La bohème – Imitation is the greatest form of flattery. 100 years before the musical Rent, there was the opera La bohème, or “the bohemians”. It’s about poverty and love during the tuberculosis plague in Paris while Rent is about poverty and love during the height of the AIDS epidemic in New York City. Most of the characters have the same names, which goes to show there is nothing new under the sun. What makes the opera special is achingly beautiful music with soaring voices, and no electronic enhancement. It’s au natural. We think that’s worth the price of admission alone.
Nabucco – It’s Italian for Nebuchadnezzar (the Babylonian king, not the hovercraft in the Matrix trilogy) and we’re just thankful we get to use the shorter name. This one tells the story about the Jewish exile from Israel but it’s really about a daughter with some serious father issues. It’s Verdi’s third opera, which established him as one of the world’s greatest composer. Think of it as his Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and you’ll understand. In the end everything works out: the daughter finds the closure she needs and the Jews find freedom.
Romeo and Juliet – Shakespeare’s most famous play with 100% more singing. You know this one already, but instead of lovers dying suddenly in each other’s arms, they sing a whole bunch then die in each other’s arms. Of the 24 or so operatic versions of Romeo and Juliet this one’s the best. Take the girlfriend; she’ll love you for it. Take the wife. Take them both.
La traviata - The title means “The Woman Who Strayed”. It’s about a hooker with a heart of gold. Yes, it’s the same stuff the movie Pretty Woman is based on which is why when they go to the opera in the movie they go to La traviata. Remember how moved she was? The big difference between the two is that La traviata is a tragedy. Even back then Verdi knew that a story about a hooker with a happy ending was just asking for trouble.