Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Music


School of Music

First Advisor

Stephen Lias

Second Advisor

Scott LaGraff

Third Advisor

Jamie Weaver

Fourth Advisor

Juan Urena


The music of female characters in the great masterpieces of opera often demonstrates resistance to and undermines the abuse they have historically received in opera plots. The Mexican folktale that my opera, The Tragedy of La Llorona, draws inspiration from plays on many of the same tropes historically found in female characters in opera including madness, sexuality, and lack of agency. This led to research into the portrayal of women in opera as part of my pre-compositional process and my desire to access this tale free from the traditional 'marianismo' and 'machismo' narratives it is associated with and which are found in many operas. This is demonstrated through a brief historical overview of the portrayal of women in opera including the scholarly work of influential musicologists on the subject such as Susan McClary. The primary justification for my claim, however, is direct musical analysis of excerpts from three operas with prominent female characters (Desdemona, Sieglinde/Brünnhilde, Mélisande) that were as well influential to the development of my opera. The central claim that the music of female characters resists being cast aside in opera plots was born out of the process of creating the characters for my own opera. The ultimate goal of this paper, therefore, is to give a more intimate understanding of my opera by surveying important musical and literary themes and influences before presenting the work as it currently stands.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



Tell us how this article helped you.


To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.