All of the operas on this list have absolutely sublime music and are perfect for putting into a surround-sound stereo system so that the whole house can be filled with music. However, having to sit down and actually watch these operas is a fate worse than death!
Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas
On the surface, Dido and Aeneas seems like it should have an exciting story. It is set on an exotic island with a beautiful queen who dies of a broken heart because of an evil sorceress. However, the second the orchestra begins the overture, the listener can tell this is going to be a boring experience. The story is completely devoid of dramatic fire. The few places that do have some action are accompanied by music that would lull a fussy two year old to sleep.
Personally, I feel that Aeneas should have been given a larger part. Perhaps that would have made at least the romantic aspects of the story a bit more interesting.
The opera also has way too many chorus pieces. Of course, this was the norm for 17th century vocal works. However, to a modern listener, it sounds musically unbalanced.
Handel’s Giulio Cesare
Although Giulio Cesare was one of the few Handel operas that enjoyed success at its premiere, it is easy to see why, since the 18th century, it has been almost forgotten. The music, by no means, has the fire that Handel put into Semele and The Messiah. Also, for some reason, Handel was reluctant to write trios and quartets. Consequently, the opera is slowed down considerably since the characters have to express their personal opinions individually instead of getting it all over with in an ensemble piece. Giulio Cesare drones on for almost four hours as one character after another sings one aria after another.
To make matters worse, the title role was written for a castrato and, therefore, usually has to be sung by a woman. This can certainly put a damper on the romantic scenes!
Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte
Cosi Fan Tutte is supposed to be a comedy and, if you just read the synopsis, seems like an absolute riot. However, and I am a victim of this, a synopsis can be very deceiving! Sitting through a performance of this opera is about as exciting as watching the grass grow. For being over three hours long, Cosi Fan Tutte has very few laughs and almost no action. Also, Mozart seemed to be in love with his own composition. He made every aria and ensemble piece drag on for as long as possible and, if you’ll forgive me, there are a few places that have way too many notes!
Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde
Even Wagner’s 15 hour long Ring Cycle is not as hard to sit through as Tristan und Isolde. The Ring at least has some action. Tristan, on the other hand, is three and a half hours without any action or even changes in scenery! Also, there are only seven people in the cast and, to be perfectly honest, one can get pretty sick of hearing from them by the end!
Something else that doesn’t help is that the opera usually staged with avant-garde sets can be visually incompatible with a story that takes place in Medieval Europe.
Wagner’s Der Meistersinger von Nurnberg
Wagner’s Der Meistersinger von Nurnberg is the longest opera that is still produced to this day. It is also one of the most, if not the most, boring operas ever written! The opera was meant to be a half hour long romantic comedy that could be played after the composer’s Tannhauser. However, Wagner got just a little carried away and ended up turning Der Meistersinger into six hour long yawn-fest. Although the romantic elements of the story are rather sweet, they are far from intriguing. Also, the few comedic elements contain hidden racial slurs that usually keep modern audiences from even cracking a smile.
Source: Naxos’ “The A to Z of Opera”