“Parting is such sweet sorrow”. Saying goodbye is never easy and operatic goodbyes can be especially painful. Relationship break-ups, leaving your homeland, punishing your wayward daughter, death… it’s a messy business. Emotions ran high and tissues were required for Mark and Elisabeth to dry their tears as they selected their top ten operatic farewells for your misery… um, enjoyment.

1Verdi: Don Carlo – Death of Rodrigo

Opera’s greatest bromance also contains its most beautiful farewell. In order to save Don Carlos from the clutches of the Spanish Inquisition, Rodrigo, Marquis of Posa, sacrifices himself. Carlos visits his friend in prison, but the Inquisition strikes and Posa is shot. By the miracle that is opera, Rodrigo is able to sustain a beautiful legato with his dying breath as he sings farewell to his best friend, happy that Carlos will be in a position to save his beloved Flanders. It is one of my favourite baritone moments, accompanied by rippling harp and interrupted by a brief reminder of Carlos and Rodrigo’s Friendship Duet. [Mark]




2Verdi: La traviata – “Addio del passato”

Parisian courtesan Violetta is dying. She’s given up her young lover, Alfredo, sacrificing her happiness to save the reputation of his priggish father. In this scene, she re-reads a letter from Alfredo’s father, wishing her a happier future. Bitterly, she knows it is too late and sings farewell to her dreams of the past, recognising that her rosy cheeks are fading. Most Violettas have me in tears at this point but I have special memories of Anna Netrebko singing the role at Covent Garden back in 2008. [Mark]

 

3Puccini: Tosca – “E lucevan le stelle”

Cavaradossi is in prison, waiting for his execution. He doesn’t yet know about Scarpia’s murder and Tosca’s (ill-conceived) escape plan. He asks the jailer for a pen and a piece of paper to write his last farewell to a “very dear person” he leaves behind. After a few lines, he recalls a memory when Tosca entered the garden, fell into his arms and kissed him while “the stars shone and the earth was perfumed”. But he realises that this dream of love has now vanished and he has to die, never having loved so much before. [Elisabeth]

 

4Puccini: La bohème – “Addio dolce svegliare alla mattina”

There are plenty of teary goodbyes in Act 4 of La bohème – not least Colline saying farewell to the coat he’s about to pawn to buy medicine for the dying Mimì – but the Act 3 quartet takes some beating. Here are not one, but two couples splitting up: Mimì and Rodolfo break up amicably, agreeing to stay together until the spring, while Marcello and Musetta have a volcanic tiff caused by her flirtatious behaviour. Needless to say, both men begin Act 4 feeling very sorry for themselves… when will we ever learn?! [Mark]

 

5Wagner: Die Walküre – Wotan’s farewell

There are some complicated family relationships in opera, but Wagner takes it to extremes. Womanising god Wotan promises his mortal son, Siegmund, that he shall find a sword when he most needs it. However, he orders Brünnhilde, his Valkyrian love child with Erda, to obey his wife Fricka’s order to grant victory to Hunding in battle. Long story short, Brünnhilde disobeys her father’s orders, Wotan shatters Siegmund’s sword (who’s then fatally stabbed by Hunding) and – as a punishment – Wotan sends his favourite daughter to sleep until someone can penetrate the ring of fire to awaken her. Getting grounded by your parents doesn’t sound so bad now, does it? [Elisabeth]

 

6Mascagni: Cavalleria rusticana – “Mamma, Quel vino è generoso”

Men should know better, yet they tend to make the same mistakes all over again (at least on the opera stage!). Alfio finds out about his wife’s affair with Turiddu and challenges him to a duel. Turiddu accepts and bites Alfio’s ear, signifying a fight to the death. He and Mamma Lucia are left alone as the villagers leave. Turiddu tells his mother that he needs to go outside to get some fresh air, but he also asks her to promise to take care of Santuzza should he never return, leaving behind his bewildered and sobbing mother. Soon after we hear shots off stage and a horrified woman screaming “Hanno ammazzato compare Turiddu!” (They have killed Turiddu!). If that hasn’t made you cry, try watching Elena Zilio as Mamma Lucia during the prelude without reaching for the tissues! [Elisabeth]

 

7Verdi: I vespri siciliani – “Addio, mia patria”

Another complicated family matter and one of Verdi’s best ensembles. Arrigo has finally found the courage to tell the imprisoned Procida and Elena the truth about his father. Procida and Elena think that all is now lost, saying farewell to their beloved home, Sicily, with its shining beaches and blue skies. Arrigo vows to die with them, being unable to imagine a life without Elena. And Montforte is confident of victory as the Sicilian rebels would lose their will to fight without their leader. [Elisabeth]

 

8Verdi: Rigoletto – “Addio, addio!”

There are many tears in Rigoletto, but no heartbreak in this duet. Gilda is in love with a young student (unaware he’s dirty love rat the Duke of Mantua) and their tryst is interrupted when they hear her father (Rigoletto) returning home. The Duke’s supposedly swift departure is much delayed by addio after addio after addio: count them! [Mark]



9Wagner: Lohengrin – “Nun sei bedankt, mein lieber Schwan”

There’s nothing like the love between a man and his swan. Lohengrin has just arrived in Brabant – by swan, as you do – to defend the innocent Elsa who’s being accused of murdering her brother by Telramund. But first, he thanks his swan for the journey and bids a heartbreaking farewell to his companion: “Leb wohl, leb wohl, mein lieber Schwan!” (Farewell, farewell, my beloved swan!). At least his love for Elsa might have been a bit stronger as she gets six “Farewells” when he swans off again at the end of Wagner’s opera. [Elisabeth]

 

10Monteverdi: L’incoronazione di Poppea – “Addio, Roma!”

Ottavia, wife of Emperor Nero, has been usurped in his affections by the ambitious Poppea. In Act 3, Nero exiles Ottavia, opening the way for he and Poppea to marry. Ottavia sings a plangent farewell to Rome: “Though innocent, I must part from you. I go to suffer exile in bitter grief.” I love the way her opening ‘A’s in “addio” and “amici” sound like sobs. [Mark]