Charlotte et Werther dans l'opéra de Massenet Werther, donné au Royal Opera House de Londres
Charlotte et Werther dans l'opéra de Massenet Werther, donné au Royal Opera House de Londres © Corbis  /  Robbie Jack

The most romantic opera arias for Valentine's Day

It's Valentine's Day, you could take your partner to dinner, complain about Valentine's Day marketing campaigns... or you can stay home and listen to the most beautiful love arias!

Declarations of love

Singing “I love you” at the opera has a special meaning. In Samson and Delilah by Saint-Saëns, the declaration of love is an answer to Samson saying “Delilah! I love you!”. Delilah's heart thus "opens itself to his voice".

But it can also be a furtive and quick “I love you” said by Lohengrin after fighting for Elsa, and after she accepts his only commandment: ”you must never ask me or be at pains to discover from whence I journeyed here, nor what is my name and lineage!" He finally says: “Elsa, I love you!”... and it’s beautiful (also because it’s Wagner’s).

In Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades, the prince sings one of the most beautiful declarations of love in opera:: “I love you, love you beyond all measure, I cannot conceive a day without you”. And when Ludovic Tézier performs as Prince Yeletsky, no one can resist.

The most beautiful duos

At the end of The Coronation of Poppea, by Monteverdi, Nero and Poppea can finally love each other peacefully, and they show that in this final duo: it’s romantic, lingering, perfect.

A little bit more anecdotal, the duo in The Swallow (La Rondine) by Puccini between Prunier and Lisette is not, however, less romantic, as evidenced by this extract, which looks like a conversation by Godard (“Do you like my ass?”):

Who is calling me?

Our love!

Who loves me?

This heart!

Who kisses me?

My lips!

Love duets are not always so joyful. In Atys by Lully, Sangaride and Atys exchange a few harsh words on their impossible love when Sangaride decides to marry the king: “Ah! It is you, most cruel beauty!” before promising to always love each other: “I swear. I promise. Never to change. [...] Let us love in secret, love one another more than ever”.

Happy love

This is a love duo without lovers. In the first act of The Magic Flute by Mozart, Pamina and Papageno celebrate the power of the divine love between husband and wife, each one thinking about his/her loved one: “Gladly we rejoice in love and live by love alone”.

Una furtiva lagrima in The Elixir of Love by Donizetti celebrates love in a quite sad way: it is slow, almost melancholic, something like a warning of what will happen afterwards... The words used, however, are positive ones: “What more need I look for? She loves me! Yes, she loves me, I see it”.

In Written on skin by George Benjamin, there’s a scene mixing desire, tension and impulse: the Protector shows Agnès a picture of the woman he loves, until she realises that it is her the one in the photo.

Melancholic love

In Massenet's Werther, Charlotte yearns for her love and abandons herself to sorrow mixed with tears: “The tears that people do not shed all sink into our souls, and with their steady drops hammer the sad and weary heart!”.

Something between a declaration of love and melancholy, the aria sung by Don José in the 2nd act of Bizet's Carmen is proof of Carmen’s effect on him: “For you had only to appear, only to throw a glance my way, to take possession of my whole being”.

Singing a memory, singing a past love... In Otello by Verdi, the Willow Song is a sweet moment of relief, lyrical and poetic. Desdemona starts singing a song she listened to as a child, the story of Barbara, her mother's maid, who was abandoned by her man. “She wept as she sang on the lonely heath, the poor girl wept, O Willow!”.

Goodbyes

Goodbyes in operas are represented through heart-rending arias. In act 5 of Castor and Pollux by Rameau, Castor is back from the Underworld for a single day so he can see and say farewell to his love, Telaira: “We must prepare ourselves to bid farewell forever”.

“Remember me, but ah! forget my Fate”. Aeneas, in the final scene of Dido and Aeneas by Purcell, is preparing to commit suicide. In a heartbreaking death aria, she speaks to her handmaid, Belinda, asking her to remember her…

The very famous Addio del passato in Verdi’s Traviata has all the features of a goodbye song, both nagging and powerful. Violetta loses her battle with her illness, after discovering that her love Alfredo is coming to be with her. This heartbreaking aria, full of melancholy, announces imminent death: “The joys, the sorrows soon will end…”

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