Written by & under teacher resourses, teaching.

By Alyssa Cowell

Ah, Valentine’s Day – a day set aside to commemorate romance, and what is more romantic than the music of an opera? Strains of Musetta’s Waltz often accompany scenes of romantic dinner dates in the media, potentially giving the impression that opera is all swoons and smooching. That is, until you really start paying attention to the plot of any given opera.

Consider that Donizetti’s opera Lucrezia Borgia deals with some pretty unromantic themes – including a number in which Lucrezia’s enemies introduce themselves by listing the names of the relatives she has killed.

How about Puccini’s Turandot? Answer Queen Turandot’s riddles incorrectly and you’ll be beheaded. I have to wonder if the romantic lead in this opera shouldn’t have had his head examined before risking his neck. Speaking of Puccini, La Boheme is considered one of the greatest of romantic operas – but the characters are always about 5 minutes from freezing or starving to death.

Shall we take a look at Handel’s Alcina? The title character is a witch who turns cast-off lovers into stone after luring them to her enchanted island.

Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro – all about an aristocrat’s elaborate attempt to cheat on his wife and the comeuppance that ensues. Not to mention Don Giovanni, an aristocrat’s MANY attempts at infidelity.

Now, this is not a soapbox argument against opera by any stretch of the imagination. It’s simply an entreaty to spend a little more time paying attention to the content of an art form that is often relegated to the status of impressive-date-night entertainment. Considering the amount of lying, cheating, incest, murder, and general creeper behavior going on in the average plot of an opera, I wouldn’t necessarily use it to represent the depths of my feelings toward my significant other….Because as passionate and smoldering as Bizet’s character Carmen is, she’ll double cross you in a heartbeat (and probably stab you too).