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Julie d’Aubigny led a short, incredible life that was full of adventure and defied any and all expectations for “ladylike” behavior. She carried on public love affairs with both men and women; often dressed in men’s clothing; was once sentenced to death; and achieved acclaim on the leading operatic stages of Paris and beyond. Everything she did, she did with drama: her feuds with other opera singers were legendary, her love affairs were intense and passionate, and she was both the toast of society and a source for gossip sure to scandalize. 17th-Century France couldn’t get enough of her.
At a time when women were not able to hold positions of power, Hildegard von Bingen achieved great success as prioress and abbess, founding two convents in addition to being an author, composer, visionary, and prophet. Gaining recognition as a prominent female scholar in just one of these subjects during the 12th century would have been noteworthy; Hildegard carved out a place of significance by achieving in them all.
Who are the Dissenters & Rebels of opera? In celebration of our 2018/19 Season, we took a tour through opera history to find seven examples that upended societal expectations, charted their own course, and inspired others to imagine the world anew. We’ve reached installment #3 – turning to the Risorgimento in Italy and the mythic status of an unforgettable Verdi anthem. When we think about political music today, songs like We Shall Overcome, Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On?, or the Beatles’ Revolution might come to mind. But opera boasts the granddaddy of all political anthems—Va, pensiero, from one of Verdi’s early operas, Nabucco. A stirring chorus guaranteed to inspire, Va, pensiero has long been associated with the cause of Italian unification, helping to earn Verdi the nickname “the Bard of the Risorgimento.”