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We seem to think that so much of classical music is pure and noble but in my practice there seems to be a few common themes in Opera. Opera may very well be more Sex, Drugs and Rock'n'Roll than what it is given credit for.

  • There seems to be some sort of love triangle in many operas.
  • There seems to be a skirt chaser of some sort in many of them.
  • Seduction, Lust and Temptation seem to be a recurring theme.

I must say it seems to be done in a really tasteful and non vulgar manner but is there a certain amount of adult themes inherent to the genre or am I just getting my wires crossed?

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    Ι wouldn't say sex and love triangles or simply love are the same thing. There might be some operas about sex, but many about love Feb 7, 2016 at 16:07
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    Pure. Noble. Tasteful. Three words I've never associated with opera, TBH!
    – user16
    Feb 7, 2016 at 19:27
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    Everything is about sex. Why should opera be different? And to you pseudopurists: love wouldn't exist without a reproductive drive behind it. But this is getting way far away from music. Feb 8, 2016 at 12:13
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    Are you looking for a %? I don't think such a calculation could be made. But as comments have hinted at, one could argue most music is ultimately about sex on some level.
    – DA.
    Feb 22, 2016 at 20:12

1 Answer 1

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There are a bunch of more modern operas with very explicit sex scenes in them, often violent ones. Check out the plots of Shostakovich's Lady MacBeth of Mtsensk District, Berg's Lulu, Adés's Powder Her Face.

On the other hand, I think we sometimes get a skewed picture of the world of opera because the most performed pieces -- a very small group -- do tend to cluster around the kind of stories that allow a soprano and a tenor to caterwaul at each other, while a baritone mutters menacingly in the background. The most performed operas of all time (Carmen, Rigoletto, La Traviata, Tosca, etc.) all revolve around sex and violence. Even Wagner's high-flown "Ring" cycle is built around illicit sex, incest, betrayal, and murder. But there are lots of very noble serious operas, and loads of comic operas, in which nobody has sex or gets killed. There are operas set in religious institutions (Poulenc, Dialogues of the Carmelites) or based around the life of famously ascetic heroes (Messaien, St. Francis; Glass, Satyagraha). The world of opera is pretty much like the world: it has all kinds of stories.

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  • Nice answer. Never knew that a lot of operas are about those. Awesome examples, too.
    – user7708
    Feb 1, 2020 at 12:44

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