Whether you relate to star-crossed lovers or new found love, there's an aria or duet out there for everyone. In honor of Valentine's Day, here's an eclectic list of operatic selections consumed with the topic of love; some are popular pieces your sweetheart is sure to recognize while the more obscure picks will have you looking like an opera buff. Enjoy!
'Gia nella notte densa'
from Verdi's Otello, sung by Angela Gheorghiu and Placido Domingo
From Verdi's Otello, this duet is sung by the doomed lovers Otello and Desdemona in happier times. Although their end is tragic, this piece is filled with the joy of two lovers who found one another through hardship and turmoil. Overcome with passion for one another, the music ends with a moving kiss and one of opera's most famous leitmotifs.
'La fleur que tu m'avais jetee'
from Bizat's Carmen, sung by Jonas Kaufmann
Known as the Flower Song, Bizet's deeply moving aria from the popular opera Carmen speaks of one man's complete devotion to a woman. Having been sentenced to prison for allowing Carmen to escape custody, Don Jose returns to her when he is released. When Carmen mocks him for obeying the command to return to the barracks, telling him he doesn't really love her, he takes out the now faded flower she had thrown to him earlier, and tells her how he kept it with him in prison as a token that gave him strength. He ends with the declaration "O my Carmen. And I was yours, Carmen, I love you!"
'Un bel di'
from Puccini's Madama Butterfly, sung by Huang Ying
An anthem of enduring and faithful love, Un bel dì ("One beautiful day") is one of opera's most recognizable arias. Having waited three years for her husband, the American sailor Pinkerton, to return, the geisha Butterfly reassures her doubtful maid that he will come back to her with an endearing account of exactly how it will be when he does.
'Ah forse lui'
from Verdi's La traviata, sung by Sumi Jo
One of opera's most complex characters, Violetta is torn between her love of freedom and her growing affection for Alfredo. In 'Ah, fors'è lui,' Violetta tells of these strange new feelings arising in her heart and wonders if he could truly be the one.
from Verdi's Rigoletto, sung by Joan Sutherland
Gilda is the sweet and innocent daughter of the jester Rigoletto, who has kept her hidden away without even the knowledge of her father's name. Having been charmed by the unsavory Duke of Mantua, Gilda proclaims her beloved's name, which turns out to be a lie, and sings of her complete infatuation in this aria which perfectly captures the emotions of a young girl's first love.
'Ah! lève-toi, soleil!'
from Gounod's Romeo et Juliette, sung by Juan Diego Flores
It wouldn't be Valentines without "star-crossed lovers." The Capulet ball has ended and, having just seen Juliette for the first time, Romeo has fallen instantly in love. He seeks out Juliette's window from the garden, and famously compares her to the morning sun as the evening star fades with the night. It's a classic case of love at first sight as described in an inspiring text by William Shakespeare.
'Mild und Leise'
from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, sung by Nina Stemme
This is the final scene from Richard Wagner's Tristan und Isolde. Tristan dies and Isolde, mystically transfigured, sings the astonishingly compelling Leibestod as she is united with him in love and in death. The Leibestod, or "love-death" is one of opera's most famous moments, and a milestone in the history of music. Moreover, you will rarely hear it sung better than you will right here.
'O soave fanciulla'
from Puccini's La bohème, sung by Ailyn Pérez and Stephen Costello
Sung a by a real-life married couple in this video, this scene features La bohème's Rodolfo and Mimì. Moments after having first met, the two discover they have fallen in love and, enveloped in song, continue on to celebrate Christmas Eve with Rodolfo's friends at the Café Momus. It's about as high as high Romantic gets.