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Encyclopedia > Breeches role

A breeches role (also pants role or trouser role) is a role in which an actress appears in male clothes (breeches being tight-fitting knee-length pants, the standard male garment at the time breeches roles were introduced). It can also refer, in opera, to any male character in the opera that is sung and acted by a female singer — in the case of a woman playing the role of a young man, the part is often filled by a mezzo soprano. Actors in period costume sharing a joke whilst waiting between takes during location filming. ... (See also List of types of clothing) Introduction Humans often wear articles of clothing (also known as dress, garments or attire) on the body (for the alternative, see nudity). ... Trousers are now acceptable clothing for men or women. ... The foyer of Charles Garniers Opéra, Paris, opened 1875 Opera is an art form consisting of a dramatic stage performance set to music. ... A mezzo-soprano (meaning half soprano in Italian) is a female singer with a range usually extending from the A flat below middle C to the A flat two octaves above. ...


The operatic concept of the breeches role assumes that the character is male, and the audience accepts him as such, even knowing that the actor is not. By contrast, a female opera character who dresses in male clothing to deceive other characters — that is, who plays a woman pretending to be a man — is not considered a breeches role.


Because non-musical stage plays generally have no requirements for vocal range, they do not usually contain breeches roles in the same sense as opera. Some plays do have male roles that were written for adult female actors, and (for other practical reasons) are usually played by women (e.g. Peter Pan); these could be considered modern-era breeches roles. However, in most cases, the choice of a female actor to play a male character is made at the production level; Hamlet is not a breeches role, but Sarah Bernhardt once played Hamlet as a breeches role. 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, the reverse of its usage in opera. Statue of Peter Pan in St. ... The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark is a tragedy by William Shakespeare and one of his most well-known and oft-quoted plays. ... Sarah Bernhardt (portrait by Nadar) Sarah Bernhardt (October 22, 1844 – March 26, 1923) was a French stage actress. ...


History

When the London theatres re-opened in 1660, the first professional actresses appeared on the public stage, replacing the Shakespeare era's boys in dresses. To see real women speak the risqué dialogue of Restoration comedy and show off their bodies on stage was a great novelty, and soon the even 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. Practically every Restoration actress appeared in trousers at some time, and breeches roles would even be inserted gratuitously in revivals of older plays. William Shakespeare—born April 1564; baptised April 26, 1564; died April 23, 1616 (O.S.), May 3, 1616 (N.S.)—has a reputation as the greatest of all writers in English. ... Refinement meets burlesque in Restoration comedy. ...


The most common kind of breeches role in the 17th century is one where a woman character puts on male disguise in order to overcome some obstacle to marrying her lover. (16th century - 17th century - 18th century - more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 17th century was that century which lasted from 1601-1700. ... Deception is providing intentionally misleading information to others. ...


Some critics, for example 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 discovery of the character's real gender on stage often involved a discovery of her breasts, and there are many references in prologues and diaries of the period to the fascination of seeing the actress' buttocks, hips, and legs, normally hidden by a skirt, outlined by the male outfit. The epilogue to Thomas Southerne's Sir Anthony Love (1690) suggests that it doesn't much matter if the play is dull, as long as it offers a view of the famous breeches actress Susanna Mountfort's (aka Susanna Verbruggen) legs: This articles is about cross-dressing in general, that is the act of wearing the clothing of another gender for any reason. ... A bagpiper in military uniform. ... Rake is a kind of mobile signal receiver. ... Thomas Southerne (1660 - May 22, 1746), English dramatist, was born at Oxmantown, near Dublin, in 1660, and entered Trinity College in 1676. ... Susanna Verbruggen (c. ...

You'l hear with Patience a dull Scene, to see,
In a contented lazy waggery,
The Female Mountford bare above the knee.

Breeches roles remained an attraction on the British stage for centuries, but their fascination gradually declined as the difference in real-life male and female clothing became less extreme. They played a part in burlesque, and are traditional for the principal boy in pantomime. Burlesque was originally a form of art that mocked by imitation, referring to everything from comic sketches to dance routines and usually lampooning the social attitudes of upper classes. ... In pantomime, the principal boy role is the young male protagonist of the play, traditionally played by a young actress in boys clothes. ... Pantomime may refer to two different types of performing arts. ...


Opera

Historically, the list of roles that is considered to be breeches roles is constantly changing, depending on the tastes of the opera-going public and the choices of the opera director. In early Italian opera, many leading operatic roles were assigned to a castrato, a male with a very strong and high voice. These roles were to be played by men. As the practice of castrating boy singers faded, the roles drifted into the trouser mezzo-soprano arena, for only women were trained to sing that high. (See Xerxes below.) A castrato is a male soprano, mezzo-soprano, or alto voice produced by castration of the singer before puberty. ...


Currently, many of these roles are being reclaimed by men. As the training and use of counter-tenors becomes more common, there are more men with these very high voices to sing these roles. (They are not as powerful as a castrato, but they are not castrated either.) Some composers, like Benjamin Britten, have begun writing roles for counter-tenors. Oberon in Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream is a great example, but many mezzos have sung this role also, making it also a trouser role. A Countertenor is an adult male singer who uses the falsetto part of his voice more than usual to sing a higher range than the typical adult male voice. ... Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten of Aldeburgh (November 22, 1913 – December 4, 1976) was a British composer and pianist. ... Benjamin Brittens A Midsummer Nights Dream is an opera based on the play of the same name by Shakespeare. ...


