Welcome to Opera Stories

The heart of the Opera Story site is a collection of opera plots available free to anyone.  But there are more stories involved in an opera than just the plot: there are the life stories of the composer and the librettist, and there is the relationship between them, the tension between words and music which makes opera so fascinating.
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Niccolò van Westerhout – Doña Flor

Opera in one act. Libretto by Arturo Colautti. First performed on 18 April 1896 in the Teatro Communale in Mola di Bari (now named the Teatro Van Westerhout).   The scene is Venice in the mid seventeenth century in the bedroom of Doña Flor, the wife of the Spanish...

Amilcare Ponchielli – I Lituani

Lyric drama in a Prologue and three acts. Libretto by Antonio Ghislanzoni, based on Adam Mickiewicz’s narrative poem Konrad Wallenrod (1828). First performed at La Scala, Milan, on 7 March 1874.   Prologue Near Marienburg, towards the end of the fourteenth century...

Giacomo Puccini – Il Tabarro

Opera in one act.  Part of Il Trittico (‘The Tryptych’), a sequence of three one-act operas intended to be performed together (the other two are Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi) Libretto by Giuseppe Adami, based on the play La Houppelande by Didier Gold. First...

Pietro Mascagni – Zanetto

Opera in one act. Libretto by Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti and Guido Menasci based on the play Le Passant by François Coppée. First performed in the Liceo Musicale G. Rossini, Pesaro, on 2 March 1896.   The story is set in a villa in the hills just to the east of...

Giacomo Puccini – Tosca

Opera in three acts. Libretto by Luigi Illica and Giacomo Giacosa, based on the play La Tosca by Victorien Sardou (1888), a role made famous by Sarah Bernhardt. First performed in the Liceo Musicale G. Rossini, Pesaro, on 2 March 1896.   Act 1   The church of...

Giovanni Pacini – Saffo

Lyric tragedy in three acts. Libretto by Salvatore Cammarano. First performed in the Teatro San Carlo in Naples on 29 November 1840.   Act 1 In the ancient Greek Olympic Games, poetry was one of the events.  Outside the stadium at Olympus, the poetry event has just...

Giovanni Pacini – L’Ultimo Giorno di Pompei

Opera seria in two acts. Libretto by Andrea Leone Tottola. First performed in the Teatro San Carlo in Naples on 19 November 1825.   Act 1 It is dawn in Pompei on the morning of 25 August 79AD.  In the atrium of Sallustio’s house, cheerful voices can be heard in the...

Gioacchino Rossini – Demetrio e Polibio

Dramma serio per musica in two acts. Libretto written in separate numbers between 1806 and 1809 by Vincenzina Viganò Mombelli. First performed in the Teatro Valle in Rome on 18 May 1812.   Act 1 At the court of Polibio, King of Parthia, Polibio publicly tells a young...

Richard Strauss – Salome

Opera in one act Libretto by the composer based on a German translation by Hedwig Lachmann of Oscar Wilde’s play Salome (1893) First performed in the Court Theatre, Dresden, on 9 December 1905 King Herod is inside his palace giving a banquet.  He has had Jokanaan...

Gioacchino Rossini – Otello

Opera in three acts Libretto by Francesco Berio di Salsa based on Shakespeare’s play Othello (1604-05) First performed at the Teatro del Fondo, Naples, on 4 December 1816 Act 1 A public square in Venice The Doge of Venice and all the senators, including a nobleman...