I listen to a lot of opera. I first started listening to opera when I was in the 8th grade, but I began in earnest about 21 years ago.

Most of the time, I have not lived in cities where there is an opera company, so live opera becomes a rare treat for me.

When I first started listening to opera, my opportunities for not-live opera were limited to listening to opera recordings (which was expensive) or listening to radio broadcasts, which occurred once per week on the local NPR station.

However, with the advent of streaming audio, suddenly the options become kaleidoscopic. At any given moment, there are usually two or three operas streaming somewhere in the world. Not to mention some stations that allow you to listen to programs at your convenience (thank you, BBC iPlayer!): important when one considers the time difference between the US and Europe, where most opera occurs.

Normally, I record the streaming operas that interest me, then listen to them at my convenience. I am hugely fortunate that I can listen to my iPod at work. Over the last seven days, I've listened to these operas:
  • Dialogues of the Carmelites (1957) by Francis Poulenc. The story of a convent of nuns in the tumult of the French Revolution. Blanche, the main character, gradually finds the strength to allow herself to become a martyr. One of my favorite operas.
  • Dead Man Walking (2000) by Jake Heggie. Based on the book by Sister Helen Prejean and the movie starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn. The story of a nun who acts as spiritual counselor to a murderer on death row. One of the most wrenching works I've ever heard.
  • Ein Landarzt (1951) by Hans Werner Henze. Based on a short story by Franz Kafka. Did not make much of an impression on me.
  • Death in Venice (1974) by Benjamin Britten. Based on the short novel by Thomas Mann, about a respectable novelist who finds himself obsessed with a beautiful boy while on holiday in Venice. The title of the opera hints as to how it ends. Maybe the most introspective of all operas and beguilingly beautiful.
  • Der Freischütz (1821) by Carl Maria von Weber. Based on German folktales about deals with the devil and enchanted bullets: people who have heard episode 4 of Hellsing Ultimate have heard some of the music and mythology of this work. One of the all-time great German operas.
  • The Makropulos Case (1926) by Leo? Janلček. A story of a 337-year-old woman whose immortality elixir is running out, and who will seduce or destroy anyone in order to get her hands on the formula so she can make another dose. One of my favorites.
  • Il Turco in Italia (1814) by Gioachino Rossini. A silly romantic comedy: a mysterious but dense foreigner tries to steal a coquettish Italian woman from her foolish husband. Hilarity ensues.
  • Il Postino (2010) by Daniel Catلn. Based on the 1994 film of the same name and the original 1983 novel the film was based on. A young assistant postman in love with the local beauty gets lesson in poetry from the great Chilean poet Pablo Nerudo (a role written for the great Placido Domingo, now in the twilight of his career). A lovely work, now all the more wistful after the composer, Daniel Catلn, died all too young earlier this year.