Twenty Iconic Opera Roles In Which Helen Mirren Would Have Ruled

Monday, September 12, 2011 - 06:18 PM

Last week, Linda Holmes wrote a piece for NPR detailing Twenty Iconic Male Movie Roles In Which Helen Mirren Would Have Ruled. With her latest film, The Debt, now playing, Holmes's thesis rang true that it's hard not to enjoy Helen Mirren in anything.

Which got me thinking: What if Helen Mirren could sing opera? Forget Callas's ability to live in a role or Anna Netrebko's animal magnetism onstage. Never mind Domingo's swarthy good looks ideally suited to the romantic tenor leads in which he excels, or Hans Hotter's stentorian vibe as Wotan.

And if we're going to be fantasy-casting Mirren in opera, and if we can agree that Helen Mirren is capable of anything, then why limit our casting to just the female roles? So sit back and enjoy the ride, and tell us in the comments below: What opera role would you love to see Mirren (or any other of your favorite actors) take on?

1. Boris Godunov, Boris Godunov
Mirren would take no prisoners as this Tsar with a Macbeth-complex. Can you imagine her face as she'd sing "My soul is sad?" Or picture her writhing on the floor in her final scene screaming for air? Yeah, so can I. It's a good thing.

2. Dido, Dido and Aeneas
There wouldn't be a dry eye in the house following "When I am laid in earth."

3. The Marschallin, Der Rosenkavalier
Here's a role that would actually be perfect for Mirren if she had the chops as a Straussian soprano: It's spot on for her age and she would be spectacular playing an aging countess bidding adieu to her young lover. (Get in line behind me to play Octavian.)

4. Salome, Salome
While we're on the topic of Strauss and Mirren's smoking hot looks…Dance of the Seven Veils. Yes.

5. Madame Mao, Nixon in China
She is the wife of Mao Tse-Tung, and she will teach those motherf-----s how to dance.

6. Peter Quint, The Turn of the Screw
Maybe she would be swell as the Governess, but I want to see Mirren go full creepy in the nighttime scene, singing the haunting "Miles" theme over and over and over.

7. Thérèse/Tirésias, Les Mamelles de Tirésias
Okay, I wouldn't have thought of this one were it not for the "Helen Mirren's T------" sketch from a recent Saturday Night Live. So all credit on that one is due to Andy Samberg.

8. All Four Leads, Carmen
Follow me on this one here: Carmen is about Don José, his transformation and the consequences of his actions, right? And he has this manic flip-flopiness between his love and hate for Carmen. So why not up the schizophrenia factor by making Carmen, Micaëla and Escamillo all figments of Don José's imagination, leaving the brigadier to stab himself at the end of the opera rather than Carmen? Someone like Peter Sellars could make a sacred and profane work out of this, and someone like Helen Mirren could really make it sing.

9. Wotan, The Ring Cycle
Again, nothing against her soaring as Brünnhilde, but Mirren would be better suited as the god of everything.

10. Norma, Norma
"Casta Diva." Enough said.

11. Hannah Glawari, Die Lustige Witwe
Not every operatic role has to be meaty and ooze pathos, and who wouldn't want to waltz the night away with her?

12. Dalila, Samson et Dalila
She could chop off my hair any time. And her "Mon coeur s'ouvre a ta voix" could become a definitive performance.

13. Orlando, Orlando
The perfect opportunity to combine our fantasies of Mirren singing opera and gender bending would happen here, plus we'd get the chance to see her in another incandescent mad scene.

14. Emilia, The Makropulos Case
While I'd love to hear her say "Is this not the couch on which your father bled to death?" in Lulu, but Janacek's femme fatale may actually trump Berg's here, and I only want the best for La Mirren.

15. Mephistopheles, Faust
Yeah. I'd sell my soul for that.

16. Scarpia, Tosca
Yeah. I'd ditch my artist boyfriend for that.

17. Hoffmann, Les Contes d'Hoffmann
No one has as much fun onstage in this opera as the titular beleaguered poet. Though I could also see her in turns as the mechanical Olympia, maniacal Dapertutto and the mystical Muse. Peter! We have another conceptual one-person-sings-it-all production for you!

18. Figaro, Il barbiere di Siviglia
Helen Mirren qua, Helen Mirren là, Helen Mirren su, Helen Mirren giù…

19. Armida, Armida
Tell me that finale wouldn't scare the hell out of you. And tell me that the opera wouldn't end differently if it were about Mirren herself and not Armida—who's going to leave that?

20. Eugene Onegin, Eugene Onegin
She'd be mean! She'd be tortured! She'd be everything you ever wanted from Pushkin's (and Tchaikovsky's) complicated romantic antihero.


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Comments [7]

Frederick Krantz from Florida

I would go for a week without dinner just to see Helen Mirren perform The Countess in The Queen of Spades

Sep. 15 2011 12:52 PM
concetta nardone from Elmont, NY

Scarpia, Amonasro the Warrior King, Figaro both operas, Don Giovanni, Wotan, Turandot, Manon Lescaut, Leporello,Lord and Lady Macbeth, she is wonderful in everything she does. Who could ever forget her in REDS, retired extremely dangerous and The Last Station.

Sep. 15 2011 08:52 AM
Silversalty from Brooklyn

Mirren was in a 1989 movie, "The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover," which had very theatrical qualities, with stylized sets and costumes, though little in the way of singing. The sets were arranged in a line in something that was probably the size of an aircraft hangar, allowing long tracking shots as the players moved from one set to the next. There is a singing role - a young boy wailing more than singing. It's a strange flick. Art house. Ms. Mirren spends much of the film nude, so if that's what you're looking for ..

The film is pretty much "out there" so adding singing parts wouldn't be out of place.

Ms. Mirren has set a stern acting persona. I don't know if she could play the Susan Sarandon role in "Rocky Horror Picture Show." Frank-N-Furter?

Why not?

This post theme could be played with other actors. I was thinking of Cate Blanchett and her role in "Shipping News."

Blanchett has a small part in the film. She appears early in the YouTube trailer.

Seeing Gordon Pinsent, as Canadian as Canadian can be, in the trailer reminded me of ..

Sep. 14 2011 12:03 PM
Silversalty from somewhere in Brooklyn 112

I just noticed that someone has included a full address as part of their nick in their post. Not a good idea and may not even be the person indicated. I think the mods here should truncate the address part to something like the town and zip.

Sep. 13 2011 01:01 PM
Heide Oeldorf-Hirsch

Les Contes d'Hoffmann - because I sing that duet, alone for both, in German = Hoffmanns Erzaehlungen: "Schoene Nacht, Du Liebesnacht, O stille das Verlangen, suesser als der Tag uns lacht ist diese Liebesnacht .....", very often at home. :-)

Sep. 13 2011 04:15 AM

Well, if she can pull off "The Debt", my money says she can do a MEEEAN Eléazar in "La Juive." Maybe she could play both Eléazar AND Rachel, so she could sing to herself "Helen Mirren! quand du Seigneur!"

Sep. 12 2011 10:28 PM
Devon Estes from Brooklyn, NY

Marschallin - yes. Dido - hell yes. Emilia - OMG yes. But nothing makes me happier than Helen Mirren playing Apollinaire's madcap man/woman in Tiresias. "Cher public: faites des enfants!"

Sep. 12 2011 08:04 PM

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