It ain’t over

Amalie Materna as the valkyrie Brunnhilde, 1876. Joseph Albert: Public Domain

“…until the fat lady sings.”

DH and I were discussing this familiar aphorism last week in the context of the USA presidential election. With the excitement and tension mounting, at last we could dare to believe the good news was possible…yea, probable. Probable, yes, but one of us pointed out that there was still a way to go, the outcome wasn’t one hundred per cent a done deal; “It ain’t over until the fat lady sings,” don’t count your presidential chickens before they’re hatched in other words.

Who is the fat lady?

I’ve always imagined we were talking about the rather ‘ample’ soprano often seen leading Land of Hope and Glory and Rule, Britannia, on the Last Night of the Proms. Almost right- although it goes back a good deal further than that! According to that fount of knowledge, Wikipedia, it’s indeed a reference to your traditional rather busty soprano, with the valkyrie Brunnhilde, from Wagner’s Ring Cycle exemplifying the saying. Did you know that her farewell scene, which led to the finale of the work, lasted nearly 20 minutes? Imagine. It may have been the end of the land of the Norse gods, but I bet you the poor audience were wondering if they’d been plunged into everlasting torment!

In case any Wagner fans chance across this and begin frothing at the mouth, apologies. I admit it, I’m a cultural embarrassment and you can’t take me anywhere. I’m sure that the late Amalie Materna did a jolly good job of her role and who am I to cast aspersions (or nasturtiums for that matter) at her memory?

Actually, it’s wise to avoid casting miscellaneous summer annuals at anybody if at all possible, and with this thought we segue neatly into another, alternative take on the fat lady, which I’ll explore in another post.

Categories Music

2 thoughts on “It ain’t over”

  1. Hi Jane – I use that phrase often (“it’s not over until the fat lady sings.” Never knew the context, but like you, assumed it had something to do with opera. Thanks for the background. We are hoping here for a peaceful “changing of the guard” in DC! Blessings! Virginia

    Reply
    • Ah yes, Virginia, we’ve been following it all with interest. Wishing you a peaceful changeover. Is it my imagination or has it gone very quiet in certain quarters? 🙂

      Reply

Leave a comment