To celebrate Valentine's Day, medici.tv has gathered into a "Love Songs" playlist the most beautiful love stories of the classical repertoire...
Tristan and Isolde, Dido and Aeneas, Romeo and Juliet... Rediscover these iconic couples in video!
Love in operatic works has been a key theme since the very beginning of the genre. Monteverdi's Orfeo, the first opera to survive until nowadays, recounts the story of a passionate love: to meet again with Euridice, the bold Orfeo crosses over the Styx and seduces with his singing the prince of the underworld. Two hundreds years later, Beethoven as well gives wings to his heroin Leonore in his single opera, Fidelio, in which Leonore, driven by love, takes the risk to sneak into a prison, dressed up like a man, to free her husband Florestan unjustly condemned to death.
Yet, love can also lead to the worst. It is the argument of Verdi's Otello, an opera drawing its inspiration from Shakespeare and Rossini, presenting Otello's crime of passion. Out of jealousy, the Moor of Venice murders his faithful wife Desdemona. It is also the argument of Massenet's Werther, an opera composed after Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther, an epistolary novel announcing the Romanticism of the 19th century. First published in 1774, Goethe's literary work drove many youngsters to kill themselves, a phenomenon known as the "Werther Fever". Suicide is as well the unfortunate outcome of Puccini's Madama Butterfly.
It is Denis de Rougemont who first pointed out the long-lasting tradition of an "unfortunate yet mutual love" in the Western literary culture. The medieval legend of Tristan and Iseult, later on taken back by Wagner, is the archetypal example. Despite the mutual love of Tristan and Iseult, secured by the magic effect of a love potion, the lovers of Cornwall are condemned to a marginal and unfortunate life due to the social prohibition of their relationship. For the same reasons, the love stories of Gounod's Romeo and Juliet and Léon Minkus's La Bayadère show similar deadly outbursts of passion.
Fairy tales gave birth as well to love myths, as Tchaikovsky's ballets Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake can bear witness. Yet, if love has sometimes its share of bitterness, thankfully love can also lead to sheer happiness! For a joyful Valentine's Day, do watch again Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia with its exhilarating scenes, Mozart's Cosí Fan Tutte with its lighthearted plot, or Mozart's The Magic Flute in which Papageno eventually finds his Papagena!