A Gesamtkunstwerk is a work of art that makes use of all or many art forms or strives to do so. The term is a German word; the term was first used by the German writer and philosopher K. F. E. Trahndorff in an essay in 1827; the German opera composer Richard Wagner used the term in two 1849 essays, the word has become associated with his aesthetic ideals. It is unclear. In the twentieth century, some writers applied the term to some forms of architecture, while others have applied it to film and mass media; some elements of opera, seeking a more "classical" formula, had begun at the end of the 18th century. After the lengthy domination of opera seria, the da capo aria, a movement began to advance the librettist and the composer in relation to the singers, to return the drama to a more intense and less moralistic focus; this movement, "reform opera" is associated with Christoph Willibald Gluck and Ranieri de' Calzabigi. The themes in the operas produced by Gluck's collaborations with Calzabigi continue throughout the operas of Carl Maria von Weber, until Wagner, rejecting both the Italian bel canto tradition and the French "spectacle opera", developed his union of music, theatrical effects, dance.
However these trends had developed fortuitously, rather than in response to a specific philosophy of art. Previous to Wagner, others who had expressed ideas about union of the arts, a familiar topic among German Romantics, as evidenced by the title of Trahndorff's essay, in which the word first occurred, "Aesthetics, or Theory of Philosophy of Art". Others who wrote on syntheses of the arts included Ludwig Tieck and Novalis. Carl Maria von Weber's enthusiastic review of E. T. A. Hoffmann's opera Undine admired it as'an art work complete in itself, in which partial contributions of the related and collaborating arts blend together, and, in disappearing, somehow form a new world'. Wagner used the exact term'Gesamtkunstwerk' on only two occasions, in his 1849 essays "Art and Revolution" and "The Artwork of the Future", where he speaks of his ideal of unifying all works of art via the theatre, he used in these essays many similar expressions such as'the consummate artwork of the future' and'the integrated drama', referred to'Gesamtkunst'.
Such a work of art was to be the clearest and most profound expression of folk legend, though abstracted from its nationalist particulars to a universal humanist fable. Wagner felt that the Greek tragedies of Aeschylus had been the finest examples so far of total artistic synthesis, but that this synthesis had subsequently been corrupted by Euripides. Wagner felt that during the rest of human history up to the present day the arts had drifted further and further apart, resulting in such "monstrosities" as Grand Opera. Wagner felt that such works celebrated bravura singing, sensational stage effects, meaningless plots. In "Art and Revolution" Wagner applies the term'Gesamtkunstwerk' in the context of Greek tragedy. In "The Art-Work of the Future" he uses it to apply to his own, as yet unrealised, ideal. In his extensive book Opera and Drama he takes these ideas further, describing in detail his idea of the union of opera and drama, in which the individual arts are subordinated to a common purpose.
Wagner's own opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen, its components Das Rheingold and Die Walküre represent the closest he, or anyone else, came to realising these ideals. Some architectural writers have used the term Gesamtkunstwerk to signify circumstances where an architect is responsible for the design and/or overseeing of the building's totality: shell, accessories and landscape, it is difficult to make a claim for when the notion of the Gesamtkunstwerk was first employed from the point of view of a building and its contents. It has been argued by historian Robert L. Delevoy that Art Nouveau represented an decorative trend that thus lent itself to the idea of the architectural Gesamtkunstwerk, but it is possible it was born from social theories that arose out of a fear of the rise of industrialism. However, evidence of complete interiors that typify the concept of Gesamtkunstwerk can be seen some time before the 1890s. There was an increasing trend amongst architects in the 18th and 19th centuries to control every facet of an architectural commission.
