We’re taking Oct. 3, fondly known to some as Mean Girls Day (thanks to a memorable line from the movie of that name), as a chance to look back on the female opera characters with a vicious or even just a tough streak – not all of whom are villains.
Verdi: “Macbeth,” Lady Macbeth
Charge: engineering a regicide plot on her husband’s behalf
Lady Macbeth’s deeds are so despicable that in the end she can’t cope with them. It’s not her boldness or ambition that land her on this list – it’s the murder.
Shostakovitch: “Lady Macbeth of the Mtensk District,” Katerina
Charge: affair, accessory to murder via candlestick
Like the apocryphal character with whom she shares the title of the opera, Katerina takes things too far. In her desire to escape her own personal boredom she coaxes her lover into committing murder.
Mozart: “The Magic Flute,” Queen of the Night
Charge: seeking revenge, threatening to disown her daughter
The Queen of the Night has an understandable reason to be angry. The temple her husband owned was bequeathed to Sarastro rather than to her. But, threatening to disown her daughter Pamina should Pamina not stab Sarastro is taking things, to put it mildly, a bit far.
Massenet: “Cendrillon,” Madame de la Haltière
Charge: cruelty to stepdaughter, as well as daughters
Not only does she give some seriously bad courtship advice to her daughters, but she also keeps her stepdaughter as a house servant.
Purcell: “Dido and Aeneas,” Sorceress and Witches
Charge: plotting the destruction of Carthage
Not only does she tear apart a perfectly happy couple, but she sends Aeneas’s fleet to their death and ensures Dido’s death – leading to one of the most heart wrenching laments in all of music.
Humperdink: “Hansel and Gretel,” Witch
Charge: luring children in with candy, baking them as gingerbread
One of the most purely evil fairy tale villains out there, the witch from “Hansel and Gretel” also gets one a punishment that fits the crime in the end.
Sullivan: “Iolanthe,” Queen of the Fairies
Charge: murderous tendencies
The Queen of the Fairies isn’t a villain at all, really. She spends much of the opera stopping short of executing the title character. In the end, as in most of Gilbert and Sullivan’s operas, she is able to avoid violence and instead solve her problem bureaucratically.