivaldi Edition continues with this epic drama per musica, composed in 1724 for the Roman carnival; a fine cast of Vivaldi specialists is headed by recent Gramophone Award-winner Delphine Galou in the title-role, whilst the opera’s best-known aria ‘Vedrò con mio diletto’ is taken by German contralto Silke Gäng as Anastasio.

Available Format: 3 CDs

Matthias Goerne (Wotan), Petra Lang (Brünnhilde - Die Walküre), Heidi Melton (Sieglinde/Brünnhilde - Siegfried), Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, Jaap van Zweden

The final volume in Jaap van Zweden's widely acclaimed Hong Kong Ring Cycle is released this November, with all four operas also available here as a complete set. The cycle includes compelling performances from artists including Matthias Goerne, Petra Lang, and Heidi Melton, whilst the Dutch conductor draws playing of immense subtlety and detail from the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra.

Available Formats: 14 CDs, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

New releases on DVD and Blu-ray

Sondra Radvanovsky (Norma), Joyce DiDonato (Adalgisa), Joseph Calleja (Pollione), The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus, Carlo Rizzi, Sir David McVicar

Filmed live in 2017 at the Metropolitan Opera, David McVicar’s new staging of Bellini’s most popular work offers a traditional alternative to the Royal Opera’s recent contemporary take on the piece - The Telegraph described the production as ‘a solid, unpretentious piece of work that will bear revival’, and praised Radvanovsky’s ‘admirably paced and sturdily projected’ heroine and DiDonato’s ‘warmly expressive and sensitively musical’ Adalgisa.

Also available on DVD

Available Format: Blu-ray

Jonas Kaufmann (Otello), Marco Vratogna (Iago), Maria Agresta (Desdemona), Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Sir Antonio Pappano

Jonas Kaufmann is little short of magnificent in Keith Warner's 2017 production of Otello from the Royal Opera House. He has a formidable antagonist in Marco Vratogna's Iago, whilst Maria Agresta is radiant as Desdemona and Antonio Pappano ensures that the orchestra anticipates every nuance of Verdi's score.

Also available on DVD

Available Format: Blu-ray

Michael Volle (Hans Sachs), Klaus Florian Vogt (Walther von Stolzing), Bayreuth Festival, Philippe Jordan, Barrie Kosky

In this thought-provoking and illuminating production, Barrie Kosky invites us to warm to Wagner the craftsman at the same time as confronting his flaws as a human being. The cast is a mixture of Bayreuth veterans and debutants, and both camps cover themselves in glory, whilst at the heart of it all is Michael Volle’s towering, authoritative interpretation of Sachs/Wagner.

Also available on DVD

Available Format: Blu-ray

Collections and Box Sets

Released to mark the great dramatic soprano’s centenary and remastered from the original tapes, this 31-disc limited-edition collection includes three recordings of Tristan und Isolde (dating from 1957, 1967 and 1973 and conducted by Wolfgang Sawallisch and Karl Böhm), Die Walküre from the Metropolitan Opera in 1969, a 1970 Fidelio under Leonard Bernstein, Turandot under Leopold Stokowski, and a 1976 Frau ohne Schatten from Munich.

Available Format: 31 CDs

Includes La Bohème, Carmen, La Traviata and The Marriage of Figaro

The Black Dog Opera Library is the perfect introduction to four of the greatest and most popular operas of all time. Each book in the library includes the complete opera on 2 CDs (featuring world-class performances from artists including Grace Bumbry, Mirella Freni, Nicolai Gedda, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Teresa Berganza) and a full libretto and English translation, as well as a history and synopsis of the opera.

Available Format: 4 Books/8 CDs

Begun in the late 1990s and now reissued at budget price, Jacobs’s period-instrument Mozart trilogy remains one of our library choices for these much-recorded works; the Figaro (released in 2004, with Simon Keenlyside & Véronique Gens and Patrizia Ciofi & Lorenzo Regazzo as the upstairs/downstairs couples) won a Grammy and Gramophone’s Recording of the Year, whilst the Così was described as a ‘bustling, vivacious performance’ (The Guardian).

Available Format: 9 CDs

Marking Rossini's 150th anniversary this year, this comprehensive edition demonstrates the breadth of the composer's achievements throughout his dazzling public career. The collection includes 13 complete opera recordings - including several rarities - in outstanding performances from artists including Maria Callas, Joyce DiDonato, Christa Ludwig, Nicolai Gedda and Ruggero Raimondi, and traces six decades of evolution in musical scholarship and performing style.

