Wednesday, August 5, 2009

FAMOUS SINGERS

Early performances of opera were too infrequent for singers to make a living exclusively from the style, but with the birth of commercial opera in the mid-17th century, professional performers began to emerge. The role of the male hero was usually entrusted to a castrato, and by the 18th century, when Italian opera was performed throughout Europe, leading castrati who possessed extraordinary vocal virtuosity, such as Senesino and Farinelli, became international stars. The career of the first major female star (or prima donna), Anna Renzi, dates to the mid-1600s. In the 18th century, a number of Italian sopranos gained international renown and often engaged in fierce rivalry, as was the case with Faustina Bordoni and Francesca Cuzzoni, who started a fist fight with one another during a performance of a Handel opera. The French disliked castrati, preferring their male heroes to be sung by a haute-contre (a high tenor), of which Joseph Legros was a leading example.Though opera patronage has decreased in the last century in favor of other arts and media, such as musicals, cinema, radio, television and recordings, mass media has also supported the popularity of famous singers such as Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo, and José Carreras ("The Three Tenors"). Other famous 20th century performers include Maria Callas, Montserrat Caballé, Joan Sutherland, Nellie Melba, Rosa Ponselle, Beniamino Gigli, Jussi Björling, Feodor Chaliapin and Enrico Caruso.

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