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    The Roles of Women in Opera by Porten, Bethany Cattleya

    My capstone project delves into the world of opera and its traditions with this concept in mind. Presenting discourse criticizing the classic and contemporary roles of women in opera, this capstone analyzes examples of mistreated women in opera between the seventeenth and twentieth centuries—the time when opera was at its peak in both interest and production. These historic observations are juxtaposed with the contemporary opera L’Amour de Loin and female composer Kaija Saariaho. An analysis of these works illuminates an adverse and misogynistic trend in the treatment of the female characters. Furthermore, the prevalent performance of these works continues to perpetuate an outdated and unjust view of women in the industry today. Through the analysis of the contemporary work L’Amour de Loin and its female composer Kaija Saariaho, I take an anti-essentialist view; suggesting that there is no inherent difference between an opera composed by either gender. Regardless, the objectified and exploited operatic woman is so instilled in this genre, that Saariaho herself suffers in this industry. This exploration of women in opera identifies two categories that operatic women: victims and femme fatales. These portrayals are problematic for several reasons. They pigeonhole women into an unfair erroneous binary spectrum, instill outdated and misogynistic views on women’s rights, and come from an exclusively male perspective. Two case studies for each category present this discourse: Mozart’s Don Giovanni (1787) and Pucinni’s Madama Butterfly (1903) for portrayals of women as victims, and Bizet’s Carmen (1875) and Berg’s Lulu (1937) for women portraying femme fatales.