So, you want to watch an opera. But how do you wade through all the muck (and there’s a LOT of it on YouTube). Which have subtitles (English or otherwise)? It can be super overwhelming. How do you search?
“My whole thing about this situation is this: in a world where everything is homogenized and everything is flattened out — even our manner of speaking is flattened out, like Kim Kardashian [she imitates Kim Kardashian] — you don’t want to act too excited about anything. You just really want to, like, “Oh no, it’s cool. How are you? I’m fine. I’m okay. I’m cool.” Everything is blah. People are starving to have the best of humanity, and that’s what opera is. It can represent the best of humanity.”
Quote from Joyce Didonato’s interview with Opera News.
I didn’t think I could love her more.
I wish this was on video,great now folks are starting to stare for me laughing out out at this quote.
“And she told me, she said what’s important is not you having a big career or having great success, what’s important is that when you’ve been given a gift in life, you owe it to yourself to invest in it and try to build it and care for it because just as easily as it’s given it can be taken away. And that was a really good way for me to be able to feel like I could try and not feel the pressure of, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to succeed at this,’ you know?”
Kate Lindsey (mezzo-soprano), talking about first getting into opera with Opera News.
I sit on the cusp of my next classical music venture, I’m thinking
about something that I’m sure has crossed the mind of every
twenty-year-old in America: gender roles in opera.
Maybe most people my age don’t think about that. Actually, a
significant portion of people my age probably don’t think about
gender roles much at all (or opera for that matter). Furthermore,
many people who are reading, perhaps of the older crowd, are asking:
what is a
Do you relate to this random Internet lady as much as I do?
Then keep on reading.
roles are sets of societal norms dictating what types of behaviors
are generally considered acceptable, appropriate[,]1
or desirable for a person based on their actual or perceived sex.”
Now, what does this mean for the average citizen? Basically that
society tells us weird (read: oppressive) things like ‘men can’t wear
pink’ and 'women absolutely must shave their body hair.’
course, some gender roles might seem arguable (at first) due to
Mother Nature, but others like the ones listed above can be
a good quote from a magazine about the pink issue: “The generally
accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The
reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more
suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty,
is prettier for the girl.”2
you read that nifty footnote, you probably realized that this source
is from over one hundred years ago. If you didn’t read the footnote,
I’m telling you now that this source is from over one hundred years
ago. Good thing this isn’t a scientific journal.
aside, it’s a little-known fact that many mothers dressed their baby
boys in pink until at least the 1960s.
why the shift?
had something to do with the womens’ liberation movement during the
60s and 70s, but the why
doesn’t necessarily matter here. What does
matter is that societal norms did
change, and quickly. This suggests that they are arbitrary to begin
that we’ve mastered the pink issue, we’re ready to tackle body hair.
One of the most popular reasons people think women should remove body
hair is because they believe it to be unhygienic. My response to that
line of thinking is: 'Yeah, you’re going to need a better reason than
that.’ You see, in case you haven’t noticed, there is an entire half
of the human population that regularly keeps body hair. Hopefully
these strange creatures called men are at least somewhat clean in the
places they don’t shave.
okay,’ the opposition says. 'Maybe that was
kind of a dumb reason. Here’s another one: it’s just the way it is:
women shave under their armpits and men don’t. Simple as that.’
is where the pink issue comes back into play. When you consider the
masculine and feminine associations of colors like blue and pink in
our history, you can see how easy
it is for people to say, you know what? I don’t like that. Movements
start, and suddenly people are saying, 'Who run the world? Girls. And
now we’re going to wear pink and not shave.’3
pink issue is so interesting because the colors for babies literally
flip-flopped. Who’s to say that 50 years from now men won’t be the
ones getting armpit razor burn?
pink issue and the body hair issue are just two often-cited examples
of gender roles that we so readily blame on the delightful Mother
Nature. The more you look at other examples though, the more you can
see that perhaps you should stop blaming women like Ms. Nature4
for your problems. If you still want to conform to gender roles,
that’s just dandy—most people do. However, I hope that you can
begin to understand why some people, based on their individual
preferences, would rather challenge these ideals instead of
conforming to them.
that we’ve learned about gender roles, we can move on to what we’ve
all been waiting for. The proverbial fat lady has sung5
and it’s now time to talk about opera. How do gender roles relate to
opera, you ask? Well, first of all, since many often-performed operas
are over two hundred years old, it’s not a leap to assume that some
of them might be a little bit sexist.6
However, sexism in opera is a subject for another day. Gender roles
are today’s issue.
