The day before I left for college, my mother took me aside and gave me one particular piece of sage advice. “Never date a tenor,” she told me. I placed my right hand on my heart and gave her an earnest promise. After all, it didn’t seem like such a difficult task: the only real-life tenor that I had ever met was the fifty-five-year old specimen playing Siegfried at the opera house. Highlights included thinning hair, a problematic overbite, and a physical stature frighteningly similar to that of Jabba the Hut.
Less than two weeks later, I had already broken my promise. I called my mother and admitted the full extent of my failure as a daughter in five shameful words: “Mom…I’m dating a tenor.”
Alas, that tenor was only the first of many tenors, baritones, and basses to charm both my ears and my heart. To make matters worse, one of those baritones was really nothing more than a self-hating tenor, and one of the tenors was also a trumpet player, a crime that is tantamount to political treason in my parents’ house.
After each romance ended, I would clean up all of the broken glass and tattered rose petals and promise myself never to date a tenor (or a baritone or a bass) ever again. And yet, for a period of six years, it would only take the barest hint of a baritone aria or an elegant tenor high A to make me willingly plummet headlong into the exciting world of opera incest once again.
Here’s the scientific truth. Female singers are automatically built with a unique hormonal response that activates the instant they hear an adequate rendition of either “Dies Bildnis” or “Bella siccome un angelo.” Some women have such a keen aural perception that even the worst rendition of “Dies Bildnis” or “Bella siccome un angelo” will do. This, of course, explains Andrea Bocelli’s popularity.
This aural response is heightened by a visual reaction to the sleek lines of a tuxedo as well as the general sexual frustration that permeates the halls of every conservatory. For a practical exercise, combine all of the above in the soprano of your choosing, add twelve hours of opera rehearsal with a particular tenor or baritone, stir for six measures, and then simply wait for the emotional fireworks to begin.
Male singers, on the other hand, are completely unaware of the strength of the hormonal response that they inspire in females of the opera singing species. In the end, they simply wait for the women to flock to them and rely solely on an automatic “sing or sting” response that allows them to flee if they are approached by a soprano more than four times their size.
No matter how you stir it, romance and opera singing just don’t mix…at least not if you don’t want to have to have a straitjacket, two pairs of goggles, and plastic wine glasses on hand. Sure, it’s difficult to resist the charms of the opposite sex when she’s wearing a voluminous gown with a corset, he’s wearing extremely tight bloomers, and they are both singing the hell out of a virtuosic aria. But step back and think for a moment before you get too caught up in the cadenza.
Of all of the opera singers that I have dated, there are at least three that I am probably going to have to work with again at some point in my career. (As far as the rest of you go, I can tell you now what I was forced to deny while we were dating: your voice just isn’t very good.)
While I admit that it might be fun to trade passive-aggressive barbs with that tenor from my sophomore year of college, none of those relationships were really worth the future aggravation that I will have to face. Opera singing is our business, and, as we all know, one of the cardinal rules of any career is that you don’t mix business with pleasure.
So, as a soprano who has crossed over to the dark side of opera romance and lived to tell about it, let me condescend to give you some good advice.
Never date an opera singer.
Unless, of course, his brother is an investment banker. In that case, invite them both over for dinner.