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Operas to Snuggle Up and Hunker Down With this Winter

We're a couple weeks into the New Year and I find myself asking the same questions I ask myself most years around this time. What did I learn last year? What day is it? Am I getting out of bed today? Are we sure chocolate doesn’t count as a vegetable? However, on these cooler winter days I also often ask myself, “What should I watch?” To ease out of the holidays, I usually want something comfortable, reliable, and usually at least a little bit whimsical. Sometimes I’m feeling a bit sentimental, and just need something to move me. So, in the winter spirit of gathering around our screens, start the kettle, ready the snacks, and grab a blanket. Here are some recommended productions to snuggle up and hunker down with.

Die Fledermaus

An absolute New Year’s Eve gala classic. It’s quintessential operetta - effervescent and charming as champagne with numerous melodies you’ll be humming to yourself for days (or weeks) to come. There are two excellent versions readily available on YouTube; one from the Bayerische Staatsoper with superb musical direction from my favorite conductor, Carlos Kleiber, and another version from the Royal Opera House that stars Kiri Te Kenawa. Both productions are very traditional but don’t hold back on wit, great comedic timing, and excellent vocal performances. Additionally, they both have English subtitles that are easy to follow. Break out the bubbly and sing along!

Die Fledermaus - English subtitles - Bavarian State Orchestra 1987 - Kleiber Wachter Coburn

Kiri Te Kanawa - Die Fledermaus

La Bohème

Sometimes you just need a really good cry, and the final moments of Bohème almost always deliver. Truth be told, it’s not my favorite opera, but Puccini’s music is really at some of its best here, and this 1965 Zeffirelli production from La Scala is an absolute classic. The passing of time, shifting nature of relationships, and often wintry/Christmastime settings make this opera at home in the colder months, hence why Bohème is often performed around Christmas and New Year’s. Mirella Freni and Gianni Raimondi are the standouts of this production, their duets always balanced and charged with emotion. Just be sure to have a few tissues on-hand for this one.

La bohème full opera with English subtitles (Zeffirelli, 1965)

La Serva Padrona

If you’re looking for something quick to lift your spirits, Pergolesi’s opera buffa might just be for you. Yes, we probably all had some sight-reading or aural skills examples from it, but looking past those, we find what is quite frankly an adorable gem of entertainment. Originally performed in the intervals of more serious operas, La Serva Padrona comes in at a run-time of under an hour. And let’s be honest with ourselves, sassy maid Serpina is ICONIC. This bright production is sprightly and doesn’t take itself too seriously. The realization of the orchestra parts by La Petite Bande is a joy. Also, hot chocolate is an actual plot point, so treat yourself to one while you enjoy this Italian bonbon.

Giovanni Battista Pergolesi: La Serva Padrona (with English subtitles)

Der Freischütz

Set in the dense forests of Bohemia, Der Freischütz has a rustic, fairy tale charm paired with darker overtones that make it more complex than it initially seems. Jolly hunters, magic bullets, brides-to-be, and spirits combine for a whirlwind of a plot. This 1968 film version from Hamburg may fall a bit flat in the effects (and occasionally acting) department, but it certainly makes up for it through its ability to set strong moods and its earnestness. After a brisk walk outdoors, this is the perfect opera to warm back up with, possibly with a traditional German jagertee (hunter’s tea).

Der Freischütz- Classic Hamburg 1968 Film with English Subtitles

Do you have a specific opera that you feel comforted by? Post it in the comments to help us create the ideal list of operas for a warm night in!

- Preston Hereford

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