The economist writes about "Who will sing Aida?"
"Today lots of young singers take roles that are far too big for their voices.
Agents cheer them on, eager for their clients to enter the spotlight. Casting directors increasingly
hire them, keen for comely faces. And opera houses looking to keep expenses low are grateful for the
But whereas a young violinist can accept a prestigious gig without reservation, a young singer has to
consider his vocal cords. If used in roles that are too heavy, the vocal cords thicken, producing a less
attractive sound. They can even tear, leaving the singer virtually voiceless. "I've seen so many young
singers take on big roles and damaging their voices," says Stephen Costello, a 31-year-old tenor who
made a splash with his Metropolitan Opera debut when he was 26. "Everybody has seen it."
"The vocal maturity necessary for bigger roles tends to come when singers are in their late 30s and early 40s. Birgit Nilsson, a legendary soprano, remained in formidable vocal shape well into her 60s, and she continued to portray youthful heroines such as Wagner's Isolde and Verdi's Turandot when she was well into middle age. But more exacting demands for how stars look have left some opera houses reluctant to cast ageing opera stars in youthful roles."
"Opera singers have a reputation for acting like prima donnas. But if they hope to have long careers they may have to become more prima-donna-like still: they will have to learn to say no."