Opera Daily 🎶 — The Sport of Singing

"To sing you need the strong body of an athlete.”

Good morning, friends!

In honor of the Tokyo Olympic Games (and inspired by a recent conversation with a member in the comments section), we are revisiting a Franco Corelli performance from Parma that reminds us that opera is also an athletic event. 🥇 🏋️‍♀️🏊🎶🎤

Today we’re listening to…

“Vittoria! Vittoria!”, the tenor’s big moment in the second act of Puccini’s Tosca. The beauty of Tosca is revealed in just the first few seconds of this scene. I can’t wait for you to hear the crowd go wild for this absolute legend. Once again, Franco Corelli has sent the audience into a frenzy.

In this scene, Mario Cavaradossi has just found out that Napoleon has won the Battle of Marengo. This is excellent news for Cavaradossi (and despite being tortured off stage); he comes on and goes for it with “Vittoria, Vittoria!” in celebration before being dragged off to be executed.

🎧 Listen here (3 minute listen): Franco Corelli (Mario Cavaradossi), Virginia Gordoni (Tosca), Teatro Regio di Parma, 1967 

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“Opera isn’t an entirely straightforward sport: it’s not just about who can sing the loudest or hold a note the longest; it’s a sport that’s got style points embedded in it, like rhythmic gymnastics or figure skating. Most of the audience is watching this sport happen and does not even realize it’s a sport.”

—David Leigh, Bass

This scene from Act 2 of Tosca is one of Cavaradossi's defining moments. It starts with a completely exposed high note which is held as long as possible. Just incredible.

Victory! Victory!
The avenging dawn now rises
to make the wicked tremble!
And liberty returns,
the scourge of tyrants!

You see me now rejoice
In my own suffering …
And now your blood runs cold,
Hangman, Scarpia!

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“Singing is almost more muscle than musicality. A singer must give his utmost every time he sings. At the end of 25 minutes of singing, I come offstage puffing like a steam engine and dripping water. You often have to sing with your lungs aching for oxygen when the singing is demanding and there are few rests. You have enough air to sing, but your lungs are full of carbon dioxide and your body is hurting for oxygen. Psychologically, you reach the same state you do in running.

—Sherrill Milnes, Baritone

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Thank you for reading (and listening),

Michele

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