Courtesy photo

TOI Festival returns.

Opera singing is an athletic pursuit. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Opera singers, athletes?” This question is also the opening salvo of a 1979 Sports Illustrated article titled “Like Hitting Homers, Hitting High Notes in Opera Takes Athletic Skill.” The article begins by painting a stereotypical, and genuinely unflattering, picture of opera singers as “paranoid, over-pampered, overweight bags of air” who have a panic attack at the slightest atmospheric perturbation that might adversely affect their voice. 

Although, of course, a singer will avoid risking their voice as much as a violinist will refrain from using their instrument as a cricket bat, the production and maintenance of the operatic noises we call singing take incredible physical strength and stamina. (The Sports Illustrated article does proceed to give singers their due, noting their robust physical capabilities and comparing four popular and larger-bodied singers of the time to the front four of an enviable football team.)

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