One of the characteristics of opera that consistently recurs throughout its history is the femme fatale, the female character who gains power by means of her sexuality and is destroyed prior to the conclusion of the work. What made the femme fatale so dangerous? After hearing an aria from Bizet’s Carmen and examining female heroines from different periods in opera – Handel’s Gulio Cesare from the Baroque period, and Richard Strauss’ Salome from the early 20th century – I will discuss the part that societal and audience expectations played in determining a female character’s fate and whether or not the femme fatale can expect to meet the same fate in operas to come.
Lindsay Robinson, ’11
Sponsor: James Martin