Libretto: Leda and the Swan, by Sariah Gonzalez (first-year, undeclared)
Sariah confronts issues of sexual violence and exploitation in an opera libretto based on the Greek myth of Leda, who was raped by Zeus as he took the form of a swan. In the opening scene, Leda sings a heartbreaking aria, revealing her sense of fear, shame, and vulnerability. Though she was attacked, she feels a sense of blame. Her trauma reverberates through generations: she feels it again as she contemplates her daughter Helen’s impending marriage. Just as Leda was reduced to a sexual object to satisfy Zeus’s lust, so too is Helen treated like a commodity, traded by Aphrodite in order to sway the judge, Paris, in a contest of beauty. Sariah’s libretto reveals bold parallels between the sexual exploitation of women in Greek myth and the culture of entitlement, objectification, and misogyny that prevails on many college campuses. She notes that her opera would be performed by an all-female cast, “denouncing the social construct of gender.” Further, she wishes to cast the character of Helen as a “siren” without juxtaposing her to a “songbird,” since she “did not want Helen’s actions, behaviors, and music to be compared to the behaviors of the patriarchy’s ideal woman.”
Greek myth, Leda, Zeus, Helen, sexual exploitation
Musicology | Music Performance
Gonzalez, Sariah, "Libretto: Leda and the Swan" (2016). Music 134: Songbirds and Sirens. 6.