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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 12, No. 9

Operatic Fathers

June 14, 2007

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My favourite operatic father is SIMON BOCCANEGRA. Boccanegra, the plebian Doge of 13th-century Genova, has an illegitimate child with a noblewoman, Maria Fiesco. His infant daughter is abducted and he lives for 25 years not knowing if she is alive. By chance, he discovers that Amelia Grimaldi, a woman of noble rank, is actually his daughter. Out of love, he accepts her decision not to marry his political ally, Paolo, as she loves another man, Gabriele Adorno, who is actually conspiring against Boccanegra. At the end of the opera, Boccanegra, dying of poison, chooses Amelia’s future husband as the new Doge of Genova and pardons Fiesco, his daughter’s maternal grandfather and one of the plotters who has conspired against him, for the sake of his daughter. This father cares for his daughter’s happiness more than he cares for political alliances (the marriage she does not want) or for revenge against his enemy Fiesco. Boccanegra is also the greatest baritone role in the Italian repertoire.

Ossama el Naggar

Wotan ?

With my tongue planted firmly in my cheek, I have to say my favourite Opera dad is Wotan, the Head God. Why? First of all, he sired enough offspring to win an award most “procreatively prolific”. At last count, there were the nine Valkyries plus Siegmund and Sieglinde, and god knows (pun intended) who else is out there. Wotan probably cares about his children and tries to be a decent father, but he is far too inconsistent in his parenting. I mean, he sets all the rules and then goes ahead and breaks them – that’s what I call setting a bad example! On the other end of the scale, I think another Wagner character would make a fabulous dad – Han Sachs. He is wise, kind, judicious, compassionate, consistent, statesmanlike, all the best qualities one could hope for. Only problem is, he is a widower and managed to bat a big fat zero procreatively before his wife passed away. Too bad Eva didn’t choose him – he would have been a better father and husband than the hot-headed Walther von Stolzing… O well.

Joseph So

Francesco Foscari

I have a fundamental problem when picking my favourite operatic father. No composer understood fathers like Giuseppe Verdi. But which one should I choose? Is it to be Rigoletto or Miller in Luisa Miller or Germont in La Traviata or Boccanegra in Simon Boccanegra or Ford in Falstaff…all have unbelievably beautiful and effective music to sing and are brilliantly drawn by Verdi. Yet in the end I will go for Francesco Foscari, the Doge of Venice in Verdi’s neglected masterpiece, I Due Foscari. Not only does the role offer many remarkable vocal opportunities, but psychologically, the character reveals all the human frailties and failings associated with a man who tries to balance political power and ambition with his personal relationships, especially that with his son Jacopo. In the end, he, like so many fathers before and after him, realises too late that these goals are seemingly incompatible and that the price to pay is, ultimately, a heavy one.

Richard Turp


Mon père préféré à l’opéra, c’est Rigoletto. Le pauvre Rigoletto. Bossu, difforme, Rigoletto («celui qui fait rire») est le bouffon de service à la cour du duc de Mantoue. Il a une fille: Gilda. Gilda est la prunelle de ses yeux, son seul amour au monde depuis qu’il a perdu sa femme adorée. Le père garde sa fille jalousement près de lui.

Le Duc de Mantoue, de son côté, a les yeux sur Gilda. Il l’accoste à l’église, se faisant passer pour un étudiant sans le sou. Gilda en tombe amoureuse. Il fait enlever la jeune fille par ses courtisans qui la traînent de force dans ses appartements.

Fou de douleur, Rigoletto engage un tueur pour faire assassiner le Duc. Dans l’obscurité, l’assassin se méprend sur l’identité de sa victime. D’un coup de couteau, il abat Gilda qui s’était déguisée en garçon pour s’échapper.

Rigoletto vient récupérer le corps, qu’il croit être celui du Duc, mais c’est sa fille mourante qu’il découvre à ses pieds. Le duo qui suit est l’un des plus déchirants de tout le répertoire.

Rigoletto est un des rôles que j’ai eu le plus de bonheur à chanter, avec Figaro, Falstaff et Scarpia. Le personnage de Rigoletto demande beaucoup d’énergie et d’endurance de la part du chanteur, surtout au troisième acte, où l’histoire du pauvre bouffon trouve son terrible dénouement.

Robert Savoie

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