1692, Henry Purcell’s The Fairy Queen
Purcell’s opera The Fairy Queen is based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Although the music is very pretty and the story follows the original play quite closely, the opera has always been in the shadow of the composer’s more famous Dido and Aeneas.
1799, Antonio Salieri’s Falstaff
Falstaff is based on Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor. The opera, composed by Antonio Salieri, follows the play rather closely although the romantic subplot between Fenton and Anne is omitted entierly. This opera, along with everything else written by Salieri, has been completely forgotten.
1816, Gioachino Rossini’s Otello
One of Rossini’s most obscure operas is his version of Otello (Italian’s don’t like the letter “h”). The opera contains the basic elements of the story; however, it has a terrible lack of dramatic action. In fact, Lord Byron accused the opera of “crucifying” the original play. The opera was not a success when it premiered and it has now been completely forgotten, partly because of the later operatic version by Verdi (see below).
1847, Giuseppe Verdi’s Macbeth
Verdi’s Macbeth is the earliest “Shakespearean opera” that is still in the standard repertoire. The only major difference between the opera and the play is that, in the opera, the three witches are sung by an entire female chorus. The opera is so appealing both dramatically and musically that, even though several of the roles have been condemned as “unsingable”, thousands of singers have risked their careers to sing this fantastic work.
1849, Otto Nicolai’s Die Lustigen Weiber von Windsor
Nicolai’s version of The Merry Wives of Windsor is almost identical to Shakespeare’s play; there are just a few name changes. However, although the opera enjoyed moderate success at its premier, it has never made much of an impact on the operatic world.
1862, Hector Berlioz’s Beatrice et Benedict
Berlioz’s 1862 opera Beatrice et Benedict is based on Much Ado About Nothing. Although the opera is faithful to the original story, it has never enjoyed much success.
1866, Charles-Francois Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette
Gounod’s version of Romeo and Juliet is one of the most popular operas in the world. The music and the story are very romantic and very faithful to Shakespeare’s story. However, the opera has been criticized for changing the final scene and having the lovers die together.
1868, Ambrose Thomas’ Hamlet
Thomas’ Hamlet was not very well received because of its major departures from the original story; the biggest change is during the final scene: Hamlet kills Claudius, claims the throne, and lives happily ever after (without Ophelia because she committed suicide during Act IV). Although the opera has never been part of the standard repertoire, Ophelia’s colossal mad scene is a favorite with every coloratura soprano.
1887, Giuseppe Verdi’s Otello
Many people consider Verdi’s Otello to be the composer’s finest work. The music is absolutely sensational and the story is almost identical to the original play. Verdi did omit the events of the play’s first act, but only so that the opera would not be overly long. The role of Otello is considered the greatest challenge, both vocally and dramatically, for every large voiced tenor.
1892, Giuseppe Verdi’s Falstaff
In 1892, Verdi composed his last opera: Falstaff. Thus ended his long association, both with opera and with Shakespeare. Unfortunately, although Verdi’s Falstaff has not, by any means, been forgotten, it is not given the number of performances it deserves.
1901, Frederick Delius’ A Village Romeo and Juliet
A Village Romeo and Juliet is a Romeo and Juliet– knockoff, similar to West Side Story. The opera is about two peasants named Sali and Vreil who can’t be together because of a feud between their families. The opera ends with their double suicide.
1909, Ernest Bloch’s Macbeth
Although Bloch’s Macbeth is almost identical to Shakespeare’s, it lacks both the musicality and the dramatic impact of Verdi’s. Consequently, the opera has been completely forgotten.
1960, Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Britten’s opera is pretty much an abridged version of Shakespeare’s play. However, although the opera was successful at its premier, it is now rarely performed.
1966, Samuel Barber’s Antony and Cleopatra
The only musical adaptation of Antony and Cleopatra is the 1966 opera written by American composer Samuel Barber (Platoon). The libretto, which was comprised by Franco Zeffirelli, is taken directly from Shakespeare’s text. Zeffirelli also designed and directed the first production. The opera’s first performance marked the opening of the new Metropolitan Opera House.
Unfortunately, the opera is almost impossible to produce because of its elaborate sets and enormous cast of 22 singers.
Source: Naxos’ The A to Z of Opera