“La donna è mobile” is from Rigoletto by Verdi. Women are fickle, is the rough translation. The evil Duke sings this, and Rigoletto, the court jester, puts up with him until he seduces his daughter.
Figaro is the title character of The Barber of Sevile, by Rossini.
Figaro, Figaro, Figaro.
There is also the opera The Marriage of Figaro, by Mozart. Figaro is in that one, but he doesn’t sing Figaro, Figaro, Fiiiigaaaahrooo!
Carmen is by Bizet. She sings the “Habanera.” There’s another popular familiar tune:
Hey, matador, don’t spit on the floor. Use a cuspidor. That’s what it’s for.
Also from Carmen.
Palliacci is the crying clown. Rigoletto is a crying clown, too, after the evil Duke seduces his daughter, but if someone says what’s the one with the crying clown? Nine times out of ten they mean Paliacci, which is by Ruggero Leoncavallo. He is kind of a one-hit wonder. That is the only opera he is known for, but it is a very popular one.
Scaramucci dances the fandango, or is asked to, in “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen.
La Bohème is by Puccini. The Broadway musical Rent is loosely based on this. It is about a bunch of poets and artists. They are burning manuscripts to stay warm. Typical starving artists. Puccini also wrote Madame Butterfly. Puccini wrote several operas, but Verdi is the biggest name in opera. I always get Il trovatore and La traviata mixed up, but Giuseppe Verdi wrote both. The first one is about a troubadour and there are a lot of Gypsys. The Anvil Chorus is heard as they go by a Gypsy camp. La traviata is about a party girl. It is kind of like Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The title means ‘the fallen woman.’ Violetta is a kind of Holly Golightly.
A good film about opera is Diva. It is a 1981 French film, and the opera aspect not only allows you to hear some great opera, but brings you into the world of obsessed opera fanatics. There is an opera singer who refuses to be recorded. Of course, this makes the opera fans determined to get a bootleg recording of her singing the aria “Ebben? Ne andrò lontana” from the opera La Wally.
If you have to go to the opera, Carmen is a good one to start with. Don’t start with Wagner. They can be like over 8 hours long. Later, you might become obsessed enough to want to sit through the whole cycle, but for now, an entry level opera is Carmen.
And that, my friend, is your rudimentary guide to Opera.