What has opera taught us?

9 April 2024

From La bohème to Peter Grimes, there always seems to be a little life lesson in our favourite operas. Let’s explore some of the most important things that opera has taught us. 

Live within your means 

You can learn a lot about love and following your heart from Puccini’s La bohème, but act two, which takes place at Café Momus, sees Rodolfo, Mimi, Marcello and Musetta raising toasts and drinking which results in a bill they cannot afford to pay. Realising they don’t have the means to cover their tab, they head out of the café and into the Christmas crowds, leaving the bill for Musetta’s elderly admirer, Alcindo, to pay. 

People can change 

Despite what Alfredo’s father, Giorgio Germont, may think, La traviata shows us that even a party girl can change her frivolous ways. After falling in love with Alfredo, Violetta, who is the most sought-after courtesan in Paris, leaves her life of lavish parties behind to settle down in the country. Despite selling her possessions to be able to afford to stay with Alfredo, his father does not believe that Violetta has changed and forces her back to her old life. Germont eventually realises that he was wrong about Violetta but it’s too late as she has become very sick and dies in Alfredo’s arms. 

Be careful what you wish for 

While he may not have lived long enough to learn this lesson, The Makropulos Affair’s Emilia Marty’s father wished for eternal life and made his daughter drink a potion, making her immortal. Even though immortality may have seemed a great idea to Hieronymus Makropulos, personal physician toEmperor Rudolf II, his daughter found out that living for 300 years and having to constantly move and change names was no way to live. This long life of immortality and name changing caused Emilia Marty a lot of issues over the centuries – lost love, isolation and legal disputes over a one-hundred-year-old will. 

Not everything is as it seems 

If you’ve seen our current production of Mozart’s Così fan tuttethen you’ll know that sometimes things are not what they appear to be. Full of disguises and scenarios designed to deceive, it’s no wonder that Fiordiligi and Dorabella learn about love and trust the hard way in The School for Lovers.  

You still have time to catch our brand-new production in Bristol and Birmingham to see for yourself that sometimes, what you are led to believe may not be quite true. 

Don’t jump to conclusions 

The townsfolk in Britten’s Peter Grimes are quick to judge the titular fisherman after his apprentice dies in mysterious circumstances. Even though the coroner, Mr Swallow, determines the boy’s death to be accidental, Grimes’ outsider status makes him an easy target for the blame. When the townsfolk discover that the local schoolteacher Ellen, who Grimes wishes to marry, has found the sweater of a second missing apprentice at the shore, they jump to the worst conclusion and a manhunt begins. Along with retired naval officer, Captain Balstrode, Ellen tries to help Peter escape, but their frantic efforts to help him outrun the false accusations end in tragedy.

Welsh National Opera bring this tale of isolation and prejudice to stages in Cardiff, Southampton, Birmingham, Milton Keynes, Llandudno and Plymouth next Spring.