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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.”
She defied her social status, her gender, and held firm in her faith that she was selected by God to win a war for France. A teenage girl received mystical visions from God, gained the confidence of a prince, and became a warrioress that led a nation to victory. Joan’s story sounds more akin to fiction than fact, but because she was such a controversial figure there are many court records of her interviews and trials that have provided solid evidence for her biography.