Prima donna

Originally used in opera companies, "prima donna" is Italian for "first lady". The term was used to designate the leading female singer in the opera company, the person to whom the prime roles would be given. The prima donna was normally, but not necessarily, a soprano. The corresponding term