Separating the Men from the Boys

Who wears the pants in this opera?
By Mark Kanny
Thursday, November 11, 2004
Perhaps the most novel aspect of Pittsburgh Opera’s upcoming production of “The Marriage of Figaro” will be Michael Maniaci’s portrayal of Cherubino — the ebullient teenager who has fallen in love with love. It is a classic “trouser role” — a male character intended to be sung by a woman.
While it might be argued that Mozart’s choice of soprano for the teen was meant to suggest his voice hadn’t changed, trouser roles are created for musical reasons. Richard Strauss assigns the young man Octavian to be sung by a woman because he adored women’s voices and wanted to write a trio for women’s voices. There’s not really a gender identity question for either Octavian or Cherubino — both are young men who love women but sing awfully high for a guy.
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