Casting directors are left with odd choices. Consider the role of the young Prince Orlofsky, in Die Fledermaus. Both men and women commonly sing the role. When played by a mezzo, the prince looks like a woman, but sounds like a boy. When played by a counter-tenor, he looks like a man, but sings like a woman. This disparity is made even clearer if, as in this case, there is also spoken dialoge. Scene from the 1984 version. ...


There is a closely related term called a skirt role. This is a female character to be played by a male singer, usually for comic or visual effect. These roles are often ugly step-sisters or very old women, and are not as common as trouser roles. Britten's Madwomen in Curlew River and the witch in Hansel und Gretel are examples. Curlew River - A Parable for Church Performance (Op. ... Hansel und Gretel is an opera by Engelbert Humperdinck (Humperdinck himself described it as a fairy opera. ...


Operas with breeches roles include:

Portrait of Berlioz by Signol, 1832 Louis Hector Berlioz (December 11, 1803 – March 8, 1869) was a French Romantic composer best known for the Symphonie fantastique, first performed in 1830, and for his Grande Messe des morts (Requiem) of 1837, with its tremendous resources that include four antiphonal brass choirs. ... Benvenuto Cellini (November 1, 1500 – February 13, 1571) was an Italian goldsmith, painter, sculptor, soldier and musician of the Renaissance. ... Categories: People stubs | 1797 births | 1848 deaths | Opera composers | Romantic composers | Italian composers | People born in Bergamo, Italy ... Categories: People stubs | 1797 births | 1848 deaths | Opera composers | Romantic composers | Italian composers | People born in Bergamo, Italy ... Italian opera by Gaetano Donizetti. ... The Dvorak Simplified Keyboard layout The Dvorak Simplified Keyboard is a keyboard layout designed by Drs. ... Rusalka is an opera by Antonin Dvořák, named for its main character. ... Categories: Stub | 1818 births | 1893 deaths | Opera composers | Romantic composers | French musicians ... Faust is the protagonist of a popular German tale that has been used as the basis for many different fictional works. ... Categories: Stub | 1818 births | 1893 deaths | Opera composers | Romantic composers | French musicians ... Romeo and Juliet is a famous play by William Shakespeare concerning the fate of two young star-crossed lovers. ... George Frideric Handel (German Georg Friedrich Händel), (February 23, 1685 – April 14, 1759) was a German Baroque music composer who lived much of his life in England. ... Serse (also known as Xerxes) is an Italian opera by George Frideric Handel. ... Franz Joseph Haydn, (March 31 or April 1, 1732 – May 31, 1809) was a leading composer of the Classical period, called the Father of the Symphony and Father of the String Quartet. His friendly disposition also earned him another title: Papa Haydn. ... La canterina (The Songstress or The Diva) is a short, two act, comic opera or opera buffa by Joseph Haydn, and the first one he wrote for Prince Esterhazy. ... Engelbert Humperdinck has been the name of two notable people: Engelbert Humperdinck, a German composer. ... Hansel und Gretel is an opera by Engelbert Humperdinck (Humperdinck himself described it as a fairy opera. ... W. A. Mozart, 1790 portrait by Johann Georg Edlinger Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (January 26, 1756 – December 5, 1791) is considered one of the greatest composers of European classical music (especially, of the Classical music era). ... The Marriage of Figaro (Italian: Le nozze di Figaro) is a comic opera composed in 1786 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte, based on a stage comedy by Beaumarchais, Le mariage de Figaro (1784). ... Missing image Image:JacquesOffenbach. ... The Tales of Hoffmann (1951) is a film by the British-based director-writer team of Powell & Pressburger. ... Richard Strauss (June 11, 1864 – September 8, 1949) was a German composer of the late Romantic era, particularly noted for his tone poems and operas. ... Der Rosenkavalier (The Cavalier of the Rose) is a comic opera in three acts by Richard Strauss to an original German libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal, loosely adapted from the novel Les amours du chevalier de Faublas by Louvet de Couvrai and Molière’s comedy Monsieur de Pourceaugnac. ... Giuseppe Verdi, by Giovanni Boldini, 1886 (National Gallery of Modern Art, Rome) Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi (October 10, 1813 – January 27, 1901) was one of the great composers of Italian opera. ... Un Ballo in Maschera, or A Masked Ball, is an opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi with text by Antonio Somma. ...

References

  • Howe, Elizabeth (1992). The First English Actresses: Women and Drama 1660–1700. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Pearson, Jacqueline (1988). The Prostituted Muse: Images of Women and Women Dramatists 1642—1737. New York: St. Martin's Press.

  Results from FactBites:
 
Breeches role - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1139 words)
A breeches role (also pants role or trouser role) is a role in which an actress appears in male clothing (breeches being tight-fitting knee-length pants, the standard male garment at the time breeches roles were introduced).
In the case of a woman playing the role of a young man, the part is often filled by a mezzo soprano or contralto.
Breeches roles remained an attraction on the British stage for centuries, but their fascination gradually declined as the difference in real-life male and female clothing became less extreme.
Gender of Pants (2097 words)
Roles keep women "in their place." Any talk of roles brings ugly images of oppression, that women want to break away from.
The apparel made for man complimented his nature and allowed him to perform his duties, whereas the woman, arrayed in her modest apparel, hinders her from filling in for a man, yet totally empowering her to be queen of her domain.
The word 'breeches' according to Webster means "pants" and Dictionary.com says, "it is a garment worn by men, covering the hips and thighs." In fact, the term:"TO WEAR THE BREECHES" means "To usurp the authority of the husband; -- said of a wife."(Collegiate Dictionary).
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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