Cover Opera tenor Luciano Pavarotti taking bows w. unident. singer (Mirella Freni?) after performing in opera L'Elisir D'Amore at La Scala. (Photo by David Lees/Getty Images)

Though being an understated art form in today's generation, opera has withstood the test of time to become the celebrated and enduring cultural phenomenon it is today

Granted, not everyone appreciates opera today compared to how it is received hundreds of years ago; but loyal followers understand the depth of emotion and talent necessary for performers to convey the message. Through an artful production of song and theatrics, opera has become a favourite among a niche group of people often known as cultural movers and shakers. Below, we list down some of the most iconic performances for those looking to dip their toes into the art. 

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Diana Damrau Performs "Queen of the Night"

Diana Damrau performs "Queen of the Night" in Mozart's two-part opera, The Magic Flute. Though she looks intimidating in a sparkling black dress and eyeliner, she performs beautifully, and with plenty of emotion. In it, she sings as the "Queen of the Night" herself, who flies into a fit of rage, telling her daughter, Pamina, that if she fails to assassinate Sarastro (who is wrongfully portrayed as the villain in the opera), she will be disowned. Throughout the performance, the anger on Damrau's portrayal is evident, as is her incredible range as an opera singer. 

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Maria Callas Performs "Vissi D'arte"

Giacomo Puccini is a familiar name to even the most novice of opera lovers. His seminal work for naturalist opera, Tosca, is among the most recognisable pieces and very few find themselves able to separate Maria Callas' performance of "Vissi D'arte" from the entirety of the masterpiece. Performed as a soprano aria, "Vissi D'arte" is an emotional rumination on fates and spiritual abandonment of God.  

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Luciano Pavarotti performs "Una Furtiva Lagrima"

A comic opera first performed in the 1800'sL'elisir d'amore tells the story of love and a certain magic elixir. Fanciful in its premise, the opera is often remembered through Luciano Pavarotti's emotional performance of "Una Furtiva Lagrima". The aria is a romanza (melancholic ballad) and is sung when the protagonist, Nemorino, believes that his beloved, Adina, has fallen in love with him as well. 

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Julia Lezhneva performs "Da Tempeste"

Georg Friedrich Handel first composed Giulio Cesare in the 1700's. Yet, its masterful sound has transcended time and become well-known even today. A story about Caesar and the war, Giulio Cesare features many memorable arias including "Piangerò la sorte mia" which is sung by Cleopatra as she fears for Caesar's safety. The other memorable piece is "Da Tempeste", once performed by Julia Lezhneva, which uses the metaphor of a ship and a tempest to express her worrisome emotions. 

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Luciano Pavarotti performs "Nessun Dorma"

Luciano Pavarotti stuns yet again with his rendition of "Nessun Dorma" for Puccini's Turandot. The passionate singer performs this particularly aria with plenty of heart, despite the desperate lyrics, which begin with "None shall sleep / None shall sleep / Even you, oh Princess / In your cold room." The opera, which centres on the adventures of the Princess of Persia, is considered one of the most famous unfinished works, with incredibly intimate moments interspersed with dramatic happenings to create a spellbinding story that (sadly) Puccini was unable to end on his terms. 

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Birgit Nilsson performs "Liebestod"

A Swedish soprano, Birgit Nilsson gave an awe-inspiring performance of "Liebestod" from the romantic epic, Tristan and Isolde. Based on a famous medieval Celtic legend, it is a three-part opera composed by Richard Wagner. Interestingly enough, the word "liebestod" is a German term that translates literally into "love death".  In music appreciation, it refers to love consummated in death or after death. 

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Fides Cuyugan-Asensio performs "Awit ng Gabi ni Sisa"

Though opera is more commonly associated as a European art form, our very own have created wonderful masterpieces that showcase local culture through operatic storytelling. Among these is Felipe P. De Leon's Noli Me Tangere wherein the aria, "Awit ng Gabi ni Sisa" is performed. This is most famously associated with the soprano, Fides Cuyugan-Asensio, a celebrated "grand dame" of Philippine theatre. The song, which evokes the emotion of Sisa as she searches in a panic for her children, Crispin and Basilio, is an incredible homage to Rizal's obra maestra

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