Confessions Of An Operaholic

5 Operas That Are Truly Bloodier Than 'True Blood'

A scene from Puccini's "Tosca" i

A scene from Puccini's "Tosca" Johannes Simon/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Johannes Simon/Getty Images
A scene from Puccini's "Tosca"

A scene from Puccini's "Tosca"

Johannes Simon/Getty Images

Hundreds of thousands — maybe gazillions — of fans of True Blood might be feeling a little anemic right about now, what with season three of the wildly popular HBO show having wrapped up last Sunday.

Where oh where will they get their fix?

I can't really include myself in the True Blood fan club (I've only watched a few episodes here and there), but my friend Latoya is. She's actually more of a True Blood sophist. She writes about it with equal parts acumen and abandon at her blog Racialicious.

But, as I explained to her recently, True Blood-ites might continue to get their fix of backstabbing and bloodletting (both figuratively and literally) by merely jumping genres… to opera.

Yes, OPERA. For me at least, the over-the-topness of opera's psycho-sexual-violence is exactly why I also like True Blood.

Below is a list of five operas that might just make the adventures of Sookie, Bill, Eric, Tara and Lafayette, seem like a soothing Sunday in the park.

You opera fanatics, no doubt, can come up with a few more suggestions for us. Please leave them in the comments section below.

Bluebeard's Castle (Bela Bartok): This may be the most blood-soaked opera of all. It's not that you see so much blood; you just feel the dank stench of it all around you. Duke Bluebeard is no vampire, but he sure knows how to "attract the ladies." His grisly routine: marry women, then murder them. To his latest victim, Judith, he gradually reveals some of the finer points of his dark, gothic mansion, the walls of which even ooze red with blood. There's an armory, a lake of tears, and finally a room with ghostly visages of his former three wives. In the excerpt below, Judith freaks when finds his torture chamber behind a creepy door.

Judith discovers Bluebeard's torture chamber (Jessye Norman and Lazlo Polgar)


Lucrezia Borgia (Gaetano Donizetti): OK, so the infamous Italian noblewoman (who's far from noble), doesn't quite have the wherewithal to literally "cement" someone's future, like Bill did with Russell last Sunday [language advisory]

However, she is heinously handy with her tinctures of poison. She has already offed two husbands before the curtain even rises on this opera, and by its end, as an adroit poisoning maximalist, she kills off not one or two, but an entire crowded ballroom of partiers. Including her own son. Oops.

Lucrezia poisons her own son and a roomfull of partiers (Monserrat Caballe & Alfredo Kraus)


Dialogues of the Carmelites: (Francis Poulenc) Let's face it, even True Blood creator Alan Ball knows, deep down, that beheading, in polite society, is often frowned upon. But there's nothing polite about the society depicted in Poulenc's psycho-thriller. It's set during the French Revolution at a backbiting nunnery. And the final scene below depicts, with startling musical onomatopoeia, the kuh-CHUNK of the guillotine, as it drops on the necks of the sisters, processing in a long line to the scaffold while singing a peppy "Salve Regina."

Nuns guillotined at the scaffold (Kent Nagano, cond.)


Lulu (Alban Berg) Lulu, like Sookie, is kind of sexually confused, and kind of a mess. Everyone seems to want a piece of her. There's the painter, who slits his own throat out of frustration. There's Dr. Schoen who marries her but gets gunned down by her in act two. And there's the lesbian countess, the composer, the schoolboy, and the acrobat, who tries to blackmail her. And finally, as you can hear below, there's Jack the Ripper, who, disguised as one of Lulu's sexual "clients," murders her in her room, and for good measure also the countess on his way out.

Lulu is murdered by Jack the Ripper (Constance Hauman and Monte Jaffe)


Tosca (Giacomo Puccini): Tosca has been slammed as a "shabby little shocker," a label that also seems appropriate for True Blood. Both kind of tacky at times, and certainly brazenfaced about going for the gratuitous when it comes to sex and violence. In Tosca's scant 100 minutes, we have stabbing, a firing squad and a spectacular suicide — as a kind of over-sugary icing on the cheap sheet cake. Here, at the end of act two, Tosca stabs the malevolent chief of police, mocking him, screaming at him to die by choking on his own blood — at the hands of a woman.

Tosca stabs Scarpia (Maria Callas and Tito Gobbi)




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