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10 Worst Operatic Fathers

Jun 19, 2015 1:55:00 PM
By BLO Staff

Good fathers in opera are hard to find! This Fathers’ Day, we ranked ten operatic fathers from the best of the bunch to the absolute worst. O mio babbino caro, indeed!

10.    The Commendatore from Don Giovanni
We have all wanted Dad to come to the rescue at some point in our lives, but only the Commendatore does it with such dramatic flair! The “Top Father” prize had to go to the character who comes back from death to avenge his daughter’s assault (and his own murder) in one of opera’s most iconic, climactic scenes. Thanks, Dad!

Duncan Rock and Steven Humes, Boston Lyric Opera, 2015.
Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

9.    Simon Boccanegra
Since his baby daughter disappeared along with her nurse, Simon Boccanegra never got to be a father to her as a child—but he makes up for it later in life after the two meet and realize who they are, in one of Verdi’s most touching father-daughter scenes. Boccanegra offers a pardon to his enemy, Gabriele Adorno, because his daughter loves him, and even blesses the happy couple and names Adorno his successor before he succumbs to a slow-acting poison. At least father and daughter were reunited before the end!

Plácido Domingo, Royal Opera House, July 2010.

8.    Gianni Schicci
This opera contains that famous and beloved aria, “O mio babbino caro” (“Oh, my dear father”), sung by Lauretta to Gianni Schicci as she pleads for his permission to marry. Schicci follows through—by impersonating a dead man in order to seize his fortune and estate! While perhaps not the best example of morality for his daughter, Schicci does provide a dowry with his new riches so that she can marry her beloved—and keeps plenty for himself, too. Happy endings for all!

Zachary Altman, Opera San Jose, 2012. Photo by Pat Kirk.

7.    Vodník from Rusalka
Vodník, the Water Goblin, has a blunt and honest answer for his daughter Rusalka when she confesses her love for a human: that guy will bring you nothing but trouble (we’re paraphrasing). Although he disapproves, he recognizes that Rusalka is miserable without her love and tells her to seek out the witch Jezibaba. Vodník’s fears are justified—the Prince proves fickle and Rusalka ends up condemned to haunt a lake for all time—but at least he tried to advise his daughter well and let her make her own decisions, right?

Camilla Nylund and Alan Held, Royal Opera House, February 2012.

6.    Giorgio Germont from La Traviata
Germont, the father of Alfredo, gets a bad rap in the sad tale of the courtesan Violetta’s demise—he comes in with the best of intentions, determined to convince this fallen woman to leave his son alone, since their affair is ruining the family’s reputation and his daughter’s chance at marriage. Violetta impresses him, however, by agreeing to sacrifice her own happiness for Alfredo’s sake. After Germont hears of Violetta’s sickness, he and Alfredo rush back to her, but—è tardi! They are too late, and Violetta dies in Alfredo’s arms.

Weston Hurt and Anya Matanovic, Boston Lyric Opera, October 2014. Photo by Eric Antoniou.

5.   Pinkerton from Madama Butterfly
While certainly not winning any awards for Husband of the Year, will the American naval officer Pinkerton redeem himself as a father? After returning to Japan with Kate, his new, American wife, Pinkerton learns that his brief marriage to the beautiful, young Cio-Cio San resulted in a son—now a three-year-old boy named Sorrow. Pinkerton and  Kate immediately agree to raise the child, and Cio-Cio San takes her own life. We like to think that this playboy learns from his mistakes and is ready to give Sorrow a loving home (and hopefully a new name with less baggage, too).

Alexey Dolgov and Ana Maria Martinez, Houston Grand Opera, January 2015. Photo by Lynn Lane.

4.   Amonasro from Aida
Aida, a slave who is really the Ethiopian princess in disguise, is reunited with her father, Amonasro, when he is brought to Egypt as a prisoner of war. Their reunion is joyful, but soon Amonasro asks his daughter to make a fateful choice between her lover Radamès and her love for her homeland. The conflicted Aida betrays Radamès, but also condemns herself to die by his side, sealed together in a tomb. Meanwhile, Amonasro escapes to Ethiopia. Doesn’t seem fair, does it?

Andrew Greenwood, Stadttheater Hildesheim; Hildesheim, Germany, 2011.

3.    Rigoletto
Rigoletto is one of the most sympathetic fathers in all of opera, but let’s be honest—his parenting skills need work. He locks Gilda away from the world because he mistrusts the royal court, but her naiveté only makes her more curious and more vulnerable to the Duke’s advances. Rigoletto unwittingly is the cause of his own nightmare when Gilda takes matters into her own hands and sacrifices her life for her faithless lover’s. Sorry, Rigoletto, but we don’t think you can’t blame this one solely on Count Monterone’s curse.

Michael Mayes as Rigoletto and Nadine Sierra as Gilda, Boston Lyric Opera, 2014. Photo by Eric Antoniou.

2.    Don Magnifico from La Cenerentola
Though Cinderella graciously forgives her stepfather at the end of Rossini’s delightful comedy, we aren’t sure he deserves it! As in the classic fable, Don Magnifico treats the kindly Cinderella like a servant, forcing her to clean and keep house while he schemes to marry one of his own two horrible daughters to the Prince. He also lies about her very existence, claiming that she died years before! Luckily for us audiences, love and goodness triumph over his years of cruelty in the end.

Valerian Ruminski, Seattle Opera,
photo by Elise Bakketun.

1.    Wotan from The Ring Cycle
Wagner did nothing halfway, so perhaps it’s no surprise that the “worst father” ranking goes to the most powerful, most complicated, most epic father on our list! Wotan does it all—he steals the gold ring from Alberich, fathers many children outside his marriage to Fricka, causes the death of his own son Siegmund, strips his favorite daughter Brünnhilde of her immortality as a punishment, and sets off a chain of events that leads to the ultimate destruction of the gods. Now that’s bad parenting on a larger-than-life scale!

Greer Grimsley, Seattle Opera, 2009 RING Cycle.

Who are your favorite operatic fathers? Nominate your picks for best (or worst) in the comments!

Topics: Fathers Day

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