I love opera and I love good books. I guess it was inevitable that I would post a top ten list of my favorite novels based upon novels. Most operas are based upon plays, such as those by Shakespeare, Schiller, and Beaumarchais. But there are some very good operas based upon great novel. Here are the best ones in my opinion.
10. Boris Godunov by Modest Mussorgsky, based on the novel of the same name by Alexsandr Pushkin. This is one of the best operas based on a historical person. Boris killed the heir to the throne to become tsar. A monk learns of the event and claims to be the dead heir and tries to overthrow Boris.
9. Manon Lascaut by Giacomo Puccini, based on the novel L’historie du Chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut by Abbe Prevost. Any woman that is sent to a convent by her father is not wifey material.
8. Werther by Jules Massenet, based on the novel The Sorrows of the Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Never kill yourself over a woman because she may declare her love just after you have shot yourself. Goethe said he killed Werther so that he wouldn’t kill himself.
7. Thais by Jules Massenet, based on the novel of the same name by Anatole France. Don’t tell a woman that you love her for her spirit and not her beauty and then try to change her, especially if you only love her for her beauty.
6. Madame Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini, based on the short story of the same name by John Luther Long. Never believe a sailor when he tells a girl that she is the only one for him, especially when he is on a foreign port.
5. Eugene Onegin by Peter Tchaikovsky, based on the novel of the same name by Alexsandr Pushkin. When a young lady says she loves you, don’t turn her down so quickly. If you do you may eventually fall for her only for her to turn you down in the end.
4. Parzival by Richard Wagner, based on the novel of the same name by Wolfram von Eisenbach. This Grail story is the apex of a spiritual quest. Sometimes silence is golden, but at other times, as it is here, silence is deadly.
3. Lucia di Lammermoor by Donizetti, based on the novel The Bride of Lammermoor by Walter Scott. If a woman is crazy for you in love, don’t betray that love or you may see real crazy.
2. Carmen by Georges Bizet, based on the novella of the same name by Prosper Merimee. How strange that a French opera set in Spain would be the unofficial first example (and some would say the best) of the Verismo style, a style which is uniquely Italian.
1. La Boheme by Giacomo Puccini, based on the novel Scenes de la Vie de Boheme by Henri Munger. Long before the movie Love Story, there was La Boheme. It’s an old story: boy meets girl, girl meets boy, girl has a cough – enough said.
As always, I encourage you to make your own top ten list. It can be on any category. If you do, tell me about it in the Comments section below.