Medical Journal of Australia finds operatic stabbing outstrips shooting, hanging, jumping from height and poisoning.

Researchers from the Universities of Tasmania and NSW have published their examination of the phenomenon of suicide and suicidal thoughts in 400 years Western opera and it makes for pretty depressing reading.

The paper by four leading Australian psychiatrists draws some interesting conclusions. “It is staggering to contemplate that a full third of operas written over a period of 400 years have featured completed suicide, non-fatal suicidal acts or suicidal thoughts,” it says concluding that “over several centuries in opera, suicide has been frequently represented as an option when characters have been faced with a distressing event or situation”. In other words, the option to take ones own life is seen as very much the norm when the operatic chips are down.

The report even goes so far as to suggest that overwrought operagoers might find themselves tempted into copycat situations by the actions of the characters onstage. “Opera may not be as popular or potentially influential as, say, a blockbuster movie”, the report says, but “might not these depictions affect the behaviour of a vulnerable member of the audience or a brittle person who can...

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