One of my passions in life is for opera. In particular I love to listen to a wonderful soprano with a voice powerful enough to soar high above a full orchestra, yet with enough control to sing as sweetly as a bird. There are few sopranos with both qualities. You generally find those who can belt out a good 'tune' but who struggle with the more refined, quiet pieces, or those who have a voice as sweet as honey, but who cannot hope to reach the powerful, high notes required by some composers.
My interest in classical music and eventually opera, undoubtedly comes from my Grandfather through my Mother. Mum always said that my Grand-dad's favourite piece of music was the 'Intermezzo' from Mascagni's 'Cavalleria Rusticana' - a piece everyone is familiar with even if the name means nothing! My love of opera stems from hearing excerpts from Puccini's 'Turandot' (and no, not just Nessun Dorma!). I remember being blown away by Joan Sutherland singing 'In Questa Reggia' and by then I was hooked.
More recently I have taken a liking to Wagner, someone I would have thought of as being a bit too "heavy going" a few years ago. Towards the end of his opera 'Tristan und Isolde', the heroine sings a very famous aria entitled 'Mild und leise wie er lächelt' which translates as Mildly and gently, how he smiles. This is another piece which just hit me like a steam train when I first heard it. It is a huge, soaring piece of music requiring the soprano to have both the control and power of voice I referred to earlier.
Here is a link to a video of the piece in question. See what you think.
I suggest, if you don't know the gist of what is being sung about have a look at the full libretto and an English translation HERE - it will help to demonstrate the power and raw emotion involved in the aria. Enjoy!