This we will accomplish through a series of polls, with the various “lines” competing, tournament bracket style, over the next several days.
We begin with eight contenders, competing in four brackets:
“Now it is my turn to wait.”
The curtains fall in the icy manor house as the curtain falls, embalming Erika alive in a gilded prison of her own making, as her aunt escapes with her lover, the dark döppelganger of his own long-lost father and the cycle begins again.
“La commedia è finita!”
The chilling last line from the original sad clown. Bodies litter the stage as the audience looks on in stunned horror. Nobody’s laughing now, are they?
“Ertrinken, versinken, unbewusst, höchste Lust.”
Is this opera’s greatest not-exactly-sex sex-scene? An explosion of passion, atop a swirling sea of Wagner’s finest music. This is no petit mort!
“O Scarpia, avanti a Dio!”
The hectic last words of poor Tosca, before she takes her flying leap off the Castel Sant’Angelo.
“Per questa bizzarria m’han cacciato all’inferno… e così sia…ma con licenza del gran padre Dante, se stasera vì siete divertiti, concedetemi voi… l’attenuante!”
Gianni Schicchi, populist hero who scammed the scammers and made himself rich and his daughter happy, delivers one of the most charming fourth wall breaks in all of opera, with a shout-out to Dante for good measure.
“Lulu! Mein Engel! Laß dich noch einmal sehn! Ich bin dir nah! Bleibe dir nah! In Ewigkeit!”
Having been fatally stabbed by none other than Jack the Ripper, the Countess Geschwitz makes one of the more explicit declarations of lesbian love in opera history. I hope they meet again in the great beyond and can drive off into the sunset in a Subaru Forrester.
“Ma ride ben chi ride la risata final!”
Is it cheating when your last line is one of the most beloved sayings in the English language? (But it’s so good though!)
“Des enfants ! Des enfants ! Des enfants ! Cher public faites des enfants !”
The ending of Poulenc’s absurdist one-act opera from the very end of World War I calls for the audience to go home and make some kids and repopulate the world. A happy ending indeed!
Please return to parterre box after noon tomorrow for the semifinal competition in our last lines tournament!
In the meantime, I’d like to share with you a couple of Honorable Mentions: great lines that didn’t quite make it into the bracket.
“I wouldn’t teeeech them peas o’herrn.”
Some rules are simply made to be broken, especially when the line is this good (it’s a first-act curtain line). Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah, replete with enough Southern dialect that it would make anyone let out a “bless their hearts” for the singers subjected to its vicissitudes, also includes one of the sickest burns in opera history. No one wants to touch those slutty devil peas, Suze. Truly a line for all seasons.
Climactic screech from Lohengrin, Tosca, Don Carlo and more! And don’t forget the baritone version in Don Giovanni (first ending).