Operatic Baby Names
You don’t have to be an opera buff to appreciate the rich variety of baby names found in the classic repertoire. It’s an especially appealing category because it contains such an interesting mix of languages: there are frilly French female names, unusual Italian male names, as well as some usable German and Russian character names. These range from leads such as Aida and Tristan, to featured players to those with minor roles.
Along with Tristan, other operatic baby names in the US Top 1000 include Andres, Bianca, Carmen, Elena, Giovanni, Lucia, Rocco, and Romeo. Rare names with strong ties to the opera include Fiorello, Musetta, and Violetta.
Omitting common names like Amelia, Norma and Susanna, and the more uber-the-top names like Brunhilde, here are some lyrical opera baby names:
Origin:Spanish, Italian, German, Greek variation of Helen
Meaning:"bright, shining light"
Description:Elena is at its most popular point ever in the US, thanks to its cross-cultural appeal and the overall popularity of El- names. It's more international than Ellen or Eleanor, but still accessible.
Origin:Italian, feminine variation of Lucius, Latin
Description:Lucia is a lush, rich Latinate equivalent of Lucy, popular in Spain and throughout Latin America and also a cross-cultural favorite. You might be surprised to know that Lucia has ALWAYS ranked among the Top 1000 girl names in the US, though she's really taken off only since the turn of this century.
Description:Now that Tristan has been rediscovered, maybe it's time for his fabled lover in the Arthurian romances and Wagnerian opera, a beautiful Irish princess, to be brought back into the light as well.
Origin:German diminutive of Elisabeth
Meaning:"pledged to God"
Description:Lost in limbo for decades and decades, Elsa now stands a good chance of following along in the progression from Emma to Ella to Etta, thanks to the ice queen heroine who "Let It Go" in the wildly popular Disney movie Frozen. The name shot all the up to Number 286 (its highest ranking since the 1890s) in the year after the release of the movie, though it's now dropped back down the list in the US.
Description:Bianca, the livelier Italian and Shakespearean version of Blanche, has been chosen by many American parents since the 1990s, just as Blanca is a favorite in the Spanish-speaking community. Its meaning of white relates to snow, making it one of the prime names for winter babies.
Meaning:"noise or sorrowful"
Description:Tristan -- known through medieval legend and Wagnerian opera -- has a slightly wistful, touching air. This, combined with the name's popular "an" ending, makes Tristan very appealing to parents seeking a more original alternative to Christian.
Meaning:"pilgrim to Rome, Roman"
Description:It wasn't so long ago that Romeo was considered as outre for an American baby as Casanova or Cupid. But that really changed when David and Victoria Beckham chose it for their second son in 2002, a path followed by Jon Bon Jovi.
Origin:French from Latin
Description:Juliette, pronounced with the emphasis on the last syllable, adds a little something extra to Juliet. In the past years it has been rising up the chart.
Origin:Italian diminutive of Eleonora or Eleanor, meaning unknown
Description:Its mellifluous sound makes Leonora--which has a rich history and a tie to the popular Leo names-- a keen possibility for revival. Though it's been hiding below the Top 1000 since the 1940s, Leonora is being rediscovered by stylish parents in the US and Europe.
Origin:Spanish variation of Carmel
Description:Carmen has long been associated with the sensuous, tragic heroine of Bizet's opera, based on a novel by Prosper Merimee; more recently it has called to mind two other bombshells: Carmen Miranda (born Maria) and Carmen Electra (born Tara), as well as the great jazz singer Carmen McRae. In the celebrity baby name world, this classic Spanish name for girls was used by Hilaria and Alec Baldwin for their daughter.
Origin:Italian from German
Description:Madonna did much to polish up the image of this old-neighborhood Italian choice when she picked it for her son with British director Guy Ritchie, and several years later it was also used by Rose Byrne and Bobby Canavale for their son. It now feels much more mainstream than many celebrity baby names, sharing the quirky appeal of some other so-far-out-they're-in baby names as Bruno and Hugo.
Description:Aida is a melodic name largely associated with the title character of the 1871 Verdi opera, an enslaved Ethiopian princess who dies to save her people. In the past, her name was rarely heard outside the Latino community, but in the current time of love for all A-starting girls' names, this could very well change.
Origin:French, diminutive of Marie
Description:Manon is an endearing French pet name for Marie or Marianne; it has the international yet straightforward feel that makes it a viable import. Manon of the Spring was a gorgeous French film, Manon Lescaut a 1731 novel by Abbe Prevost, set in France and Louisiana, that was controversial in its day. It formed the basis of operas by Puccini and Massenet, and several films and TV series.
Origin:Italian variation of John
Meaning:"God is gracious"
Description:Giovanni is a venerable Italian classic that suddenly sounds fresh and cool. Ubiquitous in Italy, it has countless notable namesakes, from writer Boccaccio to designer Versace (nn Gianni).
Origin:French variation of Margaret; also a flower name
Description:Marguerite is a classic French name with a remnant of old-fashioned Gallic charm; and is also a variety of daisy. Chic again in Paris, it's definitely ripe for revival here.
Description:Violetta is a more vibrantly colored, feminissima form of Violet. It is the name of the heroine of the Verdi opera La Traviata--in fact Violetta was the original title of the work.
Origin:Italian and Spanish
Description:Based on the ancient name Marcellus, drawn from Mars the god of war, Marcello -- it's pronounced mar-chell-o -- is one of the most lush and attractive Latin names.
Origin:Diminutive of Mary, Miriam, and others
Description:Sweet, nicknamey name belonging to the tragic heroines of both La Bohème and Rent. Mimi might feel too slight for many parents to use on the birth certificate, but as a short form, it's one of the cutest of the cute baby names.
Description:Claudius is one of the most user-friendly of the ancient Roman names – even though it's associated with the villainous character in Shakespeare's Hamlet. But as with feminine form Claudia, the "lame" meaning may stymie the rise of Claudius. Some etymologists theorize that the name may relate to the word for enclosure or clause, an alternate meaning that may appeal to a child with a form of this otherwise-appealing name.
Description:When it's spelled with two dots over the 'u' in German, Gunther is pronounced GUWN-ter, but it has a much softer sound when the 'h' is voiced by English-speakers, as it was, for example, for the name of a character in Friends.