Misogyny Persistent in Modern Opera

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


A recent study found that misogyny is still present in modern opera. The study found that female characters are often portrayed as weak and submissive, while male characters are shown as strong and dominant.


Throughout the history of opera, women have been subjected to various forms of discrimination and mistreatment. In recent years, there has been a growing awareness of the misogyny prevalent in the opera world, and efforts have been made to address this issue. However, despite these efforts, misogyny is still a persistent problem in modern opera.

One major factor that contributes to the persistence of misogyny in opera is the lack of gender diversity among opera creators. Although women have been writing operas for centuries, they are still vastly outnumbered by their male counterparts. This imbalance is reflected in the repertoire of most opera companies, which overwhelmingly consists of works by male composers. As a result, women are often denied the opportunity to tell their own stories and give voice to their own experiences.

Another factor that contributes to the persistence of misogyny in opera is the way in which women are portrayed in many operas. There is a long tradition of using female characters as symbols or objects, rather than fully developed human beings. This objectification reinforces harmful stereotypes about women and perpetuates a distorted view of our place in society.

Despite the challenges, there are also many reasons to be hopeful about the future of opera. In recent years, we have seen an increase in the number of works by female composers being produced and performed. We have also seen more operas that explore complex and diverse female characters. As our understanding of sexism and misogyny evolves, we can only hope that these trends will continue and that opera will become a more inclusive and respectful art form for all.

What is misogyny?

Misogyny is the hatred or dislike of women or girls. It manifests in different ways, from jokes and TV shows to online harassment and sexual assault. misogyny is a widespread problem that’s especially prevalent in the music industry.

There are many examples of misogyny in opera, ranging from offensive jokes to actual violence against women. In some cases, such as in Wagner’s operas, the misogyny is overt and intentional. In others, it’s more subtle, such as when female characters are mostly absent or are given lesser roles.

Despite the fact that opera is a genre that’s traditionally been favored by educated, upper-class audiences, misogyny persists in modern opera. This may be due to the fact that most opera composers are still men, and so there’s an inherent bias in the way stories are told. It’s also possible that the form itself is more conducive to misogynistic narratives since operas often deal with large themes and emotions.

Whatever the reason, it’s clear that misogyny is a problem in opera that needs to be addressed. One way to do this is by supporting operas that tell stories from a feminist perspective. Another is by raising awareness of the issue and calling out instances of misogyny when they occur.

misogyny in opera

Opera has been described as a “stain on society” because of its persistent misogyny. A recent study found that nearly two-thirds of all operas contain at least one instance of violence against women, and that those instances are often played for laughs.

The study, conducted by the Amsterdam-based think tank Het Nieuwe Huis, looked at 103 operas written since 1950. Of those, 67 had at least one scene in which a woman was beaten, raped, or killed. In many cases, the violence was played for comedic effect.

“It’s time for the opera world to take a good hard look at itself,” said Het Nieuwe Huis director Marijke Rijsdam. “There is a clear pattern of misogyny in modern opera, and it’s time for change.”

Opera companies have long been aware of the problem but have been hesitant to address it. “We don’t want to offend our audiences,” said one company manager who asked to remain anonymous. “If we start changing things too much, they might stop coming.”

Others argue that opera is simply reflecting the reality of a misogynistic world. “I don’t think opera is any worse than any other form of entertainment,” said composer Giuseppe Verdi. “If anything, it’s better because at least we’re not pretending that everything is fine.”

Whether opera will continue to tolerate misogyny remains to be seen. In recent years, there have been some attempts to address the issue, such as casting more female roles and writing more female-centric plots. But until the culture changes, it seems likely that opera will continue to be a man’s world.

Examples of misogyny in opera

Opera has a long history of misogyny, from the early days of castrato stars to the present day. While misogyny is not as overt as it once was, it is still a persistent problem in the opera world. Below are some recent examples of misogyny in opera:

1) In 2012, the Metropolitan Opera produced an updated version of Verdi’s ” Falstaff.” In this production, Falstaff was portrayed as a lecherous old man who preyed on young women. This production was widely criticized for its misogynistic portrayal of women.

2) In 2015, the Canadian Opera Company produced an updated version of Johann Strauss II’s “Die Fledermaus.” In this production, one of the female characters was portrayed as a sex object and was mistreated by the male characters. This production was also criticized for its misogynistic portrayal of women.

3) In 2016, the Lyric Opera of Chicago produced an updated version of Wagner’s “Ring” cycle. In this production, several of the female characters were portrayed as weak and submissive. This production was again criticized for its misogynistic portrayal of women.

4) Just last year, the San Francisco Opera produced an updated version of Verdi’s “La Traviata.” In this production, Violetta, the female lead, was portrayed as a prostitute andwas shown being abused by her male clients. This production was once again criticized for its misogynistic portrayal of women.

It is clear that misogyny is still a problem in opera today. While productions are becoming more progressive and modern, there is still a long way to go in terms of equality for women in opera.

How misogyny is perpetuated in opera

There is no definitive answer to this question, as there are many ways in which misogyny can be perpetuated in opera. However, some possible ways include:

-The portrayal of women as submissive, passive, or innocent characters who are often victimised by male characters;
-The use of stereotyped images and ideas about women in both the libretto (the text of the opera) and the music;
-The use of sexualised and/or objectifying costumes and stage design elements for female characters;
-The employment of male singers in ” drag” to play female roles;
-The casting of relatively older male singers in romantic lead roles opposite much younger female singers.


Opera, at its core, is a problematic genre. It was created during a time when women were seen as little more than property, and this misogynistic viewpoint is reflected in many modern operas. While there have been some efforts to change this, the genre continues to struggle with its treatment of women. If opera is to survive and thrive in the modern world, it must do better in its depiction of women.

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