Choose your diva

Feverish for fierce femmes but don't know your way around an opera house? Let us help.

  • Patrica Racette; Photograph: Ken Howard

  • Anna Netrebko; Photograph: Mat Hennek/DG

  • Natalie Dessay; Photograph: Catherine Ashmore

  • Karita Mattila; Photograph: Brigitte Lacombe

  • Rene Fleming; Photograph: Dusan Reijin

  • Marlis Petersen; Photograph: Ken Howard

  • Elina Garanca; Photograph: GABO/DG

Patrica Racette; Photograph: Ken Howard

The Metropolitan Opera’s opening-night gala on Monday 21 kicks off a season featuring some of opera’s most famous—and infamous—leading ladies. Not sure where to start? Check out our easy high-to-pop-culture conversion guide.

If you think Beyonc is catchy, put your hands up for Il Trittico.
“Single Ladies” lives on as a musical landmark of 2008; if you’ve heard anything of Puccini’s, chances are it’s “O Mio Babbino Caro” from Gianni Schicchi (one of the evening’s three one-act operas). Lauretta, the aria’s lovesick singer, could teach Ms. Knowles a thing or two about being crazy in love. See if Patrica Racette puts a ring on it November 20--December 12.

If you gravitate toward thinking man’s diva Regina Spektor, keep the three heroines of Les Contes d’Hoffmann in your orbit.
As Offenbach’s title poet rummages for answers in the pages, his tragic affair with Antonia illuminates the den of thieves in which the lovers are living. Anna Netrebko (who, like Spektor, is Soviet-born) plays tenor Joseph Calleja’s sweetest downfall December 3--January 2.

If you dig the free-flowing quirk of Katy Perry (who once studied opera), go mad for Ophlie in Thomas’s Hamlet.
Okay, so “I Kissed a Girl” is no “To be or not to be,” but nothing speaks to the insane Danes like “Hot N Cold.” Natalie Dessay has her own case of love bipolar March 15--April 5.

If you worship at the altar of Madonna, pay homage to Tosca.
Opera and pop’s Italian divas have a bit in common, regardless of Madge’s accent. And neither gets crossed quietly—as Baron Scarpia quickly learns, Puccini’s heroine doesn’t want to hear, doesn’t want to know he’s sorry. Karita Mattila gets into the groove Monday 21--April 24.

If you think comeuppance is a dish best served by Pink, check out the righteous revenge in Rossini’s Armida.
The punk-pop “Na na na na na na”s fly like the coloratura passages of this bel canto gem, and both feature jilted dames who choose power over passion. Watch Rene Fleming start a fight as the titular sorceress April 12--May 15.

If you go goo-goo for Lady Gaga, play a love game with Lulu.
Like the newest gay icon, Berg’s femme fatale attracts ladies and gents alike. Marlis Petersen takes a ride on a few disco sticks (with Anne Sofie von Otter as one of her numerous admirers) May 8--15.

If you love that Amy Winehouse is no good, don’t miss opera’s ultimate bad girl, Carmen.
Bizet’s Gypsy could totally give the Wine-o a run for her money—and match her note for note. When faced with rehab, sultry Elina Garanca says “No, no, no” December 31--January 21; Olga Borodina and Angela Gheorghiu take turns in the role January 27--May 1.

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