THE STRADIVARIUS COMPLEX
Are opera singers dumb?
As a child, dragged to the Metropolitan by opera-obsessive parents in order to practice sitting absolutely still for three hours, I sometimes wondered about this. Certainly, on stage, there was a lot of dumb going on. What intelligent person could possibly trust evil Baron Scarpia to keep his word, or would sing full-out when dying of tuberculosis, with only a delicate, tuneful cough to show the gravity of the situation?
Opera singers were like Rat Pack Era movie-stars—they dressed well, they smoked and drank, they seemed always to be alighting from planes surrounded by Rolleiflex-bearing photographers. I heard a great story about Franco Corelli, the "Prince of Tenors," who, when irritated by a soprano lead, would have a pre-performance meal laced with garlic. Did wonders for the love scenes. To an eight-year old that sounded pretty darn smart.
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