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.


About dehggial

Mozart/Baroque loving red dragon

Posted on November 26, 2014, in innit?, lists, opera humour and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.

  1. you miss all 20000 vivaldi’s characters 😀
    his operas are so confusing, soooo many characters!

  2. I mentioned Griselda, but you have a point. I like shepherds and nymphs in opera, although I wasn’t sure what to classify nymphs and fauns as. Entertainers, maybe? Party animals?

    • oh, Griselda, who dat? havn’t gotten that far yet, i ventured to armida (vivaldi) last night, soo darn confusing had to retreat back to juditha (with yet another cast)… madam Juditha, she can chop all heads she wants. she and Lucrezia Borgia, me like 😀

      • Griselda of the “Agitata da due venti” fame (although that’s not her aria). Chopping ladies are welcome 😉

        • oh, this must be one of those light-speed arias that left all singers looking as strange as possible while demonstrating how fast a human can sing! 😀 I still haven’t figured out yet which opera it belongs to.. but am very slowing wading into Vivaldi’s 40 operas… already last night Armida revealed 1 music passage from Vivica Genaux’ super-sonic disk . In fact after listening to quite a few Vagaus (in Juditha) i thought that character’s last aria is definitely Ms. Genaux’ specialty.. and lo-and-behold, i found a live version last night where she scorched my front hair line.. with these arias i think we should just sit back and enjoy how fast one manages such passages 🙂 (in case if you do click on, off corner of your eyes you can also check out Karina Gauvin’s version which prompted the entire orchestra + all singers clapping)

          • ha, I agree about sitting back and listening to the speed. I think all this type of arias require acting-wise just being very angry. Have you listened to Invernizzi’s version?

            • yes i did, hers was the first i listened to, first on disc then live version on tube, i can’t handle her take of “being angry” though. I think there’s a big difference what Karina Gauvin did, esp. during the recitative, compared to Invernizzi’s live version in Madrid (with Mingardo looking on) . I’d say V.Genaux’s version landed somewhere in between the two in “snappiness”.

              • you think she’s OTT? I like OTT in angry arias. Scenery chewing!

                    • haha, no i don’t mind over the top occasionally.. but the way she sings while “crying” or “screaming”, it’s a type of singing which i really dread coz you don’t hear anything in the music except singer pouting.. may be it works some time in live performances, but if you listen over the radio and that’s all you hear for 3 hours i turn it off 🙂 (now i come to confession: that was what tuned me out of JDD and a host of other mezzos when i first heard them singing romeo.. and when i manage to catch a performance where JDD not doing that, i really found her singing VERY exquisite.. but there’re certain performances when she suddenly went into that mode (a while ago.., i super love her most recent carnegie hall recital, esp. non-rossini’s singing)… if i have to contrast, the best example for me again is what Karina Gauvin did vs Invernizzi, esp. in recitative leading up to that aria, former i love, latter i dread 🙂

                    • I know what you’re saying, JDD becomes a screamer on occasion (Sesto in Chicago, dear lord that was weird). I guess 3 hours of that would annoy me too. I though Invernizzi only did it in that one aria. Gauvin was good but I think I want a bit more involvement, maybe not quite as much as Invernizzi. VG’s version maybe was too slow. I’m not much of a VG fan. She’s prettier than her voice 😉

                    • ha, i should mention i mostly listen to these things w/o watching (WHILE working 😉 ). i agree VG is very beautiful, though i would say the same thing about her tone/voice. whether she can engage you emotionally or not with her singing, that’s a topic absolutely up for discussion.. there’s a host of people who love vocal gymnastics (not me) and she can out-duel any singers when it comes to coloratura i’m sure.. when heard live though, the voice is quite amazing, esp. when slow + long legato lines are part of the package. you’re left in awe in a way because these kinds of people with their unique ability are rare, totally depending on which repertoire you discover them in (imagine trying to discover VK throwing babies in the fire, totally barking up not quite right tree (yet! :D))

                    • hm, so you think I should go to this show? She’s coming here to sing some Vivaldi with some other people I don’t necessary like (Lezhneva! I find her scary). I know it’s probably not fair to pass full judgment on a singer before hearing them live.

                      also true about repertoire, it makes a world of difference. I actually have not heard Il trovatore in its entirety, I was very bored the one time I listened/watched.

                    • oh, interesting, i saw her live once with Biondi, they have a great working relationship! (i also have adverse reaction to Lezhneva in the same il trionfo version that i got introduced to and developed adverse reaction to Invernizzi :D) . Perhaps have a listen first on tube what the opera is like? i asked before how baroque singers sound in barbican… i heard her in cenerentolla which was her specialty, then 2nd time was her own recital so it was great. I don’t know how you feel about WHOLE vivaldi opera, they can be suuuuuch an on-and-on-and-on thing, if i come to such i’d mentally get ready first by sampling the music 😀
                      (ps- if she ever gives a recital at wigmore then you definitely should go!)

                    • I saw Griselda back in September and I liked it a lot so Vivaldi is not a problem. Maybe I should check this one before I decide, just in case. Barbican is fine for Baroque but it might depend on where you’re sitting. Alcina = great from second row. But from farther away they might not all project well.

                    • ah ha, back to griselda! 🙂
                      i must admit though vivaldi is a bit of hit and miss, but if you get the right singers all will sound beautiful :-). and Biondi + europa galante is absolutely worth it, but may be not sitting too far away..
                      (was distracted discussing geography of Italy with officemate.. she’s moving back there and i now have a couch to “stalk” S.Mingardo 😉 )

                    • nice job collecting couches around Europe!

                    • ps- which trovatore did you hear? 😉
                      i ask coz… the one i heard via phone recorder sent me hunting for all avail version on net

                    • the one from the Met with Radvanovsky. I don’t even know who was throwing the babies in that one…

                    • i saw that one too, #3 during my hunting.. can only say one should start with a certain ms. harteros ;-), i’ve been listening to her all last night and this noon… (here if you want to listen, i leave on for couple of days then will take down per request from guy who recorded this.., much better tempo than the dragging one + muddled chorus in munich..)

                    • all right, I’ll give her a go 🙂

                    • ok, that was rather nice from her. The men not so much.

                    • haha, i thought u were gonna say: same boring 😉
                      well, i didn’t listen to the men 😀 .. though i do like to tapping duet, pretty nice when you try to debug something, also nice contrast of voices. i cooking some magic to see if i can see her in munich…

                    • trying to see her in this? it’s annoying when a good singer is dueting with some you don’t like. Although maybe it was also where the taper was sat, it feels like he was on stage with them.

                    • yes! already have 1 tix.. trying to cook more.. love her singing on radio broadcast of same show, i used her 1st aria for my slide show in zurich last yr.. asked for tix then but mr. popular kaufmann = impossible (i was going for her..)

                    • oh yea, anything with JK in it is over priced and you can’t get tickets anyway. I just avoid things with him in although I like him all right. Luckily he doesn’t sing in things I care about.

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