La Cieca continues to apply the Kang Method to the dozen divas of the Classic mode. This time, our five criteria for diva status offer fewer total points, but the difficulty level remains the same. Especially for Renata Scotto.
“Be not afraid of grandezza: some are born grand, some achieve grandezza and some have grandezza thrust upon them.” Grandezza reveals itself in singing in breadth of phrasing, generosity of voice and “repose,” the sense that the audience is perfectly willing to wait patiently as the diva wends her way through the aria. A diva can achieve grandezza even without uttering a note, in a leisurely staircase entrance, a statuesque pose, or the increasingly rare ability to manipulate a three-foot velvet train with the insouciant ease of a tigress flicking her tail.
Grandezza can project as an expression of a character’s sense of self-worth. For example, here we have a Tosca without tears, without whimpering, without even any excessive sense of awe for her intended Listener. Observe as the Roman diva drapes her arm across the high-backed chair, her body language intimating that, far from being a supplicant’s prayer, “Vissi d’arte” is the opening sally in a bargaining session between equals.
Strange as it seems, it is indeed possible for Grandezza to go just a little too far.
You know how when they do the behind-the-scenes interviews on Project Runway, RuPaul’s Drag Race or any of the lesser television “reality” shows, there’s always the one competitor who says, “I didn’t come here to make friends; I came here to win.” La Cieca is of course cognizant of the importance of close personal relationships in this life, but Facebook doesn’t make a diva. Determination does.– though it may mean your autobiography will include a chapter headed “Sedizioze Voci.”
Hair and Headgear
Gerard Butler and his shredded Thermopylae faithful storm the camp of the Persians in a murderous rage. After slaughtering hundreds of mutant Persians, the band reaches a small chamber near the back of the last tent. Beautiful music is heard. Barely visible through a curtain of sparkling blue stones is Jessye Norman with a chenille fan on her head. A bigger fan of a similar style sits atop her shoulders. Her hands are not hands—but lobster claws! As “When I am Laid in Earth” floods over Gerard Butler, he is reminded of our shared humanity. Gerard Butler’s look-of-anguish falls over Gerard Butler’s face. He says, “Men, let us not forget why it had to come to this…” (Jay Caspian Kang)
As the chart indicates, more than one diva has been known to practice yo-yo dieting. La Norman and La Scotto are striking examples of divas whose weight fluctuates up and down. But Montserrat Caballé is perhaps unique in that her weight fluctuates up and up.
But wait, there’s a bit more to it than that. The most peculiar thing about Montse’s embonpoint is that it seems to shape-shift from instant to instant. One moment she’s standing full face, not singing, caftan lazily flapping in the breeze, and you’re all like “big as a house!” Then she turns in profile and that voice purls out, and the light falls just right on the warpaint, and, voilà, it’s Elizabeth Taylor circa Boom!
Yes, it is true that La Jess scores high in this category, as it only right, since a prominent drag performer makes a pretty good living doing an “impression” of the diva that is, if anything, rather more muted than the original. But La Cieca’s nod goes to our Joan, who, with the lifelong assistance of a husband and helpmeet acutely attuned to the gay sensibility, achieved the rare Mae West distinction of being a female female impersonator.
How real is Joan’s drag persona? Let’s go to the tape!