In the epic movie The Shawshank Redemption, Red, a character played by Morgan Freeman, hears a vocal piece titled Sul l'aria from the opera 'The Marriage of Figaro', composed by Mozart, and says,
"I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don't want to know. Some things are better left unsaid. I'd like to think they were singing about something so beautiful it can't be expressed in words, and it makes your heartache because of it ..."
That's the real, and probably the best, description of opera and its music. Opera singers have a great ability to feel the sound of music, making the audience feel and understand the same. They are like magicians because they convey the innermost human emotions to the audience. Their voice and singing is so beautiful, intense, and sensitive, that it cannot be described.
Opera is a form or theater where classical music encompasses the major script, and the dialog delivery is also done with the help of music. This form of music and theater originated in Europe in the early 16th century, though the beginnings are much older. France, Italy, Spain, England, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria were the earliest developmental hubs. In the early modern era, singers from United States, Canada, and Australia also gave landmark performances, thereby contributing to the history of music.
Hall of Fame
There have been a considerable number of opera singers, who have produced some land mark compositions and works by composers. Some of them have also acted as composers in several scenarios. Most of them, sang as characters of the play.
Rosa Ponselle (1897 to 1981)
Often credited to be one of the best opera singers of the century, she sang as a Soprano (in the vocal range of 2 octaves above the middle C note). Rosa Ponselle began her musical journey with piano lessons, later on shifting her focus to singing. Most of her noted work was performed at the New York Metropolitan Opera. After her debut in the La forza del destino, she starred in several acclaimed shows, such as Cavalleria rusticana, La Juive, and L'amore dei tre re. In addition to these incredible performances, she also has several epic and landmark performances to her credit such as Don Giovanni, which was a composition by Mozart and La vestale, her only and the most acclaimed performance in Italian opera. Though Rosa Ponselle had a highly successful international career, she gracefully started giving off the limelight to others and retired, making only occasional and personal performances. Critics have been left dumbfounded by her magical voice and ability to produce true and pure notes in her vocals. Fact is, one might not even find a voice as pure as hers even in heaven.
Anna Renzi (1620 to 1660)
When opera and musical theater were in the early stages, Anna Renzi, took the stage as the first prima donna or the first leading lady. She reached out to an audience of thousands, in a time where there were no technological advanced audio systems to help singers. Very less is known about her singing, but what is known is that her voice was majestic, thrilling, and enchanting. One of her epic performance was L'incoronazione di Poppea, by Claudio Monteverdi. Many historians and experts have praised her for a capability of adapting the charters emotions and feelings and reflecting the same in her singing.
Faustina Bordoni (1697 to 1781 )
One of the greatest contributors to opera singing, Bordoni was a mezzo-soprano (could sing from A below the middle C and A two octaves above). She grew up in a family of classical music composers and developed a sparkling voice under her mentor Alessandro and Benedetto Marcello in Venice. She had an enchanting voice and sung many legendary operas such as Alessandro, Siroe, and Tolomeo.
Dame Nellie Melba (1861 to 1931)
She was honored by the Order of British empire and was one of the most successful Australian Sopranos. Melba has successfully given some of the most admired performances in the Royal Opera House. After her debut, she gave a heart touching performance Lucia di Lammermoor, which become immortal in the history of opera and theater. In Paris, she again gave a formidable performance in Hamlet of Ambroise Thomas. Another noted performance where she created history was, Lohengrin by Richard Wagner. Dame Melba toured the Commonwealth nations extensively, and also gave several performances in United States. She sang for Royalty, politicians, businessmen, and leaders. Her works have become immortalized and her performances, a cherished memory for all her audience.
Montserrat Caballe (1933 to present)
Montserrat Caballe is a musician admired and worshiped for her work and her understanding of works by greatest composers and musical writers such as Gioachino Rossini and Gaetano Donizetti. Born in Barcelona, Spain she has undertaken extensive study of vocal music, beginning her journey at the Conservatori Superior de Musica del Liceu. In a 1965 performance of the Lucrezia Borgia, in New York, she received a standing ovation of 25 minutes. Describing her performance in words is impossible, it is best to hear the recordings or even better get a ticket to a live performance. Some words that can be used to describe her voice include, pure, powerful, and precise. She is known as La Superba in the world of opera music and is considered to be among the best in the modern era.
If you really want to enjoy the music by these famous singers, it is best to hear their music. Visit any nearby music store and look for top operas. Many websites on the Internet also have the translations and interpretations. Most of them are in Italian or Latin, hence a translation would help you to understand the music better.