Cross-dressing in music and opera

Cross-dressing in music and opera refers to musical performers or opera singers portraying a character of the opposite gender. It is parallel to cross-dressing in film and television and draws on a long history of cross-gender acting.

In opera

An entire cross-dressing genre of operatic roles, called "breeches roles" (aka trouser or pants roles) or travesti. These are male roles performed by women, typically mezzo-sopranos but occasionally by sopranos. Some female opera singers specialize in these types of roles.

One artistic reason for breeches roles was that some storylines included young boy characters, but the actual performance required an adult's vocal strength and stage experience in addition to a high, boyish voice. Women were thus better suited to these roles than actual boys. Some examples of these roles are Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro, Siebel in Faust, and Hansel in Hansel and Gretel. Other breeches roles were created due to the need for an adult male character to seem other-worldly (Orpheus in Orfeo ed Euridice) or unmanly (Prince Idamante in Idomeneo). In some cases, the casting of a woman may have been an excuse to have an attractive actress appear in tight-fitting trousers.[citation needed] During the Grand Opera era, women typically worn voluminous dresses onstage. Some male operatic roles originally written to be sung in the voice range of castrati (men castrated in boyhood, whose voices never descended into the normal male register) are now usually cast with female singers in male costume.

Beethoven's only opera, Fidelio, is unusual in that it features a female character who cross-dresses as part of the plot. The woman disguises herself as a young man as part of a plan to rescue her husband from prison. In The Marriage of Figaro, Cherubino dresses as a girl to avoid army duty. The part of Cherubino is thus played by a woman, who plays a man who dresses as a woman.

In the early 20th century, German composer Richard Strauss included a major trouser role in two operas: the Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos and Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier.

In modern music

See also


  1. ^ "The History Of Punk - New York Dolls". www.punk77.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-02-25.
  2. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UuaDT8220M

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