Opera characters at work
You may or may not remember last month’s Carmen promotes smoking!!!! Aussie brouhaha but it got me thinking about characters’ jobs or lack thereof. It turns out they’re more diverse than I thought:
Carmen: factory worker. Carmen is honest, independent, working class; basically “good people”. She has to die.
Griselda: shepherdess. She wins the social status lottery.
Female cast of Dialogues des Carmelites: nuns. Nuns also have to die, they’re otherworldly already.
Theodora, Alessio, Poliuto: saints. They die too. Duh.
Countess Almaviva, aka Rosina: homemaker. Rosina had potential once but alas, the easy livin’ with that no good aristocrat has spoiled her chutzpah…
Count Almaviva: sleazy diplomat
Bartolo, Dulcamara, Lorenzo: medics/”medics”. Opera takes a dim view of the medical profession…
Vitellia, Servilia, Poppea, die Marschallin, Eboli, various Countesses and Princesses, Fiordiligi and Dorabella: socialites; we should sick Carmen on the lot of them 😉
Norma, Alcina, Armida, Sarastro, Melisso, (o, mio) Fernando, Inquisitors, other monks, high priests and priestesses: clergy. Either evil or coming to a bad end. Or both. Interesting commentary, composers and librettists.
Cavaradossi, Manrico, Rodolfo and his friends, Andrea Chenier, Tosca, Adriana Lecouvreur, Orfeo, Benvenuto Cellini, the Composer, Zerbinetta and her boys, Il pittor parigino: artists. I hadn’t realised there were so many of them! I bet there’s even more.
Sesto, Annio, Octavian, Ottone, Arsamene, Alfredo: dandies/consummate lovers. (With the exception of Octavian) they come off a bit naff but they get to sing some of the best music in their respective opera, so we love them anyway.
Cenerentola, Cherubino and other pages, Nemorino, la serva pedrona: house servants. They tend to come better off at the end.
Figaro: barber/PA. He has many skills, but one wonders why he accepted the Count’s job offer in the sticks if his barbershop in bustling Sevillia was doing so well?
Publio, Leporello, Susanna, Arnalta, Nutrice: PAs. Resilient, they always survive.
Lulu, Violetta: call girls; come to a heavily foreshadowed bad end.
Mimi: seamstress. Could be Carmen’s younger, frumpier sister. Working class, and apparently independent but only assertive until a kind young man appears. She has to die so Rodolfo can write his tearjerking blockbuster (Act V). In contrast with:
Minnie: business owner. Liberated all right.
Ulrica Arvidson: astrologer. Not quite clergy, is she? You’d think opera would have more astrologers.
Ernani, Dick Johnson, the smugglers in Carmen, Les brigands, I masnadieri: outlaws. These are fun, there should be more of them.
Escamillo: bullfighter (athlete or entertainer? – which brings us to:)
Megacles: Olympic medal winning athlete
Tito, Serse, Nerone, Mitridate, Idomeneo, other ancient royalty, Boris Godunov, Filipo II, Dom Sebastien, Agrippina, various belcanto queens: politicians. Rule of thumb is if they survive they are evil.
Orlando, Rinaldo, Ruggiero, Ariodante, Arsace, Tancredi, Don Jose, Il Commendatore, Guglielmo and Ferrando, Radames: military personnel. They tend not to be the sharpest tools in the shed…
Please feel free to remind me of anything interesting I’m sure I forgot.