Reclaiming Female Agency in the Performance of Wagnerian Opera

Katarina Grobler

Abstract


This article examines the role of agency as a vehicle for female empowerment in the production and performance of Wagnerian opera. While feminist musicology has addressed this issue by exploring how its female characters can assert their musical power through their vocal roles, less attention has been given to other staging elements crucial to the production of opera. This article addresses this gap by analysing two contemporary productions which suggest a feminist interpretation of the works: Lohengrin directed by Yuval Sharon at the Bayreuth Festival in 2018, and the “Copenhagen Ring” directed by Kasper Bech Holten and produced by the Danish Opera in 2006. Specifically, it analyses how characterisation techniques, staging choice, and narrative manipulation become the three key strategies for reclaiming agency in performance. This article argues that while each of these strategies is important, it is ultimately narrative manipulation in the dramatic climax which is most significant, as it allows its female characters to reclaim agency in full by remaining alive on stage. In doing so, it points the way towards a future direction in feminist performance of Wagnerian Opera.

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