As well as being responsible for the structure they tried to extend their role to include designing every aspect of the interior work as well. This included not only the interior architectural features but was extended to the design of furniture, wallpaper, light fixtures and door-handles. Robert Adam and Augustus Welby Pugin are examples of this trend to create an overall harmonising effect which in
A leitmotif or leitmotiv is a "short recurring musical phrase" associated with a particular person, place, or idea. It is related to the musical concepts of idée fixe or motto-theme; the spelling leitmotif is an anglicization of the German Leitmotiv meaning "leading motif", or "guiding motif". A musical motif has been defined as a "short musical idea... melodic, harmonic, or rhythmic, or all three", a salient recurring figure, musical fragment or succession of notes that has some special importance in or is characteristic of a composition: "the smallest structural unit possessing thematic identity."In particular, such a motif should be "clearly identified so as to retain its identity if modified on subsequent appearances" whether such modification be in terms of rhythm, orchestration or accompaniment. It may be "combined with other leitmotifs to suggest a new dramatic condition" or development; the technique is notably associated with the operas of Richard Wagner, most his Der Ring des Nibelungen, although he was not its originator and did not employ the word in connection with his work.
Although a short melody, it can be a chord progression or a simple rhythm. Leitmotifs can help to bind a work together into a coherent whole, enable the composer to relate a story without the use of words, or to add an extra level to an present story. By association, the word has been used to mean any sort of recurring theme, in literature, or the life of a fictional character or a real person, it is sometimes used in discussion of other musical genres, such as instrumental pieces and video game music, sometimes interchangeably with the more general category of theme. The use of characteristic, recurring motifs in orchestral music can be traced back to the early seventeenth century, such as L'Orfeo by Monteverdi. In French opera of the late eighteenth century, "reminiscence motif" can be identified, which may recur at a significant juncture in the plot to establish an association with earlier events, their use, however, is not systematic. The power of the technique was exploited early in the nineteenth century by composers of Romantic opera, such as Carl Maria von Weber, where recurring themes or ideas were sometimes used in association with specific characters.
The first use of the word leitmotif in print was by the critic Friedrich Wilhelm Jähns in describing Weber's work, although this was not until 1871. Motifs figured in purely instrumental music of the Romantic period; the related idea of the musical idée fixe was coined by Hector Berlioz in reference to his Symphonie fantastique. This purely instrumental, programmatic work features a recurring melody representing the object of the artist's obsessive affection and depicting her presence in various real and imagined situations. Though not corresponding to the strict definition of leitmotiv, several of Verdi's operas feature similar thematic tunes introduced in the overtures or preludes, recurring to mark the presence of a character or to invoke a particular sentiment. In La forza del destino, the opening theme of the overture recurs whenever Leonora feels guilt or fear. In Il Trovatore, the theme of the first aria by Azucena is repeated whenever she invokes the horror of how her mother was burnt alive and the devastating revenge she attempted then.
In Don Carlo, there are at least three leitmotivs that recur across the five acts: the first is associated with the poverty and suffering from war, the second is associated with prayers around the tomb of Carlos V, the third is introduced as a duet between Don Carlo and the Marquis of Posa, thereafter accentuating sentiments of sincere friendship and loyalty. Richard Wagner is the earliest composer most associated with the concept of leitmotif, his cycle of four operas, Der Ring des Nibelungen, uses hundreds of leitmotifs related to specific characters, things, or situations. While some of these leitmotifs occur in only one of the operas, many recur throughout the entire cycle. Wagner had raised the issue of how music could best unite disparate elements of the plot of a music drama in his essay "Opera and Drama"; some controversy surrounded the use of the word in Wagner's own circle: Wagner never authorised the use of the word leitmotiv, using words such as "Grundthema", or "Motiv". His preferred name for the technique was Hauptmotiv, which he first used in 1877.
The word gained currency with the overly literal interpretations of Wagner's music by Hans von Wolzogen, who in 1876 published a Leitfaden to the Ring. In it he claimed to have isolated and named all of the recurring motifs in the cycle leading to absurdities or contradictions with Wagner's actual practice; some of the motifs he identified began to appear in the published musical scores of the operas, arousing Wagner's annoyance. In fact Wagner himself never publicly named any of his leitmotifs, preferring to emphasise their flexibility of association, role in the musical form, emotional effect; the practice of naming leitmotifs con
Rigoletto is an opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi. The Italian libretto was written by Francesco Maria Piave based on the play Le roi s'amuse by Victor Hugo. Despite serious initial problems with the Austrian censors who had control over northern Italian theatres at the time, the opera had a triumphant premiere at La Fenice in Venice on 11 March 1851, it is considered to be the first of the operatic masterpieces of Verdi's middle-to-late career. Its tragic story revolves around the licentious Duke of Mantua, his hunch-backed court jester Rigoletto, Rigoletto's beautiful daughter Gilda; the opera's original title, La maledizione, refers to a curse placed on both the Duke and Rigoletto by a courtier whose daughter the Duke has seduced with Rigoletto's encouragement. The curse comes to fruition when Gilda falls in love with the Duke and sacrifices her life to save him from the assassin hired by her father. La Fenice of Venice commissioned Verdi in 1850 to compose a new opera, he was prominent enough by this time to enjoy some freedom in choosing texts to set to music.
