Yet More Opera for People Who Don’t Like It

Female Opera Singers and Other Wild Animals

Most people think female opera singers look like this:

Woman Singer

Some of us look more like this:

Opera Singer Performing in her Stage Dress - Isolated on White

Most of us are somewhere in between:

My Blue Dress and I

We’ve all heard the saying, “The opera isn’t over until the fat lady sings.” This is true. Even if sopranos can’t always have the last word, we make enough noise during the few hours preceding the end to make sure that we get plenty of attention — preferably more attention than anyone else. Believe me, we keep track.

The joke goes: How many sopranos does it take to change a lightbulb? Only one. She holds the bulb while the world revolves around her.

Mezzo-sopranos might have fewer opportunities to be the leading lady, but other than that they are just sopranos with lower voices.

Case in point: A female opera singer on tour overseas was staying at a 5-star hotel. She had been promised a room with a view of a famous river. Unfortunately, the room she was given only had a view of the hotel across the street. The woman threw a fit worthy of a toddler on amphetamines. The hotel manager solved the problem by having one of his workers go into one of the rooms with a view of the river and break the toilet. When the guest in that room reported the non-working plumbing, he was moved to another room. The toilet was fixed, the female opera singer was moved into the room with a view and everyone was happy except, possibly, the guy who had to move, unless he liked the view of the Hilton better than looking at water.

No, that story is not about me. I wasn’t even there.

You can’t blame us. Female opera singers in general are not meek and humble. We are the human equivalent of bulldozers. Our personalities are a combination of estrogen, chutzpah, horniness, a touch of batshit craziness and balls. We don’t actually have balls, but we act like we do, especially when someone tries to upstage us. It also takes a lot of balls to get up onto a stage with other singers who are just as ambitious, attention-hungry and crazy as we are and sing the most difficult music in the world while following the beat of some crazy conductor and trying to act at the same time.

That’s about as easy as standing on your head in the middle of a busy avenue while peeling a banana with your feet, doing a hula and dodging bicycle messengers. Okay, I’m exaggerating. But you get the point. Singing opera is hard.

Actually, most of us are perfectly nice people as long as you don’t do something stupid to set us off. If you do, all bets are off. And the worst times to aggravate us are before, during and right after a performance. Most of us are nervous before a performance, and in no mood for anything even remotely annoying. During a performance, the adrenalin is shooting around inside of us, along with heightened everything. Afterward, if the performance was a good one and we had an appreciative audience, we are on a huge high. Bring us down off that high at your own peril.

A poor process server learned this the hard way when he approached Maria Callas as she was coming offstage in Chicago after a performance of Madama Butterfly. He didn’t just hand her the summons he had come to serve. He shoved it into her costume. She didn’t just go ballistic on him, she went nuclear! It was over the top, but then she never did anything halfway. She was an opera singer! And the guy had caught her right after a performance. You see my point.

On the positive side, most of us are fun to hang around with. Our desire to entertain people extends to everyday life, too. So if you want a good time, make friends with an opera singer!

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10 thoughts on “Yet More Opera for People Who Don’t Like It”

  1. Loved it! There are some sopranos who can take listeners to a different world. But, there a a few that make listeners wish they were *in* a different world.

    I know I’m like a kid who only wants to spoon off (with fingers) the icing from a lovely cake, but I often get quite bored between the magnificent arias. I guess it’s like people who go to Shakespearean plays only for the monologues.

    Thanks for the insights, Kathy!

    1. Well … it’s the stuff in between the arias that makes the plot move. An aria is a commentary kind of thing.

      I love the supertitles that most opera companies have installed above their stages, because they allow the audience to know what is going on and what is being sung. I love the Metropolitan Opera’s idea even better. They put the titles on the backs of each seat. That offers the same help, but much more unobtrusively.

    1. Tony Soprano’s mother makes my female opera singers look like Shirley Temple in comparison!

    1. Thanks, Donna! By the way, you don’t have to be afraid of me. I’m harmless, as long as I’m not about to go onstage! 😉

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