Cher public, those of you who have written to La Cieca wondering at the frequency Anthony Tommasini uses the word “strapping” to describe opera singers of the male persuasion — well, wonder no more. According to the New York Times archives, Tony has flogged his favorite modifer no fewer than 44 times in the past decade. In one of those instances, admittedly, the “S” word is used literally, something about how Shirley Verrett was punished as a child (!!!) But the other 43 uses all referred to the physical endowments of the NYT critic’s favorite flavors of singer: tenors, baritones, and basses. Each and every one of those bad boys got a good “strapping” from Tautological Tony.

A few of La Cieca’s recent favorites:

“Still, the strapping bass Ethan Herschenfeld made an impact in the role” October 8, 2005

“[Jon Villars] brought many splendid qualities to his performance: a clarion voice; a strapping presence; youthful energy; solid musicianship” September 27, 2005

Lorenzo Pisoni commanded the stage as a strapping Demetrius” March 19, 2005

“The hardy baritone Kyle Pfortmiller makes a strapping Maximilian” March 10, 2005

“Mr. Gunn, an intelligent and elegant singer, is so strapping, handsome and hunky [Dude! Trifecta! — LC] that stage directors search for reasons to get whatever character he is playing to go bare-chested . . . . Surely, a good Idomeneo must convey authority and dignity, and pull off mood swings between defiance and despair. But need he be strapping and sexy?” December 4, 2004

“The strapping, robust-voiced bass-baritone John RelyeaDecember 4, 2004 [A date that will live in history as “the day of three strappings!” — LC]

“Figaro, the strapping, robust-voiced bass-baritone David PittsingerOctober 26, 2004

“the strapping young Russian baritone Rodion PogossovOctober 11, 2004

“The baritone Nathan Gunn brought his robust voice and strapping physique to the role of Guglielmo. ” August 12, 2004

“the strapping tenor Brandon Jovanovich as Boconnion” August 4, 2004

“a strapping Westphalian youth” May 7, 2004

“tall, strapping and handsome Swedish baritone” April 20, 2004

“A supremely intelligent artist and a strapping stage presence, Mr. Hampson has long been aware, some would say overly so, of his own attractiveness.” March 3, 2004

“And the robust bass João Fernandes made a strapping Pluto.” February 7, 2004

“The strapping and robust baritone Christopher SchaldenbrandJanuary 5, 2004

“Schoenberg’s Naked Virgins . . . cavort with strapping, scantily clad young men during the orgy scene before the Golden Calf.” December 19, 2003