5 Things You Didn’t Know About Opera (part 3)

This story is part of a series of 50 stories we are releasing to commemorate 50 years of opera in West Michigan. Browse more stories and follow our journey throughout the season.


The sports roots of the phrase “it ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings”, Mozart as a child prodigy, and other interesting facts you probably don’t know.

Opera has a rich 400-year legacy. It’s no wonder it’s picked up a few entertaining stories along the way. We’ve collected some of our favorites below.


Maria Callas

Castrated men sang in place of women, who were banned from the stage

In the seventeenth century, women were not allowed to sing onstage. Instead, male singers who were castrated before puberty, or castrati, would sing their parts. Today, contraltos–the lowest and most rare female voice category–are often assigned roles originally written for castrated males. Learn more.









Who coined “It ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings”

The famous saying “it ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings” is in reference to buxom Brunhilde’s 10-minute aria at the end of Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle. The phrase is usually attributed to professional basketball coach Dick Motta, who in turn attributes it to San Antonio sportswriter/broadcaster Dan Cook, who says he overheard a friend say it.







Opera is really an artist’s body of work

The word “opera” originates from the Latin word for word for “work” (opus). This is similar to someone’s best work being described as their magnum opus! Learn more.



Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Mozart wrote an opera when he was just 12 years old

Mozart wrote his first opera, Bastien und Bastienne, a parody of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s operatic intermezzo Le devin du village (The Village Soothsayer), when he was only 12 years old. Learn more.










Richard Wagner

Wager considered writing operas about Jesus Christ and the Buddha

Later in life, Wagner, who became interested in Buddhism, is rumored to have considered writing operas about Jesus Christ and the Buddha.










OUR FOUNDERS HAD A BOLD PROPOSITION: to build a professional opera company that would put Grand Rapids on the map for a very discerning audience. 50 years later, we are humbled to be the modern bearers of classical standards and modern ingenuity. Learn more.



As an integral part of our city’s artistic fabric, it’s our responsibility to see to its continual flourishing. Please consider donating to Opera Grand Rapids to ensure our artistic excellence for the next 50 years and beyond. You’ve already made us great. With your support, there’s no limits to the height our voices can reach together. Give today.