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Subject: TRANSVESTITE SOPRANOS?
From: IslandSun <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:IslandSun <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sat, 17 Jan 1998 21:03:23 -0400
Content-Type:text/plain
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text/plain (168 lines)


FROM THE DESK OF GIORGIO MIGLIAVACCA


LITTLE TRAPS OF THE ITALIAN LANGUAGE

SEX CHANGE RAMPANT IN OPERA BUSINESS

DID YOU KNOW THAT ALL SOPRANOS ARE MALES?
AND THE SAME APPLIES TO MEZZOS AND CONTRALTOS?

ISN'T THE OPERA WORLD SOMETHING TRULY AMAZING?

A  FRIENDLY LISTER HAS ASKED ME A FEW QUESTIONS THAT MAY PROVE OF GENERAL
INTEREST, THEREFORE I  HAVE TAKEN THE LIBERTY TO INFORM ALL LISTERS

>
>Another topic:  When I first took my father to a major opera house in the
>U.S. (the Met),

VERY WELL! FOR A CHANGE -- SON TAKES FATHER TO OPERA

 he snickered several times during and after the
>performance. I asked him why, afterwards. He said that the business of
>making "bravo" agree in gender and number is dumb,

MAY BE THAT'S THE WAY IT'S DONE AT THE MET & USA

 He insisted that "bravo"
>is like "ole."

OLE' you mean - no it has no reference to that

BRAVO is GOOD - male gender
BRAVI is GOOD - male & female - all good in short - PLURAL FORM
BRAVA is GOOD female gender
BRAVE is GOOD for more than one female
TUTTI BRAVI or TUTTE BRAVE (you don't hear that in Italy) it means ALL GOOD
in male and female genders

Non Italian audiences say BRAVO both to male and female singers which is
funny when directed to women  ;-)
In Italy saying BRAVA to a male singer  :-(  is quite an insult as you well
imagine; BRAVO to females would sound  :-()  sarcastic but less offensive
(one may think it came from a visitor from another country)

 He said he almost laughed out loud when he heard people
>yelling "tutte brave."
>
> I know that bravo is also
>a noun

BRAVO was a sort of "body guard" -  BRAVI (bravoes in English) a group of
bravoes, in the fashion of a small  private army, so to speak,  hired by
some little Hitler to keep the populace and/or  his subjects/victims  in
check. (late Renaissance early 1600s)



SPANISH USE OLE' not Italians

BRAVO can also mean WELL DONE - but again.... it has to be changed to the
female gender;  if directed to a woman ---  BRAVA
BRAVI and BRAVE for more than one male or female respectively
BRAVI is for all --  including males and females



 It
>still seems a bit pretentious. The performers can't hear such subtleties,

IT WOULD SEEM TO INDICATE THAT THE COMPLIMENT MAY COME FROM AN ITALIAN IN
THE AUDIENCE OR FROM SOME PURIST OR SHOW-OFFISH and/or  SNOBBISH SPECTATOR
(but I may be wrong)

>so the intent seems to be to impress people that one knows a little about
>the Italian language. Is this a question that the list might be interested
>in?

I DON'T KNOW - but I once wrote to a former editor of  an opera magazine in
the USA about one of his reviewers using the term SOPRANI, which is wrong -
you have SOPRANO for both singular and plural, you don't hear anyone saying
MEZZI SOPRANI (half sopranos)
or MEZZA SOPRANO (half a soprano....God deliver!!!  this would offend
primadonnas..... and  female choristers too)
MOST importantly (despite concessions recently made to the contrary) SOPRANO
IS  AND REMAINS MALE IN GENDER
So you don't say LA SOPRANO or LE SOPRANO
but IL SOPRANO -- and for plural --  I SOPRANO

SOPRANO IS A MALE NOUN
so is MEZZO SOPRANO
and therefore the correct way is IL MEZZO SOPRANO (singular) -  I MEZZO
SOPRANO (plural)

and so is CONTRALTO
LA CONTRALTO is wrong
IL CONTRALTO is correct
LE CONTRALTE or LE CONTRALTO is wrong
I CONTRALTO is correct

DESPITE  SOME DICTIONARIES SAYING SOPRANO IS BOTH MALE/FEMALE NOUN -
correct Italian is as I indicated above - no concessions whatsoever, else it
is a "corruption" --  though somewhat  convenient --  of the language.