He asked Francesco Maria Piave to examine the play Kean by Alexandre Dumas, père, but soon came to believe that they needed to find a more energetic subject. That came. Verdi explained that "The subject is grand and there is a character, one of the greatest creations that the theatre can boast of, in any country and in all history." However, Hugo's depiction of a venal, womanizing king was considered unacceptably scandalous. The play had been banned in France following its premiere nearly twenty years earlier; as Verdi wrote in a letter to Piave: "Use four legs, run through the town and find me an influential person who can obtain the permission for making Le Roi s'amuse." Guglielmo Brenna, secretary of La Fenice, promised the duo that they would not have problems with the censors. He was wrong, rumours began to spread in early summer that the production would be forbidden. In August and Piave retired to Busseto, Verdi's hometown, to prepare a defensive scheme as they continued work on the opera.
Despite their best efforts, including frantic correspondence with La Fenice, the Austrian censor De Gorzkowski emphatically denied consent to the production of "La Maledizione" in a December 1850 letter, calling the opera "a repugnant immorality and obscene triviality." Piave set to work revising the libretto pulling from it another opera, Il Duca di Vendome, in which the sovereign was a duke and both the hunchback and the curse disappeared. Verdi was against this proposed solution, preferring to negotiate directly with the censors over each and every point of the work. Brenna, La Fenice's sympathetic secretary, mediated the dispute by showing the Austrians some letters and articles depicting the bad character, but great value, of the artist. By January 1851 the parties had settled on a compromise: the action of the opera would be moved, some of the characters would be renamed. In the new version, the Duke would belong to the Gonzaga family; the scene in which he retired to Gilda's bedroom would be deleted, his visit to the Taverna would no longer be intentional, but the result of a trick.
The hunchbacked jester was renamed Rigoletto from a parody of a comedy by Jules-Édouard Alboize de Pujol: Rigoletti, ou Le dernier des fous of 1835. By 14 January, the opera's definitive title had become Rigoletto. Verdi completed the composition on 5 February 1851, a little more than a month before the premiere. Piave had arranged for the sets to be designed while Verdi was still working on the final stages of Act 3; the singers were given some of their music to learn on 7 February. However, Verdi kept at least a third of the score at Busseto, he brought it with him when he arrived in Venice for the rehearsals on 19 February, would continue refining the orchestration throughout the rehearsal period. For the première, La Fenice had cast Felice Varesi as Rigoletto, the young tenor Raffaele Mirate as the Duke, Teresa Brambilla as Gilda. Due to a high risk of unauthorised copying, Verdi demanded extreme secrecy from all his singers and musicians Mirate: the "Duke" had the use of his score for only a few evenings before the première, was made to swear that he would not sing or whistle the tune of "La donna è mobile" except during rehearsal.
Rigoletto premiered on 11 March 1851 in a sold-out La Fenice as the first part of a double bill with Giacomo Panizza's ballet Faust. Gaetano Mares conducted, the sets were designed and executed by Giuseppe Bertoja and Francesco Bagnara; the opening night was a complete triumph the scena drammatica and the Duke's cynical aria, "La donna è mobile", sung in the streets the next morning. Many years Giulia Cora Varesi, the daughter of Felice Varesi (th
In musical terminology, tempo is the speed or pace of a given piece. In classical music, tempo is indicated with an instruction at the start of a piece and is measured in beats per minute. In modern classical compositions, a "metronome mark" in beats per minute may supplement or replace the normal tempo marking, while in modern genres like electronic dance music, tempo will simply be stated in bpm. Tempo may be separated from articulation and meter, or these aspects may be indicated along with tempo, all contributing to the overall texture. While the ability to hold a steady tempo is a vital skill for a musical performer, tempo is changeable. Depending on the genre of a piece of music and the performers' interpretation, a piece may be played with slight tempo rubato or drastic accelerando. In ensembles, the tempo is indicated by a conductor or by one of the instrumentalists, for instance the drummer. While tempo is described or indicated in many different ways, including with a range of words, it is measured in beats per minute.
