Feminism and the Ring

Tuesday, March 30 at 5:30pm PT on Zoom
On-demand recording available to ticket holders 24 hours after airing






Richard Wagner was no feminist. And yet he wrote such strong female characters in the Ring, from the earth goddess Erda and Wotan's wife, Fricka, to Brünnhilde, the true hero of the story.


Director Francesca Zambello and mezzo-sopranos Jamie Barton (Fricka, Second Norn, and Waltraute, 2018) and Ronnita Miller (Erda and First Norn, 2018) join author and professor in Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan Naomi André for a conversation about the complexity of female characters in Wagner’s Ring cycle and the power of women to heal destruction.

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Francesca Zambello is an internationally recognized director of opera and theater

About Francesca Zambello

FRANCESCA ZAMBELLO is an internationally recognized director of opera and theater, as well as General Director of the Glimmerglass Festival since 2010 and Artistic Director of Washington National Opera at the Kennedy Center since 2012. Both organizations have thrived artistically and financially while increasing their national and international profiles as a result of her vision and leadership. She also served as the Artistic Advisor to the San Francisco Opera from 2005-2011 and as the Artistic Director of the Skylight Theater from 1987-1992.

Her U.S. directing debut took place at the Houston Grand Opera with a production of Fidelio. She debuted in Europe at Teatro la Fenice in Venice with Beatrice di Tenda and has since staged new productions at major theaters and opera houses in Europe, Asia, Australia, Russia and the USA. She has worked at over fifty international opera houses including the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Paris Opera, Bolshoi, Munich State Opera, Covent Garden and Opera Australia. 

She has been named a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French government, a Knight with the Order of the Star of Italy and received the Russian Federation’s Arts Medal, all for her service to culture. Other honors include three Olivier Awards from the London Society of Theatres and two Evening Standard Awards, and she has twice received the French Grand Prix des Critiques for her work at the Paris Opera. She also received the Medallion Society Award from San Francisco Opera, recognizing 30 years’ work for the company.

An American who grew up in Europe, Ms. Zambello speaks French, Italian, German, and Russian. She attended Moscow University in 1976 and graduated cum laude from Colgate University in 1978. She has served as an adjunct professor at Yale University. Zambello lives in New York City and Cooperstown, NY with her wife, Faith Gay, a founding partner at Selendy and Gay, and son, Jackson.

About Jamie Barton

Critically acclaimed by virtually every major outlet covering classical music, American mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton is increasingly recognized for how she uses her powerful instrument offstagelifting up women, queer people, and other marginalized communities.

In recognition of her iconic performance at the Last Night of the Proms, Ms. Barton was named 2020 Personality of the Year at the BBC Music Magazine Awards. She was the winner of the Beverly Sills Artist Award and Richard Tucker Award, both Main and Song Prizes at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition, Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and a Grammy nominee.

Barton made her San Francisco Opera debut in 2014 as Adalgisa in Norma and recently took on Fricka, Waltraute, and Second Norn in the Ring cycle, as well as making her role debut as Sara in Roberto Devereux. This season, she appears as Eboli in Don Carlo at Dallas Opera and as Julia Child in a film version of Bon Appétit! with Houston Grand Opera, Austin Opera, and Opera Philadelphia. She debuts with Dallas Symphony Orchestra in a program of Verdi favorites and joins soprano Angela Meade for a duo recital at Settle Opera. Ms. Barton also releases a new album, Unexpected Shadows, with composer and pianist Jake Heggie on the Pentatone label.

About Ronnita Miller

Mezzo-soprano Ronnita Miller made her San Francisco Opera debut as Erda and the First Norn in the 2011 Ring cycle and reprised those roles in 2018. As a former member of the ensemble at Deutsche Oper Berlin, she has performed there as Erda and First Norn, Marthe in Faust, Madelon in Andrea Chénier, Fenena in Nabucco, Mamma Lucia in Cavalleria Rusticana, Ulrica in Un Ballo in Maschera, among other roles. Recent career highlights include Erda with the Semperoper Dresden and conductor Christian Thielemann; Amando in Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre with the London Symphony Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic, and conductor Simon Rattle; Fricka in Die Walküre with the Odense Symphony Orchestra and conductor Alexander Vedernikov; Mary in Der Fliegende Höllander at Chicago’s Ravinia Festival and Los Angeles Opera; Mistress Quickly in Falstaff with Los Angeles Opera; and Mamma Lucia in Cavalleria Rusticana with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Riccardo Muti.

About Naomi André

Naomi André is Professor in the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, and the Residential College at the University of Michigan. She received her B.A. from Barnard College and M.A. and Ph.D. (Music: Musicology) from Harvard University. Her research focuses on opera and issues surrounding gender, voice, and race in the US, Europe, and South Africa. Her publications include topics on Italian opera, Schoenberg, women composers, and teaching opera in prisons. Her book, Black Opera: History, Power, Engagement (University of Illinois Press, 2018), won the Lowens Book Award from the Society for American Music and Judy Tsou Critical Race Studies Award from the American Musicological Society. Her earlier books include Voicing Gender: Castrati, Travesti, and the Second Woman in Early Nineteenth-Century Italian Opera (2006) and Blackness in Opera (2012, co-edited collection). She has edited and contributed to clusters of articles in African Studies and the Journal of the Society for American Music. Currently she is a co-editor for the essay collection African Performance Arts and Political Acts (University of Michigan Press, forthcoming in 2022). She is the inaugural Scholar in Residence at the Seattle Opera and a founding member of the Black Opera Research Network (BORN).


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