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Queens, Heroines and Ladykillers

Professor Rachel Cowgill will be sharing expertise with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in preparation for a new series celebrating female roles in opera and the singers who perform them.

Queens, Heroines and Ladykillers – the OAE’s new series - launches on 30 September and will continue with a number of events at London’s Southbank Centre.OAE

On 26 September, Professor Cowgill will join Annette Isserlis, the OAE’s viola player who put the series together, to discuss the series and prima donnas on BBC Radio 4’s popular Woman’s Hour programme.

Professor Cowgill will also be one of the speakers at an OAE Study Day on 2 December offering background and insight into the series, looking at the history of women’s involvement in opera’, and focusing on female operatic performers and characters.

Discussing the events, she said: “Opera stars in the 17th and 18th Century were very interesting figures - women often from obscure backgrounds at a time when opportunities for a career were almost non-existent, playing out incredibly challenging roles both in terms of technical virtuosity and emotional depth, travelling widely across Europe and moving within the aristocracy who pursued them. It will be fascinating to explore the social and historical context at the study day.”

This is, of course, familiar ground for Professor Cowgill. Her co-edited publication – The Arts of the Prima Donna in the Long Nineteenth Century – was published recently by Oxford University Press. The volume – the first edited collection to focus more on the performers than the characters they performed – sheds new light on the singers who created and inhabited female operatic roles, the real women who embodied icons onstage before an audience.

Visit for more information on events in the Queens, Heroines and Ladykillers series.