The world’s perception of a diva has changed; perhaps not through the qualification of popularity, but in genre. Diva is Italian for a female deity and originated in opera to describe a female singer who possessed jaw-dropping talent and virtuoso. Over the past two or three decades we have dumbed down this superlative as we playfully refer to friends or acquaintances that have exhibited something relatively profound as “such a diva.” It’s pretty much the same as saying “you sexy bitch” or “y’all dat.” Very rarely, however, does a modern diva come close to defining the traditional sense of the word (although, names like Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston and Aretha Franklin do come to mind).
Renée Fleming, one of the world’s most revered opera singers, has been under some pretty biased skepticism these past few weeks ever since news broke that she would be singing the national anthem for millions of viewers at Super Bowl XLVIII. From a Fox News writer simple-mindedly guesstimating the approximate length of time that an opera singer would take to get through the anthem to a rapper posing some rather colorful words in his reaction to hearing that such a singer taking center stage at America’s most watched sports event – why such scrutiny?
Is it really impossible for some to accept without reserve that a four time Grammy winner, a recipient of a 2012 National Medal of Arts, a guest soloist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, a guest performer at the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony and a scholar and preserver of a musical form that helped to shape all popular music today will be singing at the Super Bowl? By the way, a National Medal of Arts is nothing to scoff at as it is the nation’s rarest and most prestigious art award, which was also given in the same year to someone you may have heard of – George Lucas – (if you haven’t heard of him, it’s time for you to watch Star Wars). Ms. Fleming, nicknamed “The People’s Diva,” is a mastered musician and has dedicated her entire life to learning, educating and performing music on a level that pretty much everyone reading this can’t possibly understand. The shock writer betting at Fox News and trivializing an opera singer of this caliber not only unjustifiably critiques, but creates an utterly false assumption believing that they:
“usually take a long time singing anything because it seems they love the way they sound and want everyone to experience their sound for as long as possible.”
If he were to have checked with even one professional opera singer, he would have bettered his odds by coming to the exact opposite expectation: classically trained singers would all confirm that they practice for years to not listen to themselves. In fact, once they start listening to part of the sound, all of which is meant for the audience, it becomes trapped in head cavities and is less effective. Furthermore, a trained musician will honor the time signature and tempo that the composer intended (not adding flourish, runs, ornaments and otherwise self-promoting and uncommunicative drivel to the work).
America is a proud nation built on a backbone of worldly traditions and we take pride in such influence and circumstance. The creators of Super Bowl XLVIII along with NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, will prove on Sunday, a night where immense action and high drama (like opera) is the norm, that even the pop-crazed football audience has the ability to open their minds and appreciate a real, genuine diva in all of her traditional glory. And why isn’t she perfect for the gig? After all, it’s her belief that opera singers are the “Olympic athletes of singing.”
Even if you still will be wearing ear plugs just before kickoff, at least embrace the beloved sports notion: “no pain, no gain.”
Here’s to different perspectives in unlikely places.