For example, a tempo of 60 beats per minute signifies one beat per second, while a tempo of 120 beats per minute is twice as rapid, signifying one beat every 0.5 seconds. The note value of a beat will be that indicated by the denominator of the time signature. For instance, in 44 the beat will be a crotchet; this measurement and indication of tempo became popular during the first half of the 19th century, after Johann Nepomuk Maelzel invented the metronome. Beethoven was one of the first composers to use the metronome. Instead of beats per minute, some 20th-century classical composers specify the total playing time for a piece, from which the performer can derive tempo. With the advent of modern electronics, bpm became an precise measure. Music sequencers use the bpm system to denote tempo. In popular music genres such as electronic dance music, accurate knowledge of a tune's bpm is important to DJs for the purposes of beatmatching; the speed of a piece of music can be gauged according to measures per minute or bars per minute, the number of measures of the piece performed in one minute.
This measure is used in ballroom dance music. In different musical contexts, different instrumental musicians, conductors, music directors or other individuals will select the tempo of a song or piece. In a popular music or traditional music group or band, the bandleader or lead singer may select the tempo. In popular and traditional music, whoever is setting the tempo counts out one or two bars in tempo. In some songs or pieces in which a singer or solo instrumentalist begins the work with a solo introduction, the tempo they set will provide the tempo for the group. In an orchestra or concert band, the conductor sets the tempo. In a marching band, the drum major may set the tempo. In a sound recording, in some cases a record producer may set the tempo for a song. In classical music it is customary to describe the tempo of a piece by one or more words, most in Italian, in addition to or instead of a metronome mark in beats per minute. Italian is used because it was the language of most composers during the time these descriptions became commonplace.
Some well-known Italian tempo indications include "Allegro", "Andante" and "Presto". This practice developed during the baroque and classical periods. In the earlier Renaissance music, performers understood most music to flow at a tempo defined by the tactus; the mensural time signature indicated. In the Baroque period, pieces would be given an indication, which might be a tempo marking, or the name of a dance, the latter being an indication both of tempo and of metre. Any musician of the time was expected to know how to interpret these markings based on custom and experience. In some cases, these markings were omitted. For example, the first movement of Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 has no tempo or mood indication whatsoever. Despite the increasing number of explicit tempo markings, musicians still observe conventions, expecting a minuet to be at a stately tempo, slower than a Viennese waltz. Genres imply tempos. Thus, Ludwig van Beethoven wrote "In tempo d'un Menuetto" over the first movement of his Piano Sonata Op. 54, though that movement is not a minuet.
Many tempo markings indicate mood and expression. For example and allegro both indicate a speedy execution, but allegro connotes joy. Presto, on the other hand indicates speed. Additional Italian words indicate tempo and mood. For example, the "agitato" in the Allegro agitato of the last movement of George Gershwin's piano concerto in F has both a tempo indication and a mood indication. Composers name movements of compositions after their tempo marking. For instance, the second movement of Samuel Barber's first String Quartet is an Adagio. A particular musical form or genre implies its own tempo, so composers need place no further explanation in the score. Popular music charts use terms such as bossa nova, ballad
Travesti is a theatrical term referring to the portrayal of a character in an opera, play, or ballet by a performer of the opposite sex. Depending on sources, the term may be given as travesti, or en travesti; the Oxford Essential Dictionary of Foreign Terms in English explains the origin of the latter term as "pseudo-French", although French sources from the mid-19th century have used the term, e.g. Bibliothèque musicale du Théâtre de l'opéra, La revue des deux mondes, have continued the practice into the 21st century. For social reasons, female roles were played by boys or men in many early forms of theatre, travesti roles continued to be used in several types of context after actresses became accepted on the stage; the popular British theatrical form of the pantomime traditionally contains a role for a "principal boy", a breeches role played by a young woman, one or more pantomime dames, female comic roles played by men. In the popular genre of Victorian burlesque, there were one or more breeches roles.
