From Prop to Partner: the Evolution of Female Roles in American Opera
Mariah Joanna Berryman
For many years, women in opera have been in service to their plots. They have always been present, but have either been relegated to passive roles in their own stories or actively considered societal outcasts. They were dramatically stereotyped as either air-heads or witches, mothers or daughters, love interests or foes to be conquered. And, along with the character stereotypes came typically associated vocal stereotypes. Lighter and higher voices were assigned to roles that portrayed virtue, innocence, and other general characteristics of the “feminine ideal.” Conversely, lower voices were assigned to sinful, outcast, “fallen women.” These vocal stereotypes are especially prevalent for the women condemned to the fringes of society, the othered “them” in contrast to the idealized “us.” Examination of opera plots in contrast to historical documents and artifacts through time reveals an important movement towards more accurate dramatic and musical characterization of women in American opera.
Andrea Chenoweth Wells
Primary Advisor's Department
Stander Symposium project, College of Arts and Sciences
United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
Gender Equality; Reduced Inequalities
"From Prop to Partner: the Evolution of Female Roles in American Opera" (2021). Stander Symposium Projects. 2221.