Here’s a roundup of our favourite Italian melodies
Since its inception at the end of the 16th Century, opera has been an integral part of Italian culture. Popular great works include Claudio Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Bellini’s Norma and Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande. Now renowned around the world, these songs demonstrate how firmly Italian music and especially opera has cemented itself in mainstream culture.
La Traviata, Prelude to act 1
According to statistics, Verdi’s masterpiece La Traviata is now the most recognised opera in the world. In a scene in the 1990s hit film Pretty Woman, Richard Gere takes Julia Roberts to the opera for the first time to see La Traviata, which moves her to tears. Not many people realise that the great opera heavily influenced the film’s plot. In La Traviata, Parisian courtesan Violetta Valéry and poet Alfredo Germont fall in love. They live happily together until his father forces Violetta to leave Alfredo on account of her colourful past. Tragic Violetta flees without word or goodbye to Alfredo. Once Alfredo learns the truth from his father, he rushes to find Violetta, but it’s too late, she’s dying from tuberculosis – a timeless tragedy.
Time to say Goodbye, Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman
Sarah Brightman, former wife of Andrew Lloyd Webber, was one of the first classical crossover performers, bringing operatic singing to a mainstream audience. In 1996, Brightman joined forces with renowned Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli to release their duet, Time to Say Goodbye. Emotive and beautiful, it went on to sell 12 million copies worldwide, making it one of the world’s best-selling singles of all time.
Nessun Dorma (None Shall Sleep), Pavarotti
The most famous aria from Puccini’s opera Turandot, Nessun Dorma (None Shall Sleep) was the first operatic song to enter popular culture. When it was released by Pavarotti in 1990, it shot to number two in the UK singles chart. Its surging melodies proved so popular that it was chosen as the signature theme of the 1990 World Cup, and has featured in countless film and television soundtracks ever since.
Notte di Luce (Nights in White Satin), Il Divo
Created by Simon Cowell to emulate The Three Tenors (Pavarotti, Carreras and Domingo), vocal group Il Divo are a classical crossover quartet who pioneered the genre operatic pop. Their classical Italian cover of Nights in White Satin, a ‘60s hit by English rockers The Moody Blues, featured on their 2006 album Siempre, went to number one in 10 countries, including the UK, Spain, the Netherlands and Singapore.