Shakespeare’s themes and stories have inspired numerous operas over the years. Here’s our list of operas that have used Shakespeare as inspiration:

The Tempest

The Tempest by Felice Lattuada (1922)
The Knot Garden by Michael Tippett (1970)
Un Re In Ascolto by Luciano Berio’s [A Listening King] (1984)
The Tempest by John C Eaton (1985)
The Enchanted Isle by Thomas Shadwell (1674)

Romeo and Juliet

Roméo et Juliette by Charles Gounod (1867)
A Village Romeo and Juliet by Frederick Delius (1901),
West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein (1957)
I Capuleti e i Montecchi by Vincenzo Bellini (1830).
Giulietta e Romeo by Nicola Vaccai (1825)

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Benjamin Britten (1960)
The Fairy Queen by Henry Purcell (1692).


Macbeth by Giuseppe Verdi (1847)
Macbeth by Ernest Bloch (1910)


Hamlet by Ambroise Thomas (1868)


Otello by Giuseppe Verdi (1887)
Otello by Giulio Rossini (1816)

Much Ado About Nothing

Béatrice et Bénédict by Hector Berlioz (1862)

Timon of Athens

Timon of Athens by Stephen Oliver (1991)

The Taming of the Shrew

Kiss Me Kate by Cole Porter (1953)

Operas based on the character of Falstaff

At the Boar’s Head by Gustav Holst (1925)
Der Kustigen Weiber von Windsor by Otto Nicolai (1849)
Sir John in Love by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1929)
Falstaff by Giuseppe Verdi (1893)

See some Shakespeare inspired novel titles >>

  • Therry Neilsen-Steinhardt says:

    Do please update your list of operas inspired by The Tempest to include Thomas Ades’s Inspired The Tempest, 2004, to be simulcast from the Met Live in HD series on November 10, 2012.

  • Basil Walsh says:

    You need to add the Dublin born composer Michael W. Balfe’s opera Falstaff (1838) to your list.

    It had its premiere at the Italian Opera in London in July 1838 with great success. Four of the most famous singers in Europe at the time sang in it. We also produced a revival of Balfe’s Falstaff in concert format with an international cast in Dublin in September 2008 for the composer’s bicentennial. The opera was also recorded and is available through worrld wide. Thanks.

    Basil Walsh/Author/Florida
    Michael W. Balfe: A Unique Victorian Composer (2008)

    • Michael J. Begley says:

      Antonio Salieri (1750 – 1825) also wrote an opera “Falstaff, ossia Le tre burle” (1799) which was recorded by Hungaraton (József Gregor, Mária Zempléni, Dénes Gulyás, Istvan Gáti, Eva Pánczél, et al. Tamás Pál cond., Salieri Chamber Orchestra, Salieri Chamber Chorus. 3 CDs, DDD, Hungaroton, 27 September 2003). An excellent recording of Balfe’s opera has also been issued in the last few years, deriving from performances by RTE (Irish Radio).

  • Lito Messini says:

    There is also an opera called ”Lear” , composed by Aribert Reimann and premiered on 1978

  • SingingDaniel says:

    Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi was based on the same Renaissance sources from which Shakespeare based Romeo and Juliet but not from Shakespeare directly. It’s often included in such lists, but really, it shouldn’t count as one of the Shakespeare ‘inspired’ works.

  • Michael J. Begley says:

    Regarding “The Taming of the Shrew” there are a number of other operas:
    The first opera based on the play, Il duca di Atene, was an opera buffa with a libretto by Carlo Francesco Badini and music by Ferdinando Bertoni. The opera was first performed in London in 1780.[105]

    In 1795 the Spanish composer Vicente Martín y Soler wrote La capricciosa corretta, an opera buffa with libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte, partly adapted from the play. It was first performed in London.

    Another operatic version came in 1828, when Frederic Reynolds adapted Garrick’s Catherine and Petruchio, adding an overture by Rossini and songs from Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets set to music by tenor John Braham and T. Cooke. Starring J.W. Wallack and Fanny Ayton, the opera was staged at Drury Lane, but it was not successful, and closed after only a few performances.[106]

    In 1874, Hermann Goetz created Der Widerspänstigen Zähmung, a comic opera first performed at the National Theatre Mannheim in Germany; the libretto was by Joseph Widmann and Goetz.

    In 1927, Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari wrote a verismo opera called Sly, or The Legend of the Sleeper Awoken, based on the prologue of the play, with a libretto by Giovacchino Forzano. First performed at La Scala in Milan, the opera starred Aureliano Pertile as Sly (tenor) and Mercedes Llopart as Dolly (soprano).

    In 1953, Vittorio Giannini adapted the play into an opera buffa, with a libretto by Giannini and Dorothy Fee.

    In 1957, Vissarion Shebalin composed the best known Russian opera based on Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew (Укрощение строптивой)

    It is my understanding that the Goetz setting is still frequently performed in German speaking countries, and several recordings exist. The Giannini was also recorded in the LP era.

  • Michael J. Begley says:

    Samuel Barber set “Antony and Cleopatra” to a libretto adapted by Franco Zeffirelli from Shakespeare. It opened the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center in 1966. Though deemed a failure at the time of it’s premiere, it was revised by the composer and recorded for New World Records. Lyric Opera of Chicago staged the revised version; a performance was televised as part of PBS’ “Great Performances” series.

  • Paul Capon says:

    Two other works – The Boys from Syracuse, a musical, was based on A Comedy of Errors by Rogers and Hart; while Das Liebesverbot was an early opera by Richard Wagner, based on Measure for Measure. Berlioz also included a portion of Merchant of Venice in Les Troyens.