Until the late 17th century in England and the early 19th century in the Papal States—although not elsewhere in Europe—women were conventionally portrayed by male actors in drag because the presence of actual women on stage was considered immoral. As a boy player, Alexander Cooke is thought to have created many of Shakespeare's principal female roles, as well as Agrippina in Ben Jonson's Sejanus His Fall. With the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, women began to appear on the English stage, although some female roles continued to be played by boys and young men, including romantic leads. Edward Kynaston, whose roles included the title role in Ben Jonson's Epicoene and Evadne in Beaumont and Fletcher's The Maid's Tragedy, was one of the last of the era's boy players. London's Shakespeare's Globe theatre, a modern reconstruction of the original Globe Theatre, continues the practice of casting men in female Shakespearean roles. Toby Cockerell played Katherine of France in the theatre's opening production of Henry V in 1997, while Mark Rylance played Cleopatra in the 1999 production of Antony and Cleopatra.
Travesti roles for men are still to be found in British pantomime, where there is at least one humorous female character traditionally played by a male actor, the pantomime dame. Castrati, adult males with a female singing voice, appeared in the earliest operas – in female roles. In the first performance of Monteverdi's Orfeo in 1607 the roles of Eurydice and Proserpina were both sung by castrati. However, by 1680 the castrati had become the predominant singers for leading male roles as well; the use of castrati for both male and female roles was strong in the Papal States, where women were forbidden from public stage performances until the 19th century. An exception to this practice was in 17th and 18th century French opera where it was traditional to use uncastrated male voices both for the hero and for malevolent female divinities and spirits. In Lully's 1686 opera Armide the hero was sung by a haute-contre while the female spirit of hatred was sung by a tenor. In Rameau's 1733 Hippolyte et Aricie, the hero was sung by an haute-contre, while the roles of the three Fates and Tisiphone were scored for basses and tenors.
The remaining female roles in both operas were sung by women. The title role of the vain but ugly marsh nymph in Rameau's Platée is for an haute-contre. Female roles in opera sung by men can still be found; the role of the witch in Humperdinck's 1890 opera Hänsel und Gretel was written for a mezzo-soprano, but was sung by the tenor Philip Langridge in the Metropolitan Opera's 2009 production directed by Richard Jones. Azio Corghi's 2005 opera Il dissoluto assolto, which incorporates story elements from Mozart's Don Giovanni, casts a counter-tenor in the role of the mannequin of Donna Elvira; the portrayal of women by male dancers was common in Renaissance court ballet and has continued into more modern times, although restricted to comic or malevolent female characters. The use of male dancers for all the female roles in a ballet persisted well into the 18th century in the Papal States, when women dancers had long been taking these roles elsewhere in Italy. Abbé Jérôme Richard who travelled to Rome in 1762 wrote: "Female Dancers are not permitted on the stages in Rome.
They substitute for them boys dressed as women and there is a police ordinance that decreed they wear black bloomers." Another French traveller that year, Joseph-Thomas, comte d'Espinchal, asked himself: "What impression can one have of ballet in which the prima ballerina is a young man in disguise with artificial feminine curves?"In the original production of The Sleeping Beauty in 1890, a male dancer, Enrico Cecchetti, created the role of the evil fairy Carabosse, although the role has subsequently been danced by both men and women. In Frederick Ashton's 1948 choreography of Cinderella, Robert Helpmann and Ashton himself danced the roles of the two stepsisters. Ben Stevenson continued the practice of casting male dancers as the stepsisters in his own choreography of the ballet. Other female ballet characters traditionally performed by male dancers are Old Madge, the village sorceress in La Sylphide and the Widow Simone in La fille mal gardée. With the Restoration of Charles II in 1660 women started appearing on the English stage, both in the female roles that in Shakespeare's day had been portrayed by men and boys, in male roles.
