Are these the most dramatic families in opera?

6 November 2023
An older gentleman in a suit talks to a young woman in a white dress, both are seated

The well-known idiom, ‘blood is thicker than water’, stems as far back as 12th century Germany and is used to convey the strength of familial bonds. While families can support one another through difficult times, they can often be the source of explosive drama, as is often the case in the world of opera. We looked through our stories to see which instances of familial drama stood out to us. 

La traviata

Nestled within this tragic tale of doomed love, we see a self-interested father intervening in his son’s love life. As Alfredo falls deeper in love with the courtesan Violetta, his esteemed father, Giorgio Germont intervenes and demands that Violetta leaves Alfredo, to protect the Germont name and the family’s reputation. However, Giorgio’s actions achieve nothing but heartbreak for Alfredo, as the young pair lose time before Violetta succumbs to consumption, dying in her lover’s arms.


Verdi’s three act tragedy premiered triumphantly in La Fenice in 1832. The story follows the titular court jester as he falls foul to a curse bestowed on him by the Count Monterone. As Rigoletto’s hidden daughter falls in love with the dishonest Duke of Mantua, Rigoletto hires an assassin to kill the Duke, and plans for his daughter and himself to escape to Verona. His daughter decides to sacrifice herself to save the Duke, and is killed by the assassin, who wraps her in a sack and presents the concealed body to her own father, Rigoletto. Rigoletto discovers his daughter's fate on the banks of the river and cries out in despair – ‘The curse!’

La forza del destino

The tragic events of Verdi’s La forza del destino are set in motion by a cruel mistake. After Don Alvaro and Donna Leonora fall in love, her father, Marchese di Calatrava, discovers them preparing to elope. Incensed, he threatens to kill Don Alvaro, who throws down his weapons to cast aside suspicions as to Leonora’s purity. However, his pistol fires as it hits the floor, mortally wounding the Marchese. The lovers go into hiding, fearful of the vengeance of Leonora’s brother Don Carlo, and in their hurry to escape Seville, they lose each other. They spend the rest of the opera being thrown together and torn apart in a series of coincidental meetings, until their untimely and violent death, proving that you cannot cheat the force of destiny. 

With drama around every twist and turn, Verdi’s tales of family discourse are staples of the opera repertoire. Don’t miss your chance to see La traviata this Autumn at Birmingham, Milton Keynes and Southampton.