men who get what they want through temptation and seduction have played pivotal roles in opera for centuries. Look no further than Mozart’s Don Giovanni to find a lead character who has a list of 1003 women he has seduced and abandoned. Mozart’s aria for the Don’s valet Leporello enumerates his employer’s seductions to humorous effect. And while some of his conquests seem relatively innocent –fleeing the persistent Donna Elvira, or disrupting the wedding plans of the peasant Zerlina – Don Giovanni’s ultimate murder of the Commendatore, Donna Anna’s father, shows the depth of evil in his lustful pursuit of women.
Other candidates for the “most evil character in opera” include Scarpia in Puccini’s Tosca, the Duke of Mantua in Verdi’s Rigoletto or lago in his Otello, Hagen in Wagner’s Die Götterdämmerung. Offenbach actually included four villains, all sung by the same bass, in his Les Contes d’Hoffmann. However, men do not have the monopoly on evil seduction in the world of opera. Women characters that fit the category include the inimitable Queen of the Night in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, Ortrud in Wagner’s Lohengrin, and Dalila in Saint-Saëns’ Samson et Dalila.
Who are your candidates for the most evil characters in opera? to comment on our website and join the conversation.
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