It has been estimated that of the 375 plays produced in London between 1660 and 1700, nearly a quarter contained one or
An opera house is a theatre building used for opera performances that consists of a stage, an orchestra pit, audience seating, backstage facilities for costumes and set building. While some venues are constructed for operas, other opera houses are part of larger performing arts centers. Indeed the term opera house itself is used as a term of prestige for any large performing-arts center; the first public opera house was the Teatro San Cassiano in Venice, opened in 1637. Italy is a country where opera has been popular through the centuries among ordinary people as well as wealthy patrons and it continues to have a large number of working opera houses such as Teatro Massimo in Palermo, Teatro di San Carlo in Naples and Teatro La Scala in Milan. In contrast, there was no opera house in London when Henry Purcell was composing and the first opera house in Germany was built in Hamburg in 1678. In the 17th and 18th centuries, opera houses were financed by rulers and wealthy people who used patronage of the arts to endorse their political ambition and social position.
With the rise of bourgeois and capitalist social forms in the 19th century, European culture moved away from its patronage system to a publicly supported system. Early United States opera houses served a variety of functions in towns and cities, hosting community dances, fairs and vaudeville shows as well as operas and other musical events. In the 2000s, most opera and theatre companies are supported by funds from a combination of government and institutional grants, ticket sales, private donations; the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, opened in 1737, introduced the horseshoe-shaped auditorium, the oldest in the world, a model for the Italian theater. On this model were built subsequent theaters in Italy and Europe, among others, the court theater of the Palace of Caserta, which became the model for other theaters. Given the popularity of opera in 18th and 19th century Europe, opera houses are large containing more than 1,000 seats. Traditionally, Europe's major opera houses built in the 19th century contained between about 1,500 to 3,000 seats, examples being Brussels' La Monnaie, Odessa Opera and Ballet Theater, Warsaw's Grand Theatre, Paris' Palais Garnier, the Royal Opera House in London and the Vienna State Opera.
Modern opera houses of the 20th century such as New York's Metropolitan Opera House and the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco are larger. Many operas are better suited to being presented in smaller theaters, such as Venice's La Fenice with about 1,000 seats. In a traditional opera house, the auditorium is U-shaped, with the length of the sides determining the audience capacity. Around this are tiers of balconies, nearer to the stage, are boxes. Since the latter part of the 19th century, opera houses have an orchestra pit, where a large number of orchestra players may be seated at a level below the audience, so that they can play without overwhelming the singing voices; this is true of Wagner's Bayreuth Festspielhaus where the pit is covered. The size of an opera orchestra varies, but for some operas and other works, it may be large. An opera may have a large cast of characters, chorus and supernumeraries. Therefore, a major opera house will have extensive dressing room facilities. Opera houses have on-premises set and costume building shops and facilities for storage of costumes, make-up, stage properties, may have rehearsal spaces.
Major opera houses throughout the world have mechanized stages, with large stage elevators permitting heavy sets to be changed rapidly. At the Metropolitan Opera, for instance, sets are changed during the action, as the audience watches, with singers rising or descending as they sing; this occurs in Tales of Hoffman. London's Royal Opera House, remodeled in the late 1990s, retained the original 1858 auditorium at its core, but added new backstage and wing spaces as well as an additional performance space and public areas. Much the same happened in the remodeling of Milan's La Scala opera house between 2002 and 2004. Although stage and other production aspects of opera houses make use of the latest technology, traditional opera houses have not used sound reinforcement systems with microphones and loudspeakers to amplify the singers, since trained opera singers are able to project their unamplified voices in the hall. Since the 1990s, some opera houses have begun using a subtle form of sound reinforcement called acoustic enhancement.
