Hypothetical operas: The 2016 Presidential Election

Hypothetical operas: The 2016 Presidential Election

Jenna Simeonov

It’s almost operatic, this 2016 Presidential Election? Operatic yes; it’s a spectacle, gigantic in size, and there’s a confusing mix of dramatic tension, polarising characters, and of course, tragedy. Canadian tenor and CBC Radio host Ben Heppner also heard the operatic strains in the words of one Donald Trump, and paid hilarious homage by singing some of his most quotable quotes in The Trumpera (including one brilliantly translated into German).

So, to expand upon The Trumpera, we figured we’d offer up a hypothetical cast of characters, and reap the comic rewards of the vocal Fach system.

Donald Trump

Trump would be a buffo bass role, clearly. Blustering, bumbling and woofy, his lines would be meaningless patter in the style of Rossini. His lines would overlap those of all other characters’, interrupting in that charming way, and rambling on long after anything of possible meaning had been said.

The opportunities for leitmotif are rich in Opera Trump. There would be a “crooked Hillary” motif, a “Make America Great Again” motif (probably accompanied by a trombone with a plunger in it) and maybe even a serialism-style pitch set aside for every time he says the word “I”.

Mike Pence

If there were ever a time to cast a comprimario tenor, it would be in the role of Trump’s new running mate, Mike Pence. Except this tenor would have to work very hard to quell any sense of personality or charisma, not an easy ask for a great comprimario. His lines would be meaningless aping of Trump’s words, and they’d all be delivered with that pained look that combines confusion, constipation, and mild embarrassment.

On second thought, maybe Pence should just be a mute role. Like Toby in The Medium, but much less interesting.

Hillary Clinton

The obvious choice would be to cast Hillary as an Agnes Baltsa-style mezzo-soprano. A strong woman in a man’s world, maintaining a well-modulated voice when she speaks, so as not to give the impression that she’s hysterical, or a bitch, or any other weird double-standard phrase hurled at women in politics.

But really, what could be a better operatic homage to Hillary than to cast her as a countertenor? Like a reverse pants role, where a man plays a woman - a pants-suit role?

Barack Obama

Now, entertain for a moment that current President Obama, in operatic form, would be a tenor. Not like a Rossini tenor or Heldentenor, but a Jerry Hadley-type, something clear and tangible. Even a Peter Pears-type, in that narrative form like the Male Chorus in The Rape of Lucretia or Captain Vere in Billy Budd.

But really, he’s a baritone, right? The charisma, the beauty that comes from a man musing his voice in an ultra-efficient way without screaming at the top of his lungs…operaphiles (read: we) love this. Obama would make a great Verdi baritone, but we can also picture him singing something like Wolfram’s aria from TannhaĆ¼ser, like a benevolent outsider, both hoping for something non-tragic to happen in November 2016, and looking forward to freedom from the White House.

Readers, what does the election opera sound like to you? Let us know in the comments below!

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