ACCLAIMED LINGUISTS such as VALERIA DELLA VALLE and GIUSEPPE PATOTA in their
treatise "IL SALVALINGUA" (save our language) are very clear about the
subject and explain  as follows:
"To avoid being looked upon as a peasant by your neighbour at the theatre,
follow these instructions: ALWAYS USE THE MALE GENDER in exclamations such
as <E' DAVVERO UN BUON SOPRANO> (she  truly is a good soprano); or <IL
SOPRANO AVEVA POCA VOCE> (the soprano had a small voice); <E' STATO UN
CONTRALTO CELEBRE> (she was a famous contralto)".

BUT THERE IS A BIG CAVEAT and Della Valle and Patota drive the point home
very clearly...listen CAREFULLY:

"When the terms soprano and contralto are followed by the name of the singer
--  then and ONLY THEN --  the ADJECTIVE and/or INDEFINITE ARTICLE that
accompany the name must SWITCH TO THE FEMALE GENDER -  i.e. <LA FAMOSA
SOPRANO MARIA CALLAS> [in which case IL FAMOSO SOPRANO MARIA CALLAS would be
totally wrong!] - or again <GIULIETTA SIMIONATO ERA UNA BRAVISSIMA MEZZO
SOPRANO>  [in which case GIULIETTA SIMIONATO ERA UN BRAVISSIMO MEZZO SOPRANO
would be wrong --- as well GIULIETTA SIMIONATO  ERA UNA BRAVISSIMA MEZZA
SOPRANO would also be wrong]

BEWARE that even in Italy people (including news media) very often fall into
these little linguistic traps.

I HOPE THIS WILL HELP CLARIFY THE SUBJECT;  but I suspect  that someone may
disagree, in which event I would say that Della Valle and Patota are
AUTHORITIES and know their subject matter very well. Those in disagreement
will have to have names like DANTE or MANZONI to gain some credibility. Mind
you.... the Cambridge/Signorelli dictionary is WRONG (completely wrong) on
this detail in that it says that SOPRANO is both male and female in gender.
So, if such a revered source can make a boo-boo of this magnitude,  imagine
us little mortals.

MOST OFTEN, IN REVIEWS WRITTEN BY ENGLISH SPEAKING CRITICS ONE MAY READ:

TOTI DAL MONTE WAS A SOPRANO LEGGERA (wrong)
TOTI DAL MONTE WAS A SOPRANO LEGGERO (right)

the word LEGGIERO or LEGGIERA will not be found in an Italian dictionary

MARIA CANIGLIA WAS A SOPRANO DRAMMATICA (wrong)
MARIA CANIGLIA WAS A SOPRANO DRAMMATICO (correct)

and to conclude...(to keep IL BUON PEPPINO from turning in his
grave)....GUISEPPE is not an Italian name - GIUSEPPE please - GIUSEPPE.
(Verdi will send a thank you note...I am sure)


 e-mail  [log in to unmask]

GIORGIO MIGLIAVACCA
P.O. BOX 704 - ROAD TOWN - TORTOLA
BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS - West Indies

GIORGIO MIGLIAVACCA
RUSHIT BOX 11156 - ST THOMAS VI
00801-4156 USA

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

"If this has not entirely displeased you, do feel a little warmth for the
man who wrote and patched it together. But if I have succeeded in boring you
instead, believe me, I certainly didn't intend to."
ALESSANDRO MANZONI

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