Fathers in opera

Just in time for Father’s Day we thought we would take a look at some of the most notable father figures in opera. 

Whether you think they’re good or bad, I’m sure we can all agree they are certainly unconventional…

The Commendatore from Mozart’s Don Giovanni

It’s impressive that a guy who was killed in the first act of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, has made it onto our list, but the Commendatore was murdered trying to protect his daughter from the seducer Don Giovanni, which makes him very noteworthy indeed.

It all works out in the end though because he resurrects in one of the most remarkable climaxes in all of opera. From the dead he rises to give Don Giovanni what’s coming to him and seeks revenge once and for all. 

Now that’s a cool, if not slightly dramatic, dad!

Giorgio Germont from Verdi's La Traviata

This is a father who truly demonstrates a parent’s struggle between loving their kids, but also thinking they know what’s best for them. Unfortunately for Giorgio Germont, fathers don’t always get it right…

As a member of upper class society, Germont values status and reputation above all else. Afraid of what others might think of his son Alfredo’s choice of bride, he sets to break them up. 

He pleads to Violetta directly, asking her to end things with Alfredo. What do we do with the things we love? We let them go. So Violetta agrees.  

Alfredo later learns of Violetta’s sacrifice and rushes to be with her again. This time Germont finally agrees to let them be together, but it is too late. His initial choice to protect his son came from a place of fatherly concern, but ultimately left him heartbroken.

Puccini's Gianni Schicchi

The titular character of Puccini’s one act opera, Schicchi goes to some extreme lengths to make his daughter happy. 

After Lauretta begs for her father’s permission to marry Rinuccio in one of the most famous arias from the opera, ‘Oh, my dear father’ (O mio babbino caro), Schicchi sets out to find her a dowry. 

Whilst most dads dip into their back pocket, Schicchi decides to impersonate the deceased Buoso to take ownership of his fortune. Although not the most moral approach (or legal) he does provide the funds for his daughter, leaving her to be happily betrothed.

Fraudster or not, I guess we can consider him a loving father?

Verdi’s Rigoletto

Next up is another portrayal of a complex-father by Verdi. The title character Rigoletto takes the meaning of over protective parent to a whole new level.

Rigoletto is a court Jester, who soon found that not every joke lands when a badly timed wisecrack led to him being cursed. Terrified, he confines his beloved daughter Gilda to their home to keep her safe, but her shielded life has disastrous consequences. 

Gilda falls in love with the Duke, which leaves Rigoletto furious to the point that he plots his assination. Hearing that her love is in danger, Gilda takes the Dukes place in death, leaving Rigoletto inadvertently killing the one thing he has strived to protect.

In anguish Rigoletto blames Montrone’s curse for these heartbreaking events, but it was ultimately his overbearing, although well intended, actions that orchestrated his own worst fears.

Vodník from Dvorak’s Rusalka

Vodnik is a water goblin, and the father of Rusalka. When Rusalka falls in love with a human, her father disapproves, warning that such love can only lead to trouble.

Seeing how sad Rusalka is, Vodnik changes his mind and gives some ill-fated advice that she should speak to the witch Jezibaba for help. Jezibaba turns Rusalka human under strict conditions that she loses her voice and that both her and her Prince will be damned if he rejects her. 

Although Vodnik tried to help, his initial instincts were right as Rusalka’s Prince proved unloyal, resulting in both of their destruction. Sadly, father’s can’t always stop their kids from making mistakes.

Wotan from Wagner’s Ring Cycle

Last but not least, and probably one of the worst fathers in opera history, Wotan from Wagner’s Ring Cycle.

Der Ring des Nibelungen to give its proper name, is basically an operatic version of Lord of the Rings, but features Norse Gods instead. Wotan is Chief of the Gods who steals the cursed ring to pay off his debt to the giants for building Valhalla, which gives you a slight indication of his moral compass.

He fathered many children (not always with his wife) and seemed to fail them all in one way or another. He orders his son Siegmund to be killed in a duel; doesn’t let his daughter Sieglinde marry who she wants (although she did choose her twin brother); then punishes his other daughter Brünhilde for trying to help them by making her mortal and sentencing her to sleep forever. 

A thief, murderer and control freak! He definitely won’t be winning father of the year.

Although some of these dads have questionable parenting skills, we wishes them and you a very Happy Father’s Day!