The Best and Worst of Opera Fathers

Jun 19, 2016

With Father’s Day upon us, Opera Omaha would like introduce you to the best and worst of opera’s paternal figures. Unlike the mothers featured earlier, opera dads take on a much wider range of roles, from the most caring and excited of fathers, to those with rather questionable motives. Read on to learn a bit more about these iconic and dramatic examples of parenting.

Agamemnon (Iphigenia in Aulis, Gluck)

Not much better than his wife, another infamous opera parent (Clytemnestra), Agamemnon promises to sacrifice his daughter for the sake of a military campaign. Luckily, Iphigenia’s life is spared by the goddess Diana. Even though Agamemnon was beginning to regret his promise, he was fully prepared to carry out the sacrifice on the behest of his men.

Alberich (The Ring of the Nibelung, Wagner)

The Ring cycle contains a whole slew of bad fathers, but Alberich has to take the cake. Setting every event of the four-piece opera into motion by forswearing love in the opening scene, Alberich enslaves an entire race of people before his prized possession gets stolen. He then raises his son Hagen for the sole purpose of murdering the hero Siegfried and gaining vengeance.

Rigoletto (Rigoletto, Verdi)

A hunch-backed court jester, Rigoletto keeps his beautiful daughter, Gilda, hidden from the rest of the city. Allowed to appear only in public when going to church, Gilda is ignorant of both her father’s occupation and his name. When Gilda falls in love with the licentious Duke of Mantua, Rigoletto swears revenge and in poor judgement hires an assassin. Gilda is killed.

Commendatore (Don Giovanni, Mozart)

Although he appears only infrequently in this Mozart classic, the Commendatore proves his value as a father. In the opening scene of the opera, the Commendatore challenges the infamous Don Giovanni to a duel, who has been attempting to seduce his daughter. The Commendatore does not survive the encounter, but later returns as a statue to cast judgement on his murderer.

Gianni Schicchi (Gianni Schicchi, Puccini)

A clever newcomer to Florence, Gianni Schicchi uses his wits to ensure that his daughter can enter into a prosperous marriage with the man she loves. At his daughter’s urging, Gianni Schicchi tricks a group of greedy relatives, clamoring for favor in their uncles’ will. He secures the man’s wealth for himself and is able to provide his daughter with an adequate dowry.

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