-Francesca Dawis ('17)


If you’re a regular opera attendee, chances are you’ve seen a female actor play a male character onstage. Adding to confusion and comedy, these characters sometimes disguise themselves as women during the opera—so the actor is a woman playing a man playing a woman!

Known as pants, trousers, or breeches roles, many of these parts were originally written for high-voiced, castrated male singers in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Italian opera. When the tradition of castrati began to decline at then end of the eighteenth-century, composers began to write male parts—from adolescent boys to male love interests—specifically for mezzo-soprano singers. Now, pants roles are central to mezzo-soprano repertoire.

World-renowned mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, who will be performing at the Bing Concert Hall on Saturday, December 2nd, is no exception to the world of gender-bending. In fact, her 2011 album, Divo/Diva, explores the duality of pants vs. skirt roles in opera.


Here are four classic performances where Joyce DiDonato traded her pearls for pants!


1) Cherubino, The Marriage of Figaro (Mozart)

Perhaps the most famous pants role! An adolescent boy, a self-professed “lover of all women.”


2) Octavian, Der Rosenkavalier (R. Strauss)

The young lover to much older Princess Marie Thérèse von Werdenberg.


3) Romeo, I Capuleti e I Montecchi (Bellini)

Need I say more?


4) Isolier, Le comte Ory (Rossini)

Page of Count Ory; both are in love with countess Adèle.


Catch Joyce DiDonato live at Bing Concert Hall in her program on war and peace, Friday, Dec 2 at 7:30pm.