Saturday, December 29, 2007

Why are their so many Italian opera singers?

I asked that question of a voice expert on AllExperts.com. Her reply: She couldn't answer that.

My answer: Italy has given us many of the best Italian composers--Verdi, Donizetti, Puccini, Bellini, Mascagni, Leoncavallo. Italy has a world-famous opera house, La Scala, and many lesser-known ones. Opera plays a huge role in Italian culture. A critic has written that in Italian "opera is seen as a stadium sport, akin to soccer."

So Italian schools and Italian parents are on the lookout for young people with good voices--more so than, in, say, Great Britain. Italian youths dream of becoming the next Renata Tebaldi or Mario Lanza or Luciano Pavarotti. Not the next Joe DiMaggio.

So, an Italian with a strong voice is perhaps more likely to become a singer than a bank teller or a journalist or a vice president of advertising.

It's also possible that because people tend to marry other people they work with, Italians with good voices may intermarry. Cecilia Bartoli is the offspring of two singers; Feruccio Tagliavini also married an opera singer. And Roberto Alagna (Sicilian parents) is married to another famous singer, the Romanian Angela Gheorghiu.

So, I'm not surprised that many opera singers are Italian. It's the same reason why so many good baseball players are American. And why so many cricket players are English.

Did you ever hear of an opera singer named Lucretia Bori? Her real name was Lucretia Borgia. No wonder she changed it.

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