Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Music (MM)


Musicology (Music)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

David Ake

Second Committee Member

Anne Searcy

Third Committee Member

Coreen S. Duffy


Since the early nineteenth century, the sound of an operatic male hero has been the tenor. As such, countertenors reprising heroic castrati roles have been met with mixed reception, and puzzled response. There is at least one other genre, however, that utilizes heroic narratives, and has featured high-pitched male singing since its inception – heavy metal. Despite the prevalence of heroic narratives within metal and opera, little has been studied on precisely how those themes are constructed and negotiated by their respective performers. Certainly, less has been studied in regards to high-pitched male singers’ roles relating to heroism in these genres. In this thesis, I examine the ways in which high-pitched male singers confront, appropriate, and at times problematize the standard notions of heroism within opera and heavy metal. This involves first, analyzing the socio/cultural factors surrounding notions of heroism within each genre and how they are constructed. The discussion then moves into an exploration of how high-pitched male singers are affected by such themes in their effort to convey heroism. Finally, I trace how these singers adhere to, or deviate from, the hero’s journey as described by Joseph Campbell. In my analysis of works from opera and metal, I interpret the hero’s journey both narratively and musically regarding each singer’s lyrics, stage presence, and vocal melody. Ultimately, through demonstrating how high-pitched male singers influence, and are shaped by, notions of heroism, I help shed light on issues of violence, gender, and masculinity within these musics.


Heroism; Opera; Metal; Countertenor; High-Pitched; Male Singing