Tony Soprano, the main character of the hit show The Sopranos, was notorious for his relationships with an array of interesting and beautiful women. The patriarch of the Soprano family was complex, nuanced, and memorable, leaving his mark on the landscape of television decades after the show ended, and the many women he interacted with, both romantically and otherwise, imbued both his life and the story with meaning.
Tony’s wrath, appetites, and ego were evident in his many affairs with various women, each of which came into his life in a different way and for different reasons. Though committed to his family and married to Carmela, Tony engaged in an abundance of extramarital dalliances, including brief trysts with sex workers at the Bada Bing, and one-night stands with women that meant nothing to him. His marriage was often put on the backburner as he explored what these other women symbolized. The female characters on The Sopranos have been greeted with a mixture of reactions from fans of the show, and what seems clear is that each woman carries a lesson for Tony to learn.
Years after the show ended, audiences are still entranced with Tony Soprano’s complicated character and the sins he committed. The female characters that represented some of these sins are captivating as well, played by talented and magnetic actors and woven into the plot in some interesting and meaningful ways. The women that meant the most to Tony also meant the most to the audience, and they played a part in his psyche. Some of these love affairs happened on camera, but others were simply mentioned by characters as having an impact on Tony’s life before the action of the show began. Here are seven of them.
Julianna is a realtor with Century 21 when she meets Tony while trying to buy a building owned by him, Caputo’s Poultry, for $330,000. Her persistence impresses Tony and he tries to seduce her, but she says no due to being engaged. When Tony comes to her home to sign the papers, tension builds between them until they start kissing passionately.
As they are undressing, Tony is abruptly reminded of his wife’s tenderness in helping him heal from a gunshot wound, and he stops the moment before it can progress. Tony was healing when he met Julianna, and his brush with death drove him into finding distraction in a sly and intelligent woman. Inspired by this encounter, Julianna returns to AA, where she runs into Tony’s protégé Christopher, and the two begin an ill-advised extramarital affair that eventually wrecks their sobriety. Tony tries once more to court Julianna, but she turns him down. As one in a number of dysfunctional women, Julianna is pitiable. Her yearning for a normal life and family is bogged down by addiction and self-doubt, and Tony’s rejection of her places some kind of twisted spell on her. She is never quite able to escape the world that she entered when first she entangled with Tony.
Valentina La Paz
Valentina and Tony are immediately attracted to one another when they meet at Hesh Rabkin’s horse stables, and she brings a sense of effortless fun into his life. Tony is there to meet Ralph Cifaretto, Valentina’s boyfriend and at first, this puts Tony off the idea of pursuing Valentina, but Valentina confides to Tony that Ralph’s sexual proclivities don’t suit her, and she and Tony develop a romance. Carmela discovers one of Valentina’s nails in Tony’s pocket and becomes irate, throwing him out of the house and starting divorce proceedings.
Tony continues to court Valentina, but one day when she accidentally lights herself on fire while cooking eggs, and this seems to jar something loose in Tony’s mind. Tony administers first aid, takes her to the hospital, and breaks up with her, citing devotion to his wife. Valentina, while more emotionally stable than some of his other lovers, doesn’t come across to Tony as suitable wife material nor as a replacement for the strong and intimidating Carmela. Valentina doesn’t seem to notice the breakup, as she is too preoccupied with her bald head.
An immigrant from Russia and an exotic dancer, Irina is Tony’s mistress at the beginning of the show. Irina wants Tony to commit to a full-time relationship, but he refuses to leave Carmela and breaks up with her. He encourages her to seek different career goals, which upsets her and leads to a suicide attempt. Tony tries to pay for counseling, but ends up paying her off to get rid of her. It seems very clear that Irina is something of an object to Tony. She exists at his mercy, and her frailty is countered by his power. He is the decider, the moral high ground, the controller of the narrative. The women he relates to may be saved by their gentleness or easy natures, but he quickly exiles them for mistakes, as he does with Irina.
Years later, Tony’s political ally Assemblyman Zellman tells Tony he’s dating Irina. At first, Tony says he doesn’t mind, but he later drives to Zellman’s house, beating him with a belt and humiliating him. Zellman breaks up with Irina due to the consequences of the beating, which included an energy drain and impotence. Irina and Tony’s connection seems passionate and personal, and she is certainly an important woman in his life despite his dismissal of her. He wishes to take care of her financially, but only so far as to not have to keep ties with her.
Gloria acts essentially as Tony’s “manic pixie dream girl,” coming into his life as an exotic and interesting breath of fresh air who didn’t need him to fund her adventurous lifestyle. The excitement, however, turns sour when Tony discovers that her thrilling personality quirks are part of debilitating mental illness and manic depression. She had a collection of boyfriends who had all been scared off by her intensity and self-destructive behavior. Beneath a layer of cool, Bohemian style and rock-and-roll flair, Gloria is fragile, insecure, and sensitive. She attaches to Tony with heaps of anxiety, growing possessive and hungry for more than he can offer her.
When Gloria grows jealous of Carmela and Tony grows weary of her devastating darkness and emotionality, the two have a violent breakup, during which he threatens her while strangling her. “Kill me. Kill me,” she hisses as he throttles her, showing electric stimulation at his menacing strength. He doesn’t kill her but cuts off contact with her, and the distraught Gloria takes her own life.
Perhaps the most grounded and even-keeled woman Tony courts, Svetlana is Irina’s first cousin. Unlike Irina, however, Svetlana is working in a career that Tony finds appropriate and worthwhile. She has one leg due to an illness in her youth and hails from Russia, dispensing world-weary wisdom and sardonic wit to Tony as she serves as Uncle Junior’s nurse. When she and Tony consummate their romance, they are caught by another nurse, Branca. Branca tells Irina, who reports to Carmela, leading to a bitter confrontation after which Tony and Carmela separate.
Once again, Tony is linked to Irina, but Svetlana proves a much more sound and resilient counterpart to her cousin. When Tony’s elder sister Janice steals Svetlana’s prosthetic leg over some old phonograph records, Svetlana takes revenge into her own hands, sending the Russian mob after Janice. Her no-nonsense toughness and resounding sanity are a great foil for Tony, and in a different world, they may have made a perfect pair.
Lorraine was one of the more powerful women Tony was entangled with. A rare portrayal of a Mafiosa on the show, Lorraine is a leader in the Soprano’s rival crime family, the Lupertazzi’s. She acts as a loan shark and a crime lord, and it is revealed that Lorraine and Tony had a tryst before the beginning of the series.
Once again, Lorraine represents something about Tony’s past. Part of this is Tony’s willingness to design rules of morality for others while not living them himself. Also, while most of Tony’s dalliances are younger than him, Lorraine was older, signifying that he may have learned a lot at her feet including efficiency, ruthlessness, and capability.
Sonya only appears in one episode, but it is a memorable one. Tony has killed his associate Christopher, and he tracks down Christopher’s ex-girlfriend in Las Vegas. The pair share an intimate moment and then smoke weed and drop peyote, wandering through a casino in a trance-like state. Tony gambles, watching the bright colors and spinning wheels around him, and appears to deal emotionally with Christopher’s death.
Tony spends a lot of time agonizing over Christopher. Though a large part of him is relieved that he is freed of his “biggest blunder,” he also loved his cousin and suffers from a moral dilemma. Sonya allows him to escape into every emotion, providing both release and solace for the complicated mobster.