Cher Public

Women beware women

mazzoli-breaking-the-waves“Reading the texts…I found to my fear and horror, words that killed, words that told every time of women’s undoing.” So wrote feminist critic Catherine Clément in her controversial 1979 study Opera: The Undoing of Women. Though the focus of her work was on classic operas like Madama Butterfly and Lucia di Lammermoor, her thesis, that violent mistreatment of women is central to opera, was confirmed last weekend when Prototype: Opera/Theatre/Now presented new works in which women were variously gang-raped, eviscerated and executed by firing squad. [Observer]

  • What a great piece. Many thanks for this JJ.
    There was an interesting discussion on the topic of Clement’s thesis not too long long ago on here and while there were some examples pointed out that indeed challenged her thesis and also indicated that the reason behind having tragic female heroines in opera was not an inherently mysogenistic one, I still tend to agree with Clement that in classic opera, especially classic Italian Opera that the mistreatment or ‘undoing’ of women as she calls it is central to the Opera and that, despite whatever intentions the composer may have had, this constant violent undoing does nothing to empower women or present them in a way that doesn’t conform to patriarchal stereotypes and concepts of women.

    Moreover, the fact that the three works are all by women interestingly enough, tends to support the premise that women can be just as misogynistic as men.

    This review also made me really want to see more contemporary operas, which is something I’ve neglected to do although I’m hoping to see L’amour de loin soon.

  • leoniceno

    I’m sorry to have missed this-- I feel as though my opera travels this year didn’t include enough contemporary outings. I’m hoping to be in New York for “The Exterminating Angel” at the Met next season-- any other contemporary events that should be on my/our radar?

    • By no means contemporary (50 years old) but very rare is Ginastera’s Bomarzo, at the Teatro Real in Madrid this year.

      • leoniceno

        I hadn’t really considered leaving North America, but with some of the ticket prices I’ve seen lately, maybe I could/should. Though probably not for Ginastera. But I’ll look it up and give it a listen!