Opera Daily 🎶 — Elite players (in any game) make the most difficult moves look easy
This week's Opera Daily features Roger Federer, Sprezzatura and how the greatest opera singers make it look easy
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You have to put in more effort to make something appear effortless.
Last week Roger Federer announced that he is retiring from professional tennis at age 41.
I think the tweet above about how Roger “barely looks like he’s trying as he hits shots that go faster than a car on the highway” is what I remember this week about his playing.
A 15th-century Italian courtier and author named Baldassare Castiglione coined the term sprezzatura as a “certain nonchalance, to conceal design and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without thought.”
When I think about Roger’s playing and some of my favorite opera singers and performances, I think about sprezzatura.
But effortless performances are just the result of a large volume of effortful practice. Years and years of intense, focused practice make these actions (playing tennis, singing opera) look so pure, elegant, and simple.
Let’s listen to some singers that are the epitome of sprezzatura.
🎧 Listening Example: (5 minute listen): Tenor Luciano Pavarotti singing “Che gelida manina” from Act 1 of Giacomo Puccini's opera, La bohème, live in Paris, 1965
🎧 Listening Example: (3 minute listen): Soprano Leontyne Price singing “Vissi d’arte” from Act 2 of Giacomo Puccini’s opera Tosca, live on stage
🎧 Listening Example: (2 minute listen): Tenor Nicolai Gedda singing “Amor ti vieta” from Act 2 of the Italian opera Fedora by Umberto Giordano, live on Swedish TV, 1969
Thank you for reading (and listening), and feel free to hit reply with feedback or leave a comment with your favorite example of sprezzatura!
PS. If you missed last week’s selection, we featured Queen Elizabeth II's opening of the Sydney Opera House and Prokofiev’s War and Peace.
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Wonderful insight to compare Federer’s sprezzatura with￼ that of the performers. You made it seem effortless and it was a delight to read... brief, to the point, and wholly believable. I will hold it in mind as a start this day and week.
This so much. I came to my love of opera because of its sheer physicality. When I began voice lessons in college I was amazed at his hard of was to sing like this. So I began a listening program using the recordings in our music library. My love deepened based on other things as I listened more. Thanks.