Sports Illustrated is the latest publication to put its archives online, which means I can link to this 1979 article by Sean Kellogg about the athleticism of singing opera. Includes interviews with Sherrill Milnes and Luciano Pavarotti, who compliments some leading ladies: “For a big voice you need incredible muscular power to go to the top. Birgit Nilsson is very strong. The same with Joan Sutherland. She’s a very athletic girl.” And Kellogg anticipates Morris Robinson:
The strength required to sing is the reason you find so many mesomorphs in opera—the same body type usually found in football or weight lifting. Mesomorphs are bulky and muscular and tend to gain weight easily. A number of opera singers are obviously no exception.
Consider four of the top male singers in the world. Placido Domingo stands 6’2″ and weighs 225 pounds; Milnes is 6’2″, 212 pounds; Martti Talvela 6’7″, 250 pounds; and Pavarotti 6’1″, about 240 pounds. That’s a front four Bear Bryant would covet.
Seiji Ozawa is a guest conductor with the New York Philharmonic and a second baseman for the Penguins, the orchestra’s softball team. Earlier this month, while the Philharmonic was performing at Iowa State, the Penguins took on a fraternity team. The Penguins won the game 9-8 but almost lost a conductor. Ozawa was knocked down by a determined base runner and suffered a fractured coccyx. It’s nice that conducting is something you do standing up.