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Opera Heroines Not To Mess With

Opera is filled with stories of betrayal, murder, and love that push characters to emotional extremes. Heroines (and anti-heroines) are often the characters most caught up in the drama. They love passionately, sacrifice greatly, and kill relentlessly.  We’ve created a list of ten multifaceted women, who aren’t afraid to lean in and stir the plot; they’re bold, brave and influential, even if it leads to their untimely death. See some of these fierce ladies at LA Opera this season and next season.

Lady Macbeth

Ekaterina Semenchuk as Lady Macbeth and Plácido Domingo as the title character in Macbeth (2016); Photo: Karen Almond

Ekaterina Semenchuk as Lady Macbeth and Plácido Domingo as the title character in Macbeth (2016); Photo: Karen Almond

In Verdi’s Macbeth (based on the Shakespeare play), Lady Macbeth takes fierce to a whole new level. After learning of her husband’s victory in battle, she urges him to kill the king and take the crown. Macbeth does so, only to be filled with remorse. It is Lady Macbeth who completes the killing and frames two guards for the king’s murder. She wants power and social standing and will stop at nothing to achieve this. Verdi expands the role of “Lady M” in his opera, giving her character even more agency, and making her the epitome of an opera anti-heroine not to mess with. She might murder you, if you do!

Brünnhilde

Brunnhilde (Linda Watson) with Waltraute (Michelle DeYoung, rear left) in Gotterdammerung (2010); Photo: Monika Rittershaus

Brunnhilde (Linda Watson) with Waltraute (Michelle DeYoung, rear left) in Gotterdammerung (2010); Photo: Monika Rittershaus

Is Brünnhilde the strongest women in the entire opera repertory?  She is after all the central character in Richard Wagner’s monumental Ring cycle, appearing in three of the four Ring operas. A complex and compelling woman with a fascinating character arc, she is defined by her bravery and intelligence. She grasps what is happening in the world with keener perception than her father (Wotan, king of the gods) or her husband (the mighty-but-unintellectual hero Siegfried) and she is unafraid to take action to do what she thinks is necessary. Like many other Wagner heroines, she makes the ultimate sacrifice for love, but Brünnhilde’s martyrdom has the greatest impact: hers redeems the entire world.

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