Since it’s Mother’s Day, I asked my very clever daughter if she could think of any operas that have mothers in them. She did not disappoint.
The first opera she came up with was Il Trovatore. The gypsy Azucena stole Manrico from his family, intending to burn him at the stake to avenge her mother, who Manrico’s family burned at the stake. She ends up raising Manrico as her own son because she messed up and accidentally threw her own son into the fire. She ends up getting Manrico killed too, but that takes longer.
The other one she thought of was Iphigenie en Tauride. It was Iphegenie’s father who sacrificed her, so we should probably play this one again in June. Iphegenie’s mother then killed the father. And then her brother killed her mother. Which is a shame because all this time Iphegenie wasn’t even dead.
Agrippina was the ultimate stage mom, maneuvering her son, Nero, into the emperorship. She succeeds, but he kills her anyway – just not in this opera.
And then there’s Medea. She helped Jason get the Golden Fleece and he in turn helped her get rejected by her family. He also fathered her children. And then he went off and married someone else, which Medea wasn’t down with. So she killed his fiancee. And then she killed her kids.
And then there’s poor Salome, who got worked by her mother Herodias. There are several versions – none of them end well. Strauss has Salome killed. Massenet has her kill herself. Either way, it’s her mom’s fault.
Speaking of incest, there’s the whole Siegmund/Sieglinde issue. Siegmund meets Sieglinde and falls in love with her. It turns out she’s his twin sister but that doesn’t stop him from asking his father, Wotan, for help in killing Sieglinde’s husband. Wotan says he’ll help but his wife will never let him hear the end of it if he helps break up the marriage. Brunhilde tries to help too, but gets sent to her room, which is surrounded by a ring of fire. Sieglinde will bare Siegmund a son in the next opera, and, to complicate things, name him Siegfried.
Then of course there’s poor Madama Butterfly who marries Pinkerton, has his child and sits around waiting for years for him to get home from work, only to realize he didn’t really marry her.
Let us not forget the Queen of the Night in Magic Flute. She’s a tricky bugger. And she has a very famous aria.
The nice mom in the mix is Suor Angelica. She’s in a convent because that’s what happens when you accidentally have a baby. One evening her aunt comes to ask her to sign away her inheritance. She’s okay with that, but what she really wants is news of her son – who was taken from her seven years ago. Her aunt breaks the news that her son died two years before.
Alone that evening, Suor Angelica has a vision, in which her son is calling to her from heaven. Being handy with plants, she makes herself a poison and drinks it, thinking they will be reunited in heaven. But as soon as she drinks it, she realizes she committed a sin by killing herself and fears she will not make it to heaven.
As she dies, she sees another vision.
We hope all you mothers don’t get food poisoning from undercooked eggs, or end up in an opera. Wear your noodle necklaces with pride. They go with everything, you know.