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Recommended recordings

Some of the best of the commercially available recordings of American opera.

usopera.com recommends:
John Adams
Nixon in China
A stunning recording of the premiere production of Adams' first and possibly best opera. Nixon is approachable but rewards repeated listening.

William Grant Still

Highway One

St. Olaf Orchestra/Brunelle

CD / Albany (2005)

Even with the recent increased interest in the music of African-American composer William Grant Still, his operas are still rarely performed. This disc, the first recording of Still's Highway 1, U.S.A., is a welcome exception.

Renee Fleming

I Want Magic! American Opera Arias

CD / Polygram 160567 (1998)

Fleming, one of the highest profile and most passionate proponents of American opera, takes on a wide swath of pieces from American operas from the past fifty years or so, including some welcome rarities.

Dawn Upshaw

The World So Wide

CD / Nonesuch 79458 (1998)

Upshaw is one of the foremost interpreters of contemporary opera. Here she chooses a mix of pieces from American works old and new. Her rendition of "What a movie" from Trouble in Tahiti alone is worth the price of this essential recording, which also includes selections from....

John Adams

Nixon in China

St. Luke's/de Waart

3 CD / Elektra Nonesuch 9 79177-2 (1990)

A stunning recording of the premiere production of Adams' first opera, and possibly still his best. Nixon is approachable on first hearing but also rewards repeated listening.

Dominick Argento

Postcard from Morocco (recording of premiere production; reissue of LP Desto DC 7137/38)

Minnesota Opera/Brunelle

2 CD / CRI CD 614 (1972)

By turns absurd, witty and touching, Dominick Argento's Postcard from Morocco paints a surreal portrait of the interactions of a group of strangers (or are they?) in a waiting room.

Virgil Thomson

Lord Byron

Monadonck Music/Bolle

2 CD / Koch International Classics 3-7124-2Y6x2 (1992)

Less well known than Thomson's other operas, Lord Byron, here in its first recording, shocked audiences at its premiere with its frank look at Byron's personal life.

Gian Carlo Menotti

The Consul

Berkshire Opera Company/Revzen

2 CD / Newport Classics (1998)

One of the great operas of the twentieth century, here led by Beverly O'Regan Thiele as Magda. A wonderful and inexplicably rare studio recording of this landmark work.

Carlisle Floyd

Of Mice and Men (Premiere recording)

Houston Grand Opera/Summers

2 CD / Albany (2004)

Of Mice and Men is not as well known as Carlisle Floyd's Susannah. But as this live recording from Houston Grand Opera shows, it is a work that should be heard more often. Gordon Hawkins is George, Anthony Dean Griffey is Lenny, and the rest of the cast includes Elizabeth Futral and James Maddalena.

Carlisle Floyd



CD / Virgin 45039 (1994)

Susannah is one of the most perennially popular American operas. And few American works have received as impressive a studio recording. Kent Nagano conducts, with great performances from Cheryl Studer, Jerry Hadley, and especially Samuel Ramey as the preacher, Olin Blitch.

New York Chamber Ensemble/Radcliffe

Happy Endings: Comic Chamber Operas

CD / Albany 173 (1995)

Douglas Moore's Gallantry is a minor masterpiece; a one-act "soap opera" set in a hospital, complete with commercial interruptions and a cliffhanger ending. Menotti's The Telephone and a short piece by Hindemith round out the disc.