Bizarre Death Scenes in the Opera

All of us know that in any Opera worth its salt the heroine at least has to die at the end and it is not uncommon if the hero and perhaps his rival die too. Knowing this irrefutable operatic trait, composers and their librettists have done a tremendous job providing their operas with some really great dead scenes.

Some that come easily to my mind right now are: the death of Nedda killed by her husband in the middle of a play in I Pagliaci. The suicide of Cio Cio san in Madame Butterfly after her baby is carried away and all hope is lost. Or Violeta Valery in La Traviatta dying of tuberculosis at the same instant that she meets her lover again. However, some composers got a little carried away by this peculiarity of the opera world (actually they overdid big time) and produced what I dare to call really bizarre opera deaths.

Ludwig und Malwine Schnorr von Carolsfeld - Tristan und Isolde, 1865
Ludwig und Malwine Schnorr von Carolsfeld - Tristan und Isolde, 1865

Love-Death - Tristan und Isolde

Yes, the famous Love-Death of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. “Love-Death” what the hell is that? How can she be living happily (well not exactly happily, but you get my meaning) one moment and be dead the following one? I mean, how exactly that death takes place. One could speculate that after singing for more than four hours Wagner’s music she has no choice but to die, but I don’t believe that this is the case here.

Marguerite Carr (1880-1947) in Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's "The Snow Maiden"
Marguerite Carr (1880-1947) in Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's "The Snow Maiden"

Melting to Death - Snegourochka (Snow Maiden)

Snegourochka (Snow Maiden) by Rimsky Korsakov. Well, for once, I am a little more willing to swallow the Melting to Death of Snegourochka than the Love-Death of Isolde. I mean, if you were a kind of mythical creature made of snow, it would make some sort of odd sense to die because of the sun rays. However I surely would not like to be the physician who has to sign her death certificate.

Famous opera singer Penka Koeva in Adriana Lecouvreur di Cilea
Famous opera singer Penka Koeva in Adriana Lecouvreur di Cilea

Murdered by Flowers - Adriana Lecouvreur

Adriana Lecouvreur by Cilea. At least the diagnosis is easier here: Adriana was poisoned. Someone sent her a poisoned bunch of violets and she dies after kissing them, of course when all the misunderstandings with Maurizio her lover got sorted out. Yes for real, can you think of a more stupid and bizarre way to murder someone? To make the affront worse, Adriana Lecouvreur is supposed to be an example of Verismo Opera. It must be because murdering someone with violets is so “realistic.”

Conclusion

When I was doing the reseach to write this hub, I noticed that there are more heroines that could have been diagnosed with love-death. So perhaps, it was an epidemic at the time, lol.

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Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify the photo of Penka Koeva under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2

Melting to Death - Rimsky Korsakov's Snow Maiden by Irina Zhurina

3 comments

J  Rosewater profile image

J Rosewater 6 years ago from Australia

This is one of the best hubs I've read in a while. Well done.


David Ventura profile image

David Ventura 6 years ago Author

Thank You!


LastRoseofSummer2 profile image

LastRoseofSummer2 3 years ago from Arizona

As your article proves, sopranos get all the fun (even if they're bizarre!) death scenes. We get to jump off things (Tosca, Senta in "The Flying Dutchman", and, depending on the production, Brunnhilde in "Gotterdammerung"), sing ourselves to death (Antonia in "Tales of Hoffmann"), and just plain drop dead of grief (Lucia di Lammermoor and countless other cases). The tenors simply get stabbed or poisoned, usually as the result of a misunderstanding. I guess the one consolation is that they get to sing for 10 minutes about the injustice of it all before expiring....

Great article, I love opera!

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