Someone said to me the other day “When you think about it, Mozart was kind of a feminist.” I just had to share.
Much of the standard repertoire was composed before the idea of equality – not just gender equality – was even a thing, so I can’t hold it against Mozart or the genre.
Speaking of feminism, I was trying to figure out if I could think of any operas that passed the Bechdel Test. The Bechdel Test is a very basic test that asks if a movie (or in this case, an opera) meets these requirements:
1. Has at least 2 named female characters…
2. who talk to each other…
3. … about something other than a man.
(More info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bechdel_test )
Simple, right? Clearly there are a lot of operas that fail miserably. Cosi Fan Tutte has 3 women who do nothing but talk about men, the Magic Flute has 5 female characters who only interact with each other either about men, etc etc… No contest. Though at least most operas avoid the Smurfette Principle, where there is one lone woman in a cast full of men.
But what about modern pieces? Shouldn’t they include a bit more gender equality, or at least enough to pass this simple test? I haven’t done a whole lot of contemporary music so far, but I know that The Ballad of Baby Doe fails because Baby, Mama, and Augusta only talk to each other about men. Lulu really only has Lulu for a female character and I don’t imagine she speaks to her female costars about anything other than men. The Rake’s Progress has three names women, but do they fulfill the rest of the requirements?
Obviously any opera about nuns would pass with flying colours, so let’s ignore those for now.
I’m putting this out to you guys. Do you know an opera that passes this test? Let me know in the comments!
Lots of love,