Six Operas for Halloween

Oh October!  There’s a chill in the air, there’s pumpkin spice in your coffee, and movie theaters are filled with ghosts and gore.  I love spooky stories as Halloween approaches.  This time of year, you might find me reading 19th century gothic novels, or watching the 1963 classic The Haunting (With the lights on, I might add.  I’m not that hardcore.), or you might find me in the opera house.

If you’re surprised to learn that opera can make for the perfect Halloween spookfest, then you probably don’t know much about opera.  Here are my top six operas for All Hallows Eve.

6.  I Pagliacci

What makes it scary?  Two words:  murderous clown.  This is the climactic final scene where Canio murders his adulterous wife Nedda while the audience of their comedia performance looks on in horror.

5.  Mefistofele

What makes it scary? Off the top of my head, I can think of at least three operatic renditions of the Faust legend, but not all of them deserve the Halloween treatment.  Gounod’s Faust reads as a morality play more than anything. If you’re looking for devilish fun, go for the version that titled itself after the Devil himself.

4.  Un Ballo in Maschera

What makes it scary?  A witch, a murder conspiracy, and a costume party make this Verdi classic perfect for Halloween.

3.  Lucia di Lammermoor

What makes it scary?  This bel canto masterpiece is one of my all time favorite operas.  The famous mad scene takes place on the title character’s wedding night, shortly after she’s chopped her poor, unsuspecting bridegroom to pieces.  Now, I’m all for finding new and inventive ways to stage classic operas, but when it comes to Lucia, if there’s not a blood-spattered wedding dress, yer doin’ it wrong.

2.  The Medium

What makes it scary?  The story of  a fraud medium who begins to hear the voices of what seem to be real spirits causing her to question her own sanity.  This opera is an example of the very scariest kind of story, in my opinion, one where the audience isn’t quite sure if the spook was real or just a figment of the characters’ imagination.

1.  The Turn of the Screw

What makes it scary?  Based on the novel by Henry James, Benjamin Britten’s Turn of the Screw is the ultimate operatic ghost story, with a haunted house, creepy nursery rhymes, and a pair of malevolent spirits.  I would argue that this is the spookiest opera of all time.


One thought on “Six Operas for Halloween

  1. Michael

    Yes! I love Turn of the Screw – my favorite opera! New York City Opera is doing it this season, and I’m going to try to go up and see it. Care to join me?

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