Available Format: 50 CDs

Books about opera

Perfect for music students and opera-lovers alike, this introductory guide explores opera as a complete theatrical experience. Organised chronologically and avoiding technical musical terminology, this book demonstrates how opera reflected and reacted to changes in the world around it, fostering an understanding of opera as a living art form .

Available Format: Book

Second Edition

The Grove Book of Operas is a collection of synopses and descriptions of over 250 operas; covering all operas in the current repertory (alongside some less well-known early and modern ones) this is an ideal guide for the general opera enthusiast. Each succinct yet insightful entry is written by a leading authority on the opera and includes a full synopsis of the plot, a cast list, and information on the origins of the work as well as its place in operatic history. This second edition brings the book up to date with recent additions to the operatic repertory, including John Adams's Death of Klinghoffer and Mark Adamo's Little Women.

Available Format: Book

Carolyn Abbate and Roger Parker

Abbate and Parker's A History of Opera offers a scrupulous and provocative retelling of the history of opera, examining its development, the means by which it communicates and its societal role. This updated second edition adds an expanded examination of opera as an institution in the twenty-first century, and explores the tensions that have sustained opera over 400 years - and how opera continues to transform the viewer with its enduring power.

Available Format: Book

George Henry Harewood, Hubert Lascelles, Gustav Kobbé

Kobbé's Complete Opera Book has been the opera-lover's bible from its first appearance. Offering summaries of libretti, descriptions of the music, and a performance history of almost 500 operas in a single volume, this thoroughly revised edition now incorporates operas including John Adams's Nixon in China, Harrison Birtwistle's Gawain and Thomas Adès's Powder Her Face. Lord Harewood's strongly individual commentaries, together with his unparalleled knowledge of and enthusiasm for opera, are complemented by substantial contributions from his co-editor Antony Peattie; The New Kobbé is a guide no opera-goer can afford to be without.

Available Format: Book

Alan Riding and Leslie Dunton-Downer

Explore 400 years of music drama, from late-Renaissance Italy to contemporary works, with this introductory guide to opera in the popular 'Eyewitness' series. Learn about the lives of operatic masters, read act-by-act synopses of over 160 popular operas and discover hundreds of classic and modern interpretations. The perfect starting point for anyone looking to learn more about the world of opera.

Available Format: Book

James Parakilas

In The Story of Opera, James Parakilas explores every element of the operatic experience that combines to enthrall audiences. The first part of the book - Going to the Opera - introduces newcomers to the venue, stage effects, costumes, orchestra and singers, describing how each aspect began and how they have changed over the years. The book also provides an exploration of operatic repertoire from the 17th century to the present day, with insightful readings of plots, specific scenes, staging, and the music itself.

Available Format: Book

Biographies of great opera singers

Angela Gheorghiu with Jon Tolansky

This newly released, authorised biography of internationally acclaimed soprano Angela Gheorghiu offers a unique glimpse into the life of this larger-than-life figure. Largely composed of exclusive interviews with the artist, this book covers Gheorghiu's life and career from her childhood in Communist Romania to her spectacular Covent Garden debut in 1992, right up to the present day. She shares new insights into the performance of many of her iconic stage roles, and her collaborations with opera's leading lights.

Available Format: Book

Rutbert Reisch

This limited-edition hardback book marks Birgit Nilsson's centenary, and is an homage to her extensive career and countless glorious performances. Featuring testimonials from prominent members of the music world, including Plácido Domingo, and photographs of the singer's greatest roles, this is a beautiful tribute to one of the all-time operatic greats.

Available Format: Book

Thomas Voigt's revealing biography, written in collaboration with Kaufmann, reflects on this great singer's artistic development over recent years. From his work in the recording studio, to his relationship with Verdi and Wagner, this book offers some fascinating insights into the 'most sought-after tenor in the world'.

Available Format: Book

Beautiful sheet music editions

7 volume study score edition

Bärenreiter's scholarly-critical editions of Mozart's best-known operas are presented here in a scaled-down study score format. Including the full musical text of the New Mozart Edition for Così fan tutte, Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Die Zauberflöte, Don Giovanni, Idomeneo, La clemenza di Tito and Le nozze di Figaro, this boxed set offers the perfect opportunity to get to know every detail of Mozart's music.

Available Format: Sheet Music

Facsimile of the autograph score from the National Archive of the Richard-Wagner-Stiftung Bayreuth

Wagner constantly strove to produce manuscripts of a high calligraphic standard, and the manuscript for Tristan und Isolde is no exception. However, more so than in his other scores, traces of his working process are evident, and it is this aspect of the autograph score that makes it so fascinating. Bärenreiter's facsimile edition includes the complete autograph score of the opera, alongside three pages of sketches and a comprehensive commentary on the autograph and Wagner's musical language.

Available Format: Book