Diva & Anti-Diva
Despite men’s best efforts, the crowning glory of opera and song remains a woman’s voice, and classical singing at its highest is preeminently a female preserve. The very best of the best who practice this art are already half on the way to being known as divas—from the Italian, literally meaning goddesses. But it takes more than artistic greatness to make a diva. Accomplishment, self-regard, and provocative display—all in roughly equal proportions, and manifested as exorbitantly off the stage as on it—go into constituting these fabulous creatures.
They are a dying breed. The swooning departures for the land of tabloid romance and the scorching exits from the love nests of shipping magnates are relics of a bygone order. Among serious singers, the very term diva has fallen into disfavor, having caught on instead among rock-’n’-rollers and certain male opera singers who have started to call themselves divos. That Opera News, the glossy monthly published by the Metropolitan Opera Guild, now runs a “Diva Issue” each year in hopes of reviving past extravagance does not change the fact that, these days, the show stops when the singer leaves the stage. Operatic goddesses now tend to be played by mere women who are content to be mere women.
About the Author
Algis Valiunas writes on culture and politics for COMMENTARY and other magazines. His "Goethe’s Magnificent Self" appeared in January.