Although it is hard to know exactly which operas have been the most performed in the United States, Madama Butterfly and La Boheme appear over and over again on unofficial lists as the top two. La Traviata, Carmen, and The Barber of Seville are three other operas that are leading contenders for frequency of performance. Some of these operas surprisingly got off to a rocky start but later become widely popular.

Giocomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, which premiered in 1904 in Milan, was not well received by the public at first. Changes were made by Puccini, and a few months later it became a smashing success. The first performance in the United States was in 1906 in Washington D.C. Also composed by Puccini, La Boheme, the story of the love between a seamstress and a poet, premiered in Turin in 1896 and four years later was performed at The Metropolitan Opera House in New York.

La Triviata by Giuseppe Verdi, had it’s first premiere in Venice in 1853 and was met with jeers, possibly because of poor casting. It was revised and became successful in 1854 and premiered in New York in 1856. This opera is based on a play adapted from an Alexandre Dumas novel called La dame aux Camélias.

Georges Bizet’s lighthearted opera, Carmen, opened in Paris in 1875, but was given terrible reviews by critics. By the end of its first run, the audience had dwindled and tickets were being sold for next to nothing. In a turn of events in 1875 it was well received in Vienna, and by 1878 was premiering in several cities including New York and Philadelphia. Sadly, Bizet did not live to see the astounding success of his opera.

Finally, The Barber of Seville by Gioachino Rossini was also an opera comique and was one of the first Italian operas performed in the United States. This opera premiered in 1816 in Rome and came to the Park Theater in New York almost ten years later.

There are many other operas, like the aforementioned ones, that have stood the test of time and continue to be performed over and over. The fact that one to two hundred years later, these operas still enjoy such popularity, definitely attests to the greatness of these masterpieces.

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