Sparks Fly

4 November 2022
a man and woman, lying in bed embracing romantically

This bonfire night, we’ll see sparks flying through the sky, but at Welsh National Opera, we’re used to seeing sparks flying on stage. From love at first sight to thwarted sweethearts, we take a look at some of opera’s most passionate couples. 

On a cold Christmas Eve in Paris, seamstress Mimì knocks on poet Rodolfo’s door looking for candlelight and they fall in love instantly. Their relationship grows, but Mimì is battling a terrible illness. Rodolfo and his friends look after Mimi as best they can, but to no avail. In a bid to push Mimì towards a rich suitor who could pay for her treatment, Rodolfo rejects her love. However, their love is too great, and the couple reunite, but it’s too late. Mimi’s dies in her lover’s arms.

As she sings ‘L’amour est un oiseau rebelle’, and dances at Café de Lilias Pastas, Don José can’t help but become besotted with the beautiful and fiery Carmen. They fall madly in love and move in together in a mountainside cave. Carmen eventually grows bored of Don José and redirects her affection to Escamillo. Don José, though now with the maiden Micaela, becomes jealous of Carmen and Escamillo’s love and tries to win her back. Angry with her former lover, Carmen throws the ring he gave her to the ground, resulting in a deadly reaction.

Opera singer and Rome’s biggest diva, Floria Tosca, is in love with the painter Cavaradossi, but the corrupt Chief of Police, Baron Scarpia, wants her for himself. Scarpia suspects Cavaradossi of assisting an escaped prisoner and forms a plan to destroy the lovers’ relationship. He manipulates Tosca into revealing the prisoner’s hiding place and Cavaradossi’s involvement. When Cavaradossi is captured, Scarpia offers Tosca a horrific bargain – she must give herself to Scarpia, or her lover is killed.

Courtesan Violetta cannot understand how Alfredo could love someone like her, especially as his father also disapproves of the union. Unwilling to give up his love, Alfredo convinces Violetta to move to the country with him for a quiet life. Alfredo’s father, Germont, remains unhappy with the pair and talks Violetta into leaving a heartbroken Alfredo. As time goes on, Violetta becomes ill, and it is only when Germont hears that she is on her deathbed that he realises the error of his ways and confesses all to Alfredo who returns to his true love one final time.

Chaperoned by Tristan, the King’s nephew, Irish Princess Isolde is on her way to marry King Marke of Cornwall. Angry with the way Tristan is treating her, Isolde commands her maid to concoct a poison. The maid, Brangäne, instead makes a love potion, and upon drinking it, Tristan and Isolde fall in love. When the King discovers the affair, he sends one of his knights after Tristan and he is mortally wounded. Tristan waits for Isolde to return to him but, as she rushes in, she realises it’s too late and he dies in her arms.