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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2019 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

"Mother, do you think they'll drop the bomb?"

Felicity Palmer as Klytaemnestra in Strauss'
Elektra at the Met. Photo by Marty Sohl.
© 2009 The Metropolitan Opera
Five Operatic Mothers, 'cause it's that day.
Here at Superconductor, time is occasionally taken to celebrate important holidays. And today is Mother's Day. My own Mom isn't here for it anymore, but I think of her, and play with the Il Trovatore music box that I got her a few years ago. It plays the Anvil Chorus when you open it, and I use it as a nice place to store my headphones on the coffee table. Happy Mother's Day, readers, and I hope you don't find the following list to be TOO snarky.

1) La Cieca from La Gioconda by Almacore Ponchielli

Who is she?
The blind mother of the title character in La Gioconda. She gets arrested by the evil Barnaba, who later unceremoniously drowns her (offstage) in the Orfana Canal.

Who's her kid?
The titular La Gioconda, a Venetian ballad-seller drawn into a web of intrigue. Since the heroine sacrifices her love for Enzo in order to save her mother's life, this might be the ultimate Mother's Day opera.

What does she want for Mother's Day?
Swimming lessons.

Mother's Day: Erda (Ortrun Wenkel) and Wotan (Donald McIntyre) discuss Brünnhilde in Act III of Siegfried.
Footage from the Bayreuth Festival, 1980 © 2000 Universal Classics
2) Erda from Das Rheingold, Siegfried by Richard Wagner
Who is she? The Goddess of the Earth in Wagner's Ring. Erda appears in two operas, first to warn Wotan of the dangers involved in keeping hold of the Ring. He later seduces her (what a guy) and she gives birth to Brünnhilde, the title character in Die Walküre and heroine of the story.

Who's her kids? Brünnhilde, and the Norns, who only appear in Götterdämmerung. Wagner geeks know that the other eight Valkyries are never explicitly stated to be Erda's daughters.

What does she want for Mother's Day?
Peace and quiet.

3) Azucena from Il Trovatore by Giuseppe Verdi

Who is she? The gypsy stepmother of Manrico, the titular troubador.

Who's her kid? That's where it gets complicated. See, she kidnapped an infant, Garcia, from the castle of the Count who had burned her mother at the stake. She threw the baby on the smoldering pyre, but then realized that she had killed her own child. She raised the noble child (now "Manrico") as her son.

What she wants for Mother's Day
New glasses.

4) Klytaemnestra from Elektra by Richard Strauss

Who is she? The matriarch of the House of Atreus and one of the scariest roles ever written for a mezzo-soprano. Klytaemnestra is haunted by guilt and sleepless, terrified that Orestes will come back and take revenge on her for killing her husband Agamemnon.

Who's her kids? Elektra and Orestes, both determined to extract revenge on her for murdering their father with an axe in his bathtub. Nothing's easy--just ask Jocasta.

What she wants for Mother's Day?
Homeowner's insurance.

5) La Comtesse de Coigny from Andrea Chenier by Umberto Giordano
Who is she? Mother of Maddalena de Coigny and French aristocrat. She is the subject of the Act III aria "La mamma morta", made famous by Maria Callas (and by a lip-synching Tom Hanks in the movie Philadelphia.)

Who's her kid?
Maddalena is the heroine of Giordano's opera, which opens with the Countess hosting a ball at her country estate. Unfortunately, the French Revolution breaks out, followed by the Reign of Terror. Heads are going to roll, including hers. She is the subject of "La mamma morta", the most famous aria Giordano ever wrote.

What she wants for Mother's Day
A nice vacation--maybe in Quebec?

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