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Herstory: An Exploration of Femininity through Song” is part of a two concert series centering around the interpretation of gender in classical music, all based around the idea that mezzo-sopranos are amazingly unique in that we are cast both as men and women in operas, operettas and other musical works. I feel this opens up my musical emotional spectrum as a performer. As such, the first concert is exploring women as portrayed through classical music, and my second concert next spring will be only “pants” roles, as mezzo roles portraying men are fondly called. One thing you may notice is that this entire concert is composed by men. Though you might find this an interesting choice, I must be honest and say there is a much larger representation of men as composers, historically, and since my concert is attempting to portray women’s characterization and manifestations in classical music, it felt slightly wrong to seek out exclusively or even mostly female composers; this would not be a real or accurate representation of what it means to be a woman as based on the majority of musical history.
Though these are further elaborated on in my program, my concert was broken up into 4 sections that I felt defined classical characteristics of femininity. The first section, “WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A WOMAN” is a hot topic in today’s society. In the beginnings of classical music, however, what it meant to be a woman was prescribed by men. I tried to pick songs that truly explore and capture not the answer to this question, but the question itself. I chose Eve-song: My Name by Jake Heggie and Polo from 7 Canciones Populares Espanolas by Manuel da Falla. The second section was entitled, “WOMEN ARE MOTHERS.” I felt motherhood was an exceptionally important theme to have in this concert. Motherhood, in the form of learning from a mother or being a mother oneself, can truly shape who we are as people. There is love and inherent pride in being a mother, but there is also pain and frustration. The next several selections are intended to explore some of these sentiments. The selections Nana and Cancion from 7 Canciones Populares Espanolas by de Falla and an meinem Herzen from Robert Schumann’s Frauenlieben und Leben intended to explore these sentiments. Section three was entitled “WHAT DO WOMEN MEAN TO MEN?” Music in the classical style often shows women as things to be either loved or commanded. I chose pieces that I felt would portray this struggle for women, which included il est doux from Maurice Ravel’s song cycle Chansons Madecasses, and Give Him this Orchid from Benjamin Britten’s opera The Rape of Lucretia. The next section was entitled “WOMEN ARE BEAUTIFUL” .Though this ought to go without saying, I found a very strong connection with songs where women sing about their own beauty, instead of men singing about the beauty of women. More interesting is the intensity of the power of seduction. I felt the arias Meine Lippen sie küssen so heiẞ from Franz Lehar’s operetta Giudetta and Mon Coeur S’Ouvre à ta Voix, an aria that comes from the opera Samson and Dalila by Camille Saint-Saëns. The final section is entitled “WOMEN CAN ADAPT.” I feel an exceptionally important characteristic of women is the ability to figure out and navigate difficult situations with fluidity, grace, and spunk. The last two selections, I am easily assimilated from the opera Candide by Berstein, and Cruda Sorte from L’Italiana in Algeri by Rossini perfectly capture these sentiments.
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Dothard, Marisol I., "Herstory: An Exploration of Femininity through Song" (2016). Senior Projects Spring 2016. 340.
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