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 Favourites, Fathers' Day

Fathers' DayFrom extreme grounding (on a rock surrounded with fire) to dangerous bargaining for a bit of nice weather, operatic fathers are on the whole a bit of a rum bunch…

Top Ten Worst Operatic Fathers

Jephtha means well. He really does - but securing military victory by promising God that you'll sacrifice the first person you see on your return home was always going to be a risky course of action, particularly when there's an outside chance that that might turn out to be your beloved daughter Iphis. On the upside, this tricky state of affairs does provide him with the opportunity to sing the ravishing 'Waft her, angels', and fortunately an angel steps in in the nick of time. (See also Idomeneo).

Available Formats: 2 CDs, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Another ill-advised military strategist, Agamemnon was more than a little concerned that the weather wasn't going to be so great for his voyage to Troy - and on the advice of the seer Calchas decided that the best way to secure a calm sea and prosperous voyage was to sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia to the goddess Artemis. All's well that ends well in Gluck's version of the myth - but as the next entry shows, other sources disagree...

Available Format: 2 DVD Videos

OK, so Agamemnon might not actually appear in Strauss's Elektra, but musically and dramatically he remains at its nerve-centre: the searing four-note motif (based on a minor triad) which represents him in his grieving daughter's mind opens the opera and haunts the entire score as Elektra seeks to avenge his murder by their mother Klytaemnestra, who in turn had hacked him to death for sacrificing Iphigenia (see above).

Available Formats: MP3, FLAC

We all know what it's like when you've had an unexpectedly good week at work and decide to swing by the pub for 'just one' before carrying on the party back at home...but it's as well to first make sure that your children aren't wandering in a forest inhabited by a cannibalistic witch with a taste for youngsters. Peter the Broom-Maker, take note. Still, it all pans out in the end.

Available Format: 2 DVD Videos

Veit Pogner - Nuremberg goldsmith and music-festival sponsor extraordinaire - is rather a tricky one: on the one hand, offering your daughter's hand in marriage as the first prize for a singing-songwriting competition seems like quite serious overkill (most such contests make do with a cup or at the very most a few pounds towards future study), but at least he eventually defers to Hans Sachs's proviso that Eva should be allowed some say in the matter...

Available Format: 2 DVD Videos

A contender from the world of lieder here - but the three characters in Schubert's mighty Erlkönig are so vividly delineated that it almost functions as a miniature drama for one singer. Admittedly, small children do dream up some strange fancies when frightened in the dark, and the father in this song is too anxious to get home to take his son's tall tales about a supernatural assailant very seriously - until the chilling denouement, that is.

Available Formats: MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Possibly the most prolific father in opera, Wotan first allows his son to die in battle, then takes an unusually draconian approach to discipline with his favourite daughter, who attempted to intervene - he promptly strips her of her immortal status, sedates her into sleep on a rock and stipulates that she can only be awakened by a man's embrace. When she protests that this is a little harsh, he surrounds her with fire as a quality-control mechanism.

Available Formats: 4 SACDs, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Philip II might be a mighty monarch and empire-builder, but he most certainly wouldn't win any prizes for parenthood: his first move in the opera is to steal his son's new fiancee for himself (diplomatic reasons, apparently...), before going on to hand him over to the Inquisition under the malign influence of the Grand Inquisitor. It's fortunate that Carlo's grandfather is rather more benevolent...

Available Format: 2 DVD Videos

And three fathers worth their salt...

25 years of estrangement aside, this father and daughter have one of the most sympathetic and moving relationships in the canon, and their great reconciliation-scene in the first act brings some of the most beautiful music Verdi ever wrote (and that's up against some stiff competition when it comes to father-daughter duets - I could easily have devoted half this feature to him!). I defy you to listen without prickling eyes!

Available Formats: MP3, FLAC

The only person who gets one over on the wily Gianni Schicchi is his daughter - the acorn never falls far from the tree! Wheeled out on modern-day talent-shows and just about every single 'Best of...' operatic compilation you might mention, Lauretta's 'O mio babbino caro' is, in context, less a sentimental tear-jerker than it is a perfect example of a daddy's girl who knows full well how to wrap her doting father round her little finger.

Available Format: 3 DVD Videos