I say gender roles, I’m not referring to the period in which the
pieces were written. Yes, the only place for women in many of these
works was as maids or wards, but that’s an issue with the time
periods themselves and not necessarily with the operas.
talking about is how people in opera portray gender, and specifically
how they portray it when they are playing a role that is not their
own gender. I’m literally talking about gender roles.
now time to explain pants roles. You may skip a few paragraphs if you
feel sufficiently well-versed on the matter, but if not, read on:
some point in your life you probably saw Phantom
of the Opera7live
on Broadway or in theaters in 2004.8
Think about the moment when Christine and Carlotta have their
diva-off. Mr. Phantom is pretty clear that he thinks that Christine
should play the lead in his opera and that Carlotta should play the
pageboy. However, no one listens, so Mr. Phantom gets angry and
people subsequently die.
role of the pageboy in Phantom
of the Opera is
based upon the tradition of females playing young male roles in
theater. Although the term 'pants role’ is most often used when
discussing opera, other terms such as 'trouser role’ or 'breeches
role’ are used in other geographic locations. In Phantom
of the Opera,
the pageboy is a silent role, but in most operas, pants roles usually
sing. Often, they are sung by mezzo-sopranos, but sopranos can (and
do) sing them as well.
and early-pubescent roles used to be played by male singers called
singers were a huge fad for a while, but it didn’t take long for
people to realize that castrating young boys before puberty and
making them sing opera when they were older was kind of wrong. Let’s
just say that it became illegal quickly, and composers needed
youthful sounding voices for their younger roles. I’m sure that
somewhere women were playing male roles before operatic pants roles
became popular, but basically history shows that when people started
saying no to castrato,
they started saying yes to the pants role.
of the most popular operatic pants roles is Cherubino in Le
nozze di Figaro (The
Marriage of Figaro) by Mozart. He’s a young teenage (you guessed it!)
pageboy who basically causes all of the drama in the opera although
he somehow spends most of it (including basically all of act three)
hiding because he’s a horny troublemaker.
What? (If you skipped the section on pants roles and are skimming
through, you can rejoin us here.)
people might try to pass Cherubino off as a charming boy who is
experiencing love for the first time, but if he were a modern-day
figure, we’d have other names for him (namely man-whore or future
frat bro). Why is that?
Joyce DiDonato as Cherubino, Metropolitan Opera, 2005
the whole opera (minus the last three minutes) the Count is being
unfaithful to his wife, the Countess. But he’s also the weird jealous
type that accuses her of cheating even though he is cheating himself.
The Countess and her maid, Susanna, decide to use his jealousy
against him by switching places. However, at the end of the opera it
turns out that Countess wasn’t cheating (yet) so it ends up being a
big oops on the Count’s part.
is like a young version of the Count. Cherubino sings two arias about
how he doesn’t know what to do with his body now that it’s attracted
to women. Sounds a lot like someone we know (cough, cough, The
Count). And (spoiler alert)10
Cherubino’s future isn’t too bright anyway.
characters are from three plays by French playwright Beaumarchais.11
Although Le nozze
di Figaro ends
happily, our beloved characters go through some struggles during
Figaro III. Cherubino ends up having an affair with the Countess. (If
Maury were there, he would have said: “When it comes to the case of
the Countess’ bastard child, Léon: Cherubino, you are
one bastard child isn’t exciting enough for you, you’ll be happy to
discover that the Count has one too. Great. But here’s the kicker:
The Count’s illegitimate daughter ends up falling in love with the
Countess’ illegitimate son. Double great. (And people think my
generation has too much baby mama/baby daddy drama in our fiction).
won’t talk about how things pan out for the lovely characters at the
end of Figaro III, so let’s instead get back to Figaro II, Le
nozze di Figaro.
you’ve never seen the opera, Cherubino is referred to, both within
the opera and amongst opera fans, as a fun, charming character.
However, even if you’re unaware of what’s to befall our little hero
in the next opera/play, the events of Le
nozze di Figaro
are enough to convince me that he’s not as adorable as people think
he is. This leads me to my next question: Why on Earth do people
think Cherubino is an adorable character?
think it might be because a woman plays him. Usually in life, men
call women negative slurs if they 'get around’ while at the same
slapping high-fives with their male friends for doing the very same
thing. This is a clear double standard which at first seems to
contradict what I’ve just said about Cherubino. To reiterate, I said
that people forgive and sugar-coat Cherubino’s character because he
is played by a woman. By society’s usual traditions, though, it seems
like seeing a woman do these things would make us hate Cherubino
more. If a man played him, we might think of him more like we think
of the Count or like the title character in Mozart’s Don
Juan). So why does a woman playing him change how the way we see him?
It somehow makes Cherubino endearing when he absolutely should not
often associate words like adorable, cute, and charming with
children, but they are also often associated with women. Cherubino
exists in a gray gender area where he gets to enjoy the privilege of
being pretty like a woman while also getting his problems swept under
the rug like a man. I think that people think of Cherubino as
endearing because women find playing pants roles so fun and
entertaining. When we put on the costume and the makeup and pretend
to be the opposite sex for three hours, we sometimes unintentionally
make the mistake that all the pants roles are the same-exact lovable
demonstrate, one time I was singing Stephano’s aria from Gounod’s
Roméo et Juliette
a recital. My voice teacher’s husband more or less told me that
Stephano is a conniving, manipulative dick of a character, and that I
shouldn’t sing him like I would Cherubino. This was good advice since
I was doing exactly what he accused me of. However, after considering
his words, I now think that perhaps I should be singing Cherubino
more like I sing Stephano.
is a blatantly terrible dude—he publicly sings an aria about how
Juliet is a little white turtledove who’s doomed to be trapped by
vultures. How sweet.
clear that Cherubino doesn’t necessarily intend for anyone to die, so
he’s not blatantly terrible, but I think we can consider him a
'closet’ terrible character. He follows in the footsteps of the
noblest and shadiest male figure in his life, the Count. I’m not
saying we shouldn’t pity Cherubino. It’s not his fault that he looks
up to the wrong character. Figaro’s a champ and would be a better
role model, but he’s a servant. Although Cherubino appears to be
quite close to Figaro, due to societal norms he’s more likely to be
more closely watching and imitating the behavior of the Count
Cherubino’s famous aria “Voi che sapete,” he asks the ladies
Susanna (Figaro’s fiancée) and the Countess to tell him if what he’s
feeling is love since they already know what it is. Cherubino has
written this song himself, so the ladies find it extra special and
amazing. However, although Cherubino has a clear lack of screen time
compared to some of the other leads, it strikes me as odd that it
never dawns on anyone to tell Cherubino what love is while he is
that was so cute!’ Susanna and the Countess basically say after he’s
done. Cherubino is just left standing there like, 'No, I mean it.
This isn’t some stupid, metaphorical song. Please actually tell me
what love is.’ This is Cherubino’s second aria in the opera, and his
first, “Non so più cosa son, cosa faccio” (AKA: 'I am hitting
puberty, I feel weird and horny, so someone please explain to me what
this stuff is’) is pretty much about the exact same thing. With this
lack of sex education in the opera, it seems like a miracle that
Figaro is one of the only male characters in the work that’s able to
keep it in his tights (at least monogamously).12
I said earlier, it’s not necessarily Cherubino’s fault that life ends
up like this. I still think that it’s okay to pity him and even to
pity the Count who should definitely know better. The gender roles of
their time period explain their behavior.
with all of this to think about, I’m left wondering how I will
portray Cherubino myself. I’m covering13
the role for Tidewater
Opera Initiative, and as excited as I am, I’m also extremely
confused about the role. First of all, I’ll do whatever the director
tells me to do. Second, I’ll try to imitate pretty closely what the
professionals who are actually cast as Cherubino are doing so that if
I ever have to go on stage, I don’t screw up the staging with my
cynical man-whore version of the character.
I still think it’s important for mezzos (and sopranos) everywhere to
challenge themselves when they step into genders outside of their
Challenging gender roles in the outside world is just as important as
challenging them in opera. We should never let our eagerness to play
a character overshadow the nature of the character. I think that for
years, women have played pants roles thinking that they’re stepping
into these fun, carefree roles when instead they might be about to
play a problematic, soon-to-become a baby daddy,
singers play pants roles, we’re excited to finally get the chance to
act like a boy,
but if we’ve learned anything about gender roles, we know that we
should instead be asking: what does acting
like a boy really
The opera, Il barbiere di Siviglia (The
Barber of Seville) is based on the first play; Le nozze di Figaro
is based on the second play; there are a few operas based a third
play which is titled La Mère coupable (The Guilty Mother).
Although he may or may not have promised to marry another woman.
If you watch the opera, you’ll see why we can forgive him for that.
Apologies if this article fails to be transgender (or
– Opera for Smarties is a project created by mezzo-soprano Matré Grant. Her goal is to make opera more accessible to newbies while also convincing lifelong fans to challenge their preconceived views and fall in love with the art form all over again.
Well,I promised for yesterday but tumblr was having technical problems,but it´s here now.
I´ll try my best to avaliate each girl voice on Fifth Harmony band,just won´t do that if doesn´t have videos on youtube.
On their first album “Better Together” all girls as a group reach about 3 octaves as C#3-G6
Camilla Cabello is a Jazzy Fach MezzoSoprano,reaching about 2 octaves range.
Dinah Jane Hansen is a Light Lyric Mezzossoprano,range 5 octaves and also knows to sing as Lyric Alto.
Lauren Jauregui is a Lyric Alto as 3 octaves range.
Unfortunatelly,I haven´t found a video just with her,but this battle against Jessy Nelson,the Alto of Little Mix,explain as well their voices(same inflexion)
Ally Brook is a 4 octaves Mezzosoprano just because she´s so young and is not yet considered Soprano,but soon she will be a complete Fach Soprano.
Normani Kordei is a Coloratura MezzoSoprano as 2 octaves range,but she´s got the highest note of the group,that G6 belongs to her!
For full song screen I choose the girls performing “Better together” live
Enjoy,follow and share ;)