Great opera singers have always enjoyed appearing in a popular repertory. Golden Age heroes like Caruso and Gigli touched hearts and purse strings with their renditions of Italian folk songs both real and spurious. Ezio Pinza sang his way to fame on Broadway in South Pacific, a fame that had eluded him at the Metropolitan Opera House just a few blocks away. Helen Traubel supplemented her career as Brünnhilde and Isolde with another one performing light material in nightclubs. And in our own time the woods are full of tenor songbirds like Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, and Peter Hofmann doing crossover material ranging from folk songs and middle-of-the-road pop to soft rock.

Of late the pickings haven’t seemed so good for prima donnas. Even the career of Leontyne Price, with its obvious crossover potential, has seemed irrevocably bound to a serious operatic and song repertory....


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