• A Limited Defense of Le Nozze di Figaro’s Leading Men

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    The opera world’s relationship with feminism is complicated. On the one hand, it constantly performs and celebrates works written by men in past centuries, which of course contain some distinctly outdated gender roles and values. On the other hand, as in the world of Shakespeare, today’s opera productions and scholarship can examine the beloved works from a feminist standpoint, sometimes critically, but at the same time celebrating proto-feminist themes, which are often surprisingly strong. Nowhere is this more evident than in modern stagings and commentary on the Mozart-Da Ponte operas, especially Le Nozze di Figaro. To many operagoers and opera scholars, Figaro’s proto-feminism is even more engaging and relevant than the themes of class conflict that made it radical in its day. Read the rest of this entry »

  • Opera Characters and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator: Don Giovanni

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    The Myers Briggs Type Indicator has been invaluable to me ever since I started exploring it. I’ve come to better understand myself, to better understand the people I know, and to fully understand before that different people think and feel in different ways.  Just because my approach to life is different than other people’s doesn’t mean I’m strange or out of touch with human nature; everyone is different. MBTI has also been a fantastic tool for analyzing fictional characters, especially the characters in opera. While I’ve only written full analyses of La Bohéme and Die Zauberflöte so far, my mind has been examining the personality types of many characters from many different operas. Now I want to examine the personality types of some of the most richly characterized figures in opera: the cast of Don Giovanni. Read the rest of this entry »

  • Opera Characters and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator: La Bohéme

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    Of all the various subjects that fascinate me, one that’s recently caught my attention is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. For anyone who doesn’t know, this system of psychological analysis was developed in the 1940s by Katherine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers, based on the theories of Carl Jung. It proposes that there are sixteen different psychological “types”, based on four functions, or preferences: “Extraversion (E) vs. Introversion (I),” “Intuition (N) vs. Sensing (S),” “Thinking (T) vs. Feeling (F),” and “Judging (J) vs. Perceiving (P).” According to theory, every person chiefly operates by a certain combination of these factors, which determine the way in which that person comprehends the world. The sixteen possible “types” are as follows: ENTJ, INTJ, ESTJ, ISTJ, ESFJ, ISFJ, ESFP, ISFP, ESTP, ISTP, ENTP, INTP, ENFP, INFP, ENFJ, and INFJ. Read the rest of this entry »

  • Nicolai Gedda (1925-2017)

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    I don’t remember the first time I heard Nicolai Gedda’s voice. Unlike with so many other singers, no specific recording stands out as my introduction to his work. I almost feel as if I’ve always known him. His golden silk tone and his impeccable elegance have been familiar and reliable for as long as I remember. Read the rest of this entry »

  • Unpopular Opinions About Opera

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    I can’t believe it… my first opera blog post in a year, now that I’m finally free from the demands of grad school. It’s nothing much, but at least it’s a new start.

     

    *Don José doesn’t sacrifice everything for Carmen. He loses everything because of his love for Carmen, but not willingly. He’s neither the selfless romantic figure nor the spineless doormat that popular imagination paints him as.

     

    *La Bohéme is good, but not “the perfect opera,” nor is it the greatest introduction to the genre. I’d just as soon, if not sooner recommend La Traviata, Carmen, or, particularly for the younger set, Hänsel & Gretel or Die Zauberflöte.

     

    *Susanna isn’t the single smartest character in Le Nozze di Figaro. She, Figaro and the Countess are all three smart in different ways and rely on each other. Read the rest of this entry »

  • “Madama Butterfly”: A Study in Ambiguity

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    What to do about the problem of Madama Butterfly?

     

    It was one of the first operas I ever experienced. When I was newly obsessed with the genre at age fourteen, it was an uncontested favorite. Day after day I listened to the classic recordings (first Serafin, then Sinopoli, then Leinsdorf, then Karajan…) and watched every filmed version available, luxuriating in Puccini’s glorious music, in the beauty of the exotic, blossom-infused setting and in the deliciously heartrending romantic tragedy. Even though I knew Pinkerton was a cad, I projected all my teenage fantasies of romance onto the Act I love duet. This opera was essentially my Twilight. Read the rest of this entry »

  • Character Study Corner: Donna Elvira

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    The female characters and gender issues in the Mozart/Da Ponte operas deserve to be explored from every angle. It can be debated for eternity whether Cosí Fan Tutte is really as misogynistic as it pretends to be, whether or not the proto-feminism of Figaro is undermined by the Countess’s forgiving her unworthy husband, whether or not the three women of Don Giovanni exist to earn sympathy or to be mocked, whether Mozart’s music gives the female characters more depth and intelligence than the males or stereotypes and “others” them, and, if the former is true, whether his music transcends Da Ponte’s misogyny or whether Da Ponte likewise sides with the ladies. This doesn’t even apply to the Da Ponte operas alone – discussing The Magic Flute‘s gender issues opens a massive can of worms! Just to scratch the surface of an incredibly rich topic, I’d like to discuss one of Don Giovanni‘s women: Donna Elvira. Read the rest of this entry »