Opera is often accused of being expensive, and when top-price tickets to the Royal Opera House come in at £250 it’s hard to argue against the charge. But this isn’t necessarily the case and there are plenty of ways to get your opera fix for free.
This is probably the most obvious go-to medium for free music. Both Radio Three and Classic FM have opera standards on their playlists, while the former’s Afternoon Concert (Thursday, 14.00) and Opera on 3 (Saturday, 18.00) programmes present recent recordings of operas in full. Often introduced by experts on the artform, these shows are an excellent means of learning more about both opera as whole and the particular production.
You can find full radio listings here. But you don’t have to be tied down to a schedule. The BBC and Classic FM have apps for Apple and Android platforms that have listen again facilities:
• For Apple
• For Android
• For Google
• For Apple
• For Android
It is a lot harder to find opera on TV than radio, but it is out there. Sky Arts has a very varied programme of film, music, comedy and more, and among all of this you can find the odd opera gem. Show times aren’t always the most convenient, though, and you have to be a Sky subscriber to access catch-up facilities.
There’s a huge amount of opera to be had on YouTube, from individual arias to full productions. Just search for whatever you’re after. The quality of the recordings is variable, so do take the time to find the better ones – if you’re going to devote a couple of hours of your time you want to know it’s going to be worth it.
Many of the major companies have channels where they share music from some of their best productions. Subscribe to keep up to date. Here are a few to get you started:
• Royal Opera
• Opera North
• Scottish Opera
• Welsh National Opera
• English National Opera
• Opera Holland Park
If you’re a Prime member there are pages of opera, from full productions to greatest hits collections, included as part of your membership. Some of the world’s best-known pieces are available, including works from Verdi, Wagner, Mozart and Britten. Search for ‘opera’ if you’re in need of inspiration or try individual operas if you already know what you fancy.
There are various streaming services out there – Deezer, Spotify, iTunes and Amazon Music come readily to mind – all of which have all kinds of opera offerings. Again, there’s a good mix well-known arias and full productions. There are many definitive recordings to choose and you’ll find some of opera’s most famous performers: Pavarotti, Callas, Te Kanawa and Carreras, to name just a few.
All of these have Apple and Android apps, too, so you can access it all from your phone.
Opera really doesn’t have to break the bank. Whether you want to watch a full production of Rossini’s Barber of Seville (1816), listen to Maria Callas’s best-known arias or just enjoy some of opera’s greatest hits, you can do it for free and in the comfort of your own home.
A YouTube screenshot of Figaro’s Aria from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville.