Divas are a dime a dozen. Pop singers are divas, actresses are divas, models, anchor ladies, female CEOs, even women who snap at cabbies are divas. The term “diva” has its most revered usage at the opera, where it is enshrined in a spectral aria—“Casta diva”—sung by Norma, the title character in Bellini’s masterpiece. Norma is a Druid priestess who, duty and desire at swords’ points, goes up in flames for love, a flashpoint you might say, for the kind of power that now dominates in America: dark power, chthonic power, the id simmering, “issues” spitting, entitlement and empowerment stirring in the brew. There is something of witchcraft about divas. Singers plant themselves onstage (think of Judy Garland’s wrestler’s stance) and pull up their arias through the ground, the gut, the ribcage, the clavicle, the throat. Incanting, decanting, they obsess about phlegm and...

 

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