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The Opera Quarterly 20.3 (2004) 435-440

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Quarterly Quiz


As part of The Opera Quarterly's continuing effort to provide our readers with anecdotes to tell at parties, we present this quiz on famous sopranos. These stories have been gleaned from a number of biographies and autobiographies, all of which are referenced in the answer section at the back of this issue. The directions for our quiz are simple: read and enjoy the anecdote, identify the soprano involved, and check your answers on pages 523-524. Notice that there are two possible bonus points to be had, for a perfect total score of twenty-five. [End Page 435]

1. Born in Madrid of Italian parents, she had a mother who was willing to use underhanded methods to help her to succeed. Once, she was singing with a rival who had shaved her real eyebrows and put on false eyebrows. Mother wanted to make the rival look ridiculous, so she began to stare at her. Under her breath, the rival asked, "What is the matter?" The soprano's mother lied, "Your right eyebrow has fallen off!" Immediately, the singer tore off her left eyebrow and for the rest of the act wore only a right eyebrow. Name the mother's famous daughter.

2. While recording an aria collection, this attractive British soprano and the musicians ran into a problem because of a squeak somewhere in the studio that would not go away. Thinking the noise might be coming from a wobbly music stand, the musicians moved their stands a few inches and tried again. The squeak remained. The musicians shifted their chairs and tried again, to no avail. Then the soprano thought, held the music engineer's head to her chest, and asked, "Is that what you heard?" It was: the squeak came from the underwiring of her bra. The soprano removed her bra in the ladies' room, then made a squeak-free recording. (Afterward, whenever they recorded a new album together, the music engineer would take the precaution to ask if she was wearing the right bra.) Name the soprano.

3. Back when Schuyler Chapin became the Met's general manager, he set up a luncheon at a chic New York eatery with a famous American-born soprano who had been absent from the Met for some time. The singer wore elegant black pants and a mink coat, but when the manager of the establishment saw her she informed Chapin that women in pants could not eat there. Chapin pleaded, "Madame, if you deny [her], I'll never be able to persuade her to return to the Met." The manager relented, saying, "Never let it be said that our restaurant has denied our city a great artist. I say the rules can be bent!" Name the pants-wearing soprano and (for a bonus point) the name of the restaurant.

4. Like many celebrities, this coloratura soprano had a problem with people who too strongly insisted that she dine at their homes, even when she needed to rest. To curb their enthusiasm, the soprano would agree to sup with them only if she could choose the bill of fare. She would then draw up a menu that was extremely difficult to prepare: steak Ch√Ęteaubriand, an exotic salad dressing, a rare wine, etc., which invariably cut down on the number of invitations. Name the soprano (and, for one bonus point, her famous husband).

5. This nineteenth-century Swedish soprano came from a poor family. One way her parents made ends meet was to teach their son and daughter a few songs that they could perform on the street. Some passersby would give them money because they liked their singing, while others would pay them to stop. Later, the little minstrel girl amassed a fortune as an internationally renowned soprano. Who was she? [End Page 436]

6. This early Met star managed not to let herself be overwhelmed by fame. When, as a young student, she had the opportunity to demonstrate her talents before the great Franz Liszt, she wrote to a friend, "Professor...


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