Recordings That Make a Crier Out of Me

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a crier.  But, I have to admit, that there are a few opera recordings that, on the first listen, brought me to tears.

When I was first exploring opera, I listened to every opera I could get my hands on.  I’d take the CDs out of the library, pull out my Walkman (lame, I know, but I didn’t have to wait that way), throw on my headphones, open the translated libretto book up to the first page, and start the opera.  And I wouldn’t get up until it was over.

I discovered many of my favorite (and not-so-favorite) operas this way.  There’s something so exciting about discovering the opera for yourself with just the music to lead you.  It was almost like reading a book — all the visuals were up to me, playing out in my head.  I was doing just this when an opera recording made me cry for the first time.

Unsurprisingly, it was Massenet that did me in the first time.  It was his Werther with Anne Sofie von Otter and Jerry Hadley singing Charlotte and Werther.  (You can find it on Amazon here.)  The singing throughout was so heartfelt and masterful.  When I got to the Act IV duet, I was done.  Those kids starting singing Noel over Charlotte and Werther’s final farewell and I was done.  I sat for minutes in silence after the opera was over, trying to process the sheer beauty and emotion that had just occurred.  I loved the expressiveness that von Otter could layer into her voice without sacrificing beautiful legato and musicality.  Hadley’s delivered the stunningly gorgeous tenor arias with skill and power.  The orchestra just soared under Kent Nagano’s baton, illuminating every emotional moment.  This recording isn’t popular, but it’s a must-listen.  Let yourself get wrapped up in the details of it, in the nuances.  You won’t regret the time or the energy.  I’ve embedded a selection from the final duet at the end of this post so that you can get an idea, but you won’t get the full impact unless you hear the opera all the way through.

The second opera recording that moved me to tears was Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice with Maureen Forrester and Teresa Stich-Randall as Orfeo and Euridice and Charles Mackerras conducting (CD here).  I was drawn in from the very beginning with Forrester’s voice piercing through the chorus, calling Euridice’s name with all the pathos and loss that Orfeo could possess.  Her voice is so well-suited to the role with its warmth and range of emotion.  The really incredible part came in Act III.  Stich-Randall sang Euridice with a touching vulnerability and her death was so believable that it made Forrester’s “Che faro senza Euridice” all the more beautifully pathetic.  The conflict surrounding Orfeo came to life in this recording and that spoke to me on a deep level.

The third recording that I’ll admit to having made me cry is Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi with Vesselina Kasarova and Eva Mei as Romeo and Juliet (on Amazon here).  It was Kasarova’s intensity throughout and then the breathless exchange between Kasarova and Mei as Juliet realizes that Romeo is dying.  I had to listen to that final duet three times in a row because it was so well done.

I don’t like to admit it when I cry, but I will admit that these opera recordings moved me to tears.  They are memories that are so strong, and so significant, that I can remember every detail about them.  I’m sure that every opera lover has stories like these.  What are some of your moved-to-tears recordings?


Anne Sofie von Otter and Jerry Hadley sing the Act IV finale from Massenet’s Werther