From China to New York: Five Facts About Opera and New Years!

By John Vandevert
Photo Credit: Vienna State Opera

When it comes to the New Year and celebrations focused on ushering in the end of one year and the start of the new, all around the world opera houses and concert halls host their own versions of “dropping the ball.”

Whether that be the very  well-known Vienna State Opera “New Years Day” concert, the Metropolitan New Years Eve Gala, or the Swedish Royal Opera House’s New Year’s Concert, you’re sure to find something to suit your taste. Interestingly, the Vienna “News Years Day” concert, back in 1939, did not feature encores, the feature added only in 1945, the same year that Johann Strauss II’s famous ‘The Blue Danube’ waltz became the trademark encore of the event. Further, starting in 1987, the event has been conducted by a different person each year, repeating some but never back to back. Did you know the first commercial recording of the event was made in 1975?

But what if I told you that, looking a little deeper through the legacy and archives of opera history past, you’ll find some interesting things about New Years, the days surrounding it, and how composers integrated it into their work. Well, as it turns out, New Years, just like Christmas although to a lesser extent, has been the subject of operas and featured in the plots of opera. Moreover, in other cultures New Year incorporates opera in non-concert hall bound ways, while in terms of history some events like certain recordings and frequency of productions are worth revisiting. To celebrate New Years, we’ll take a look at five facts about opera and New Years which are a fascinating look into some unknown and less remembered aspects of opera history, and span from New York to China.

1) Michael Tippet’s final opera, ‘New Year,’ is a conceptual take on New Years which focuses on hope and regrowth during a ‘new year’


2) The Metropolitan Opera House’s broadcast of Lucia die Lammermoor starring Lily Pons on December 31, 1949 was edited due to a missing high C


3) On December 31, 1952 Verdi’s opera ‘Rigoletto’ was performed for the first and last time on the date in the Royal Opera Houses’ ongoing history


4) During Chinese New Years, you can often hear performances of Chinese opera excerpts in open markets by roaming troupes called ‘zouchang


5) Victor Herbet’s opera ‘Madeleine‘ focuses on operatic prima donna Madeleine’s inability to find a date for a News Years celebration




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