Classical Music’s Monster Mothers: An Anti-Mother’s Day Playlist

As Mother’s Day draws near, a number of music commentators have put forth lovely little playlists of appropriate music  for the holiday.  I myself have assembled one, found here.  These lists tend to abound in tender, gentle, loving pieces… perfect to celebrate the perfect mom.

But you know, as I was assembling my list I realized something was amiss…not everyone’s mom is perfect.  Where’s a list paying homage to those monster moms? A list for those who spend Mother’s Day cowering in therapy?

Not to worry—I’ve got you covered.

Here’s an irreverent classical playlist, full of moms who will make the your difficult mother look great by comparison.

Happy [sic] Mother’s Day!

* * *

Barber: Medea’s Meditation and Dance of Vengeance.  Medea is the star of Western Civilization’s earliest custody-battle-gone-horribly-awry soap opera.  Furious that her louse of a husband is taking their kids to live with a new trophy wife, Medea decides a little infanticide will even the score.  It’s a story with something for everyone in the family.


Cherubini: Medea. A follow-up to the above entry, because sometimes a 12-minute work about a mother killing her children isn’t enough, and you really need a full-blown opera to do the story justice.


Dvořák: The Noon Witch.  The problem about threatening your unruly child by pretending to summon a wicked witch to kill him?  You might just actually be summoning a wicked witch to kill your child. Think about that the next time you start witch-summoning.


Humperdinck: Hansel and Gretel. “What?! You spilled the milk?!  Okay you bratty  good-for-nothings, I’m sending you out to pick berries in a haunted forest ruled by a cannibalistic witch! That will teach you!  If you survive the night, be sure to bring back berries for dinner!”


Mozart: Die Zauberflöte.  Queen of the Night?  Queen of the Nightmares. The Queen’s aria, “Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen,” is one of the best things ever: “Go, kill my enemy, child, or I won’t love you any more.”  Subtle, Your Majesty. 


Puts: The Manchurian Candidate Okay, so who hasn’t sold their son to Communist terrorists with the hopes they’ll brainwash him into becoming a stealth assassin?  But at least Eleanor loves her son—I mean really loves him—so I guess everything is cool.


Ruders: The Handmaid’s Tale. Nothing like a story about a post-apocalyptic world where all remaining fertile women are held in a religiously-inspired, forced breeding program to make you feel good about motherhood.


Strauss: Elektra.  Hm. Someone might want to tell Queen Klytaemnestra that if you kill your kids’ father, banish your son and subject your daughters to oppressive psychological torture over many years… well, one of them might just snap and plot your untimely demise.


Stravinsky: Oedipus Rex Queen Jocasta has a famously… complex relation with her son. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t end well.



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