From Incest to Murder, Celebrating Opera’s Most Iconic Siblings

By David Salazar

Happy Siblings day for all of you who have the fortune of having loving brothers and sisters.

Opera is filled with brother-sister pairings that either work together toward common goals or fight with one another to disastrous effect. Let’s take a look at some of opera’s most famous and unique sibling pairings.

The Mozart Sisters

Dorabella and Fiordiligi are as united as any sibling can be. They spend all their time together when not with their lovers and support each other through tough times. And they also unknowingly share boyfriends. The two sisters are actually quite different from one another but they do their best to never betray one another.

The Russian Sisters

Tatiana and her sister Olga are also similar to the Mozart sisters in that they are united and never show any signs of animosity toward one another. Of course, they are far from similar in any way. Olga flirts and enjoys the simple pleasures of life while Tatiana is a hard-core romantic, living her life through literature and dreaming. Both meet tragic ends at the hands of a rigid Russian society.

The Rivals

Talk about brother rivalry. Manrico and the Count di Luna are on opposite sides of a civil war. They are both after the same woman and they both swear to murder the other. All without knowing of their shared lineage. That Di Luna learns the truth when it is too late makes this the most tragic of sibling pairings on this list.

The Mythological Murderers

There are three siblings in Strauss’ “Elektra,’ including the titular character, her brother Orest and their sister Chrysothemis. Elektra is hellbent on murdering her mother and her lover to avenge the death of her father, a goal that Orest also shares. Chrysothemis meanwhile just wants to leave her home and have her own happy family. Ultimately, the two others get their way and commit matricide.

The Fateful

Here is yet another dysfunctional duo of siblings. They actually don’t really interact in the opera, but their opposing goals drive the work’s narrative. Don Carlo is looking for his sister, whose betrayal caused the death of the father. Leonora is doing her best to hide from the ugly past that haunts her. They eventually meet up, only for Carlo to kill Leonora.

The Opportunists

In Puccini’s opera, the titular Manon is under the guardianship of her brother Lescaut who has a rather ambiguous relationship with her. He exploits her for money, selling her off to rich patrons. And yet he goes looking for her lover Des Grieux when he realizes her misery. He does abandon her at the end when all hope is lost, so he might not be the one to look up to.

The Crazy People

Poor Lucia has to do everything her brother orders her. Not only does he want to marry her off to some random guy to save their fortune, but he hates her true love, Edgardo. We see him lie to her, throw her about and abuse her, which unsurprisingly leads the poor girl to murderous madness.

The Incestuous Lovers

Sieglinde and Siegmund might be the most interesting of all sibling pairings because, well, they commit incest. The two don’t even realize they are siblings while they fall in love, which could make this forgivable to some extent. Regardless, their incestuous union is founded in true love and together they birth Siegfried, the hero of all heroes.


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