Operas are presented in their original languages, which may be different from the first language of the audience. For example, a Wagnerian opera presented in London may be in German. Therefore, since the 1980s modern opera houses have assisted the audience by providing translated supertitles, projections of the words above or near to the stage. More electronic libretto systems have begun to be used in some opera houses, including New York's Metropolitan Opera, Milan's La Scala, the Crosby Theatre of The Santa Fe Opera, which provide two lines of text on individual screens attached to the backs of the seats so as to not interfere with the visual aspects of the performance. A subtle type of sound reinforcement called acoustic enhancement is used in some opera hou
A breeches role is a role in which an actress appears in male clothing. Breeches, tight-fitting knee-length pants, were the standard male garment at the time breeches roles were introduced. In opera it refers to any male character, sung and acted by a female singer. Most the character is an adolescent or a young man, sung by a mezzo-soprano or contralto; the operatic concept assumes that the character is male, the audience accepts him as such knowing that the actor is not. Cross-dressing female characters are not considered breeches roles; the most performed breeches roles are Cherubino, Octavian and Orpheus, though the latter was written for a male singer, first a castrato and in the revised French version, an haute-contre. Because non-musical stage plays have no requirements for vocal range, they do not contain breeches roles in the same sense as opera; some plays do have male roles that were written for adult female actors, are played by women. However, in most cases, the choice of a female actor to play a male character is made at the production level.
When a play is spoken of as "containing" a breeches role, this does mean a role where a female character pretends to be a man and uses male clothing as a disguise. When the London theatres re-opened in 1660, the first professional actresses appeared on the public stage, replacing the boys in dresses of the Shakespeare era. To see real women speak the risqué dialogue of Restoration comedy and show off their bodies on stage was a great novelty, soon the greater sensation was introduced of women wearing male clothes on stage. Out of some 375 plays produced on the London stage between 1660 and 1700, it has been calculated that 89, nearly a quarter, contained one or more roles for actresses in male clothes; every Restoration actress appeared in trousers at some time, breeches roles would be inserted gratuitously in revivals of older plays. Some critics, such as Jacqueline Pearson, have argued that these cross-dressing roles subvert conventional gender roles by allowing women to imitate the roistering and sexually aggressive behaviour of male Restoration rakes, but Elizabeth Howe has objected in a detailed study that the male disguise was "little more than yet another means of displaying the actress as a sexual object".
The epilogue to Thomas Southerne's Sir Anthony Love suggests that it does not much matter if the play is dull, as long as the audience can glimpse the legs of the famous "breeches" actress Susanna Mountfort: You'll hear with Patience a dull Scene, to see, In a contented lazy waggery, The Female Mountford bare above the knee. Katharine Eisaman Maus argues that as well as revealing the female legs and buttocks, the breeches role contained a revelation scene where the character not only unpins her hair but as reveals a breast as well; this is evidenced in the portraits of many of these actresses of the Restoration. Breeches roles remained an attraction on the British stage for centuries, but their fascination declined as the difference in real-life male and female clothing became less extreme, they are traditional for the principal boy in pantomime. The list of roles that are considered to be breeches roles is changing, depending on the tastes of the opera-going public. In early Italian opera, many leading operatic roles were assigned to a castrato, a male castrated before puberty with a strong and high voice.
As the practice of castrating boy singers faded, composers created heroic male roles in the mezzo-soprano range, where singers such as Marietta Alboni and Rosamunda Pisaroni specialised in such roles. Many castrato roles are being reclaimed by men; as the training and use of countertenors becomes more common, there are more men with these high voices to sing these roles. Casting directors are left with choices such as whether to cast the young Prince Orlofsky in Johann Strauss II's Die Fledermaus for a woman or man; when played by a mezzo, the prince sounds like a boy. When played by a counter-tenor, he sings like a woman; this disparity is made clearer if, as in this case, there is spoken dialogue. The term Travesty applies to any roles sung by the opposite sex. A related term is a skirt role, a female character to be played by a male singer for comic or visual effect; these roles are ugly stepsisters or old women, are not as common as trouser roles. As women were not allowed to sing on stage in the Papal States during the Baroque period, many female operatic roles which premiered in those areas were written as skirt roles for castrati.
Britten's Madwoman in Curlew River and the Cook in Prokofiev's The Love for Three Oranges are examples. The role of the witch in Humperdinck's Hänsel und Gretel, although written for a mezzo-soprano is now more sung by a tenor, who sings the part an octave lower. In the same opera the "male" roles of Hänsel, the Sandman, the Dewman are however meant to be sung by women. Operas with breeches roles include: Adès's The Tempest: "Ariel