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Opera Hair 101: The Modern Day Diva

October 5, 2012

If you have ever spent an evening at the opera, chances are that you have witnessed some seriously BIG hair. And, considering that the average opera clocks in at around 3 hours in length (not counting multiple intermissions and curtain calls), you probably had plenty of time to analyze these elaborate coiffures while the prima donna took the last half hour or so to expire (whether the cause be insanity, murderous rage, or tuberculosis). Here is a recent example of some pretty phenomenal Opera Hair:

This is Renee Fleming portraying Massanet’s Thais at the Metropolitan Opera last season. While her singing of this challenging role was exquisite, this writer found himself distracted again and again by her stunning mane of golden waves and braids. However, I’ll let all of you readers in on a little secret: this is most definitely almost 100% a wig. As in most areas of dramatic stage performance, opera relies heavily upon the skills of a good wig maker. When offstage, Fleming maintains hair of a much more manageable length (thank goodness, imagine how long that would take to blow-dry!).

Some modern divas, however, do sport hair of truly operatic proportions. Two that come to mind are mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli and soprano Laura Claycomb. Both singers have consistently worn their hair long and curly throughout their careers, making wigs onstage less of a necessity for them than most leading ladies. This writer was once fortunate enough to meet Claycomb in more mundane surroundings than the opera house (she visited his high school), and it must be said that those fiery ringlets look every bit as fabulous up close as they do onstage.

At the opposite end of the hair scale is the short cut of soprano Barbara Bonney. Fun, slightly edgy, and thoroughly low maintenance, Bonney’s cut (always complimented by beautifully maintained blonde color) highlights the elegance of her facial bone structure. From a practical standpoint, her colleagues must envy the rapidity with which she can transition from the wigs of the operatic stage to an effortlessly chic, modern look for the post-performance after parties (yes, opera has those, too!).

Last but certainly not least, special mention must go to soprano Jessye Norman, a true hair chameleon in the best sense of the word. Throughout her career, Norman has shown enormous daring in her styling choices. In a time when many ladies of her hair type sought to subdue the amplitude of their locks, Norman celebrated her heritage by often wearing her hair loose and completely natural during concert performances and public appearances. She has also rocked some gorgeous braids, and she occasionally chooses to mix things up a bit with a more sleek styling approach. Such a wide array of choices is demonstrative of the dynamic, ever-developing artistry of this incredible performer.

Although there are countless other examples of gorgeous hair in today’s opera world, these provide an excellent starting point for your exploration in this realm. What are some of your favorite looks here, dear reader? Stay tuned for more Opera Hair 101 in the future, compliments of Avanti’s resident opera fanatic!

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