But there is a whole world of music and drama out there to be discovered. Love, betrayal, murder, scheming, legends, poetry, deceit, loyalty and pomp. All this and more. Most are sung in their original language, often Italian or German, but all recordings include the English translations and a potted plot summary in the booklets.
Solti, Heilmann, Ziesak, Kraus
Mozart was the first to break with the tradition of writing operas in Italian, and wrote The Magic Flute in German for the masses to enjoy. And a fantastic story, sumptuous sets and wondrous melodies makes this a favourite still.
Berganza, Domingo, Cotrubas, Abbado
An ideal first opera, the tale of the soldier Don José obsessed with the gypsy girl Carmen to the point of tragedy. The music evokes the heat and atmosphere of Spain, and the passion of their affair.
Ausensi, Benelli, Berganza, Varviso
The most famous comic opera, first performed in 1816 and never out of the repertory since then. A madcap comedy of mistaken identity and double-dealings of Figaro, the Barber and Rosina.
Freni, Pavarotti, Harwood, Karajan
Perhaps the best-loved opera of all time, La Boheme tells the story of doomed lovers Mimi and Rudolfo, ordinary people in impoverished times. Sung by Mirella Freni and Luciano Pavarotti at their absolute best.
Eaglen, Plazas, Gedda, Brocq, Parry
A very new recording (and sung in English, too) of Turandot, Puccini's last opera which tells the tale of a mythical Chinese Ice Princess whose heart is melted by an ardent young suitor.
Sutherland, Pavarotti, Manuguerra, Bonynge
Verdi's La Traviata shocked audiences at the time. It is the story of courtesan Violetta and her live-in lover Alfredo, whom she is forced to abandon so his family's reputation is not tarnished. Tragedy strikes just as she is reunited with him.
Caballé, Domingo, Cossotto, Muti
Aida was Verdi's grandest spectacle, written as it was to celebrate the opening of the Suez canal. Drama, huge sets, ballet and an exotic plot about the fight for freedom for an Ethiopian princess sharing her people's bondage under the ancient Egyptians.
Pavarotti, Freni, Varady, Cappuccilli, Gavazzeni
Although separate works, Cavallaria Rusticana and Pagliacci (The Clowns) are commonly coupled together (Cav and Pag). They are short, one-act real-life operas or Opera Verismo. Pavarotti of course is magic.
Sutherland, Pavarotti, Milnes, Bonynge
Joan Sutherland made this work her own, singing the part of Lucia, the heroine of Sir Walter Scott's romantic tale The Bride of Lammermoor. Wonderfully tragic, incredible music, a recording that will never be equalled.
Wagner's Ring tetralogy is made up of four huge operas: Das Rheingold (The Rhine Gold), Die Walküre (The Valkyrie), Siegfried, and Die Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods). This is German legend set to music like no other, a recording feat in itself, on 14 compact discs. Not for the faint of heart. But the ultimate opera experience for those willing to devote themselves.