No lesbian opera blog can get around mezzo sopranos. (why would it want to, anyway?) Particularly not around those in trouser roles.
I admit that when I first got into opera (at the tender age of 10), I only had eyes for the soprano divas. In fact, in my first “Figaro”, Cherubino sailed completely under my radar and I went home with a crush on the Countess instead. – Much like Cherubino, actually.
In the years that followed, the requisite boyband poster spot above my teenage girl bed was occupied by a soprano. A lyric soprano, at that (who also happened to turn 64 today and still hasn’t lost her looks). Years later, I would be crushed by her assessment of the “Rosenkavalier” beginning as “the most embarrassing opera scene there is” as far as acting is concerned since the soprano is forced “to share a bed with another woman.”1 Uhm, yeah. A terrible prospect. Not.
By that time I had already moved past my soprano crush into mezzo land – ironically, guided by the voice of a mezzo soprano with whom Ms. Te Kanawa had been forced to share a bed onstage, in the legendary 1982 MET Rosenkavalier: the late Tatiana Troyanos. She was the Cherubino on my first “Figaro” recording (Böhm for DGG) and there was something strangely compelling about her voice – it has been called “burnished” and “mysterious”and many other things. I just know that it transfixed me at age 14.
Mezzos sounded darker and warmer, more phyiscal and more sensual. And then there was the whole thing with the pants, of course. It was the early 90s and mezzos as diverse as Cecilia Bartoli and Anne Sofie von Otter were on the rise and convinced me for good that mezzos were way cooler than sopranos. They get to wear dresses AND pants, depending on the role. Sometimes even in one role. They get to seduce guys AND girls. They’re usually the ones who get to fight – be it by rolling up their sleeves and causing a riot (Eboli, anyone?) or by throwing themselves in front of the soprano, sword in hand. (Octavian, for starters).
In short, mezzos rock. They also have the capability of making your forget your own name and having you dangle on the verge of passing out form sheer aural pleasure. Well, some sopranos can dot hat, too, but they usually don’t wear pants during it. And they usually don’t have another soprano hanging on their arm like Olivia de Havilland on Errol Flynn’s.
In a time where I still didn’t know where to fit in, in an environment that didn’t offer any kind of queer role models, the swashbuckling mezzos of opera were the first images in which I recognized myself. (of course, they sang much better than I ever could) They were the first ones to give me the feeling that I belonged somewhere. Their voices carved out a niche where I felt at home.
Thank you, dear mezzos. And dear everyone else: welcome to my home. *G* To enjoy, this Mezzo Watch column is officially being inaugurated with a real highlight – Vesselina Kasarova in the Munich “Orphée”. Prepare to swoon.
Swoon. Swoon. Swoon.
P.S. Kiri has looked great at all ages, though. Really. – Happy Birthday.
1 see Matheopoulos, Helena: Diva. Leben und Rollen großer Opernsängerinnen. Zürich 1995, p. 226 – English edition: Diva. Great Sopranos and Mezzos Discuss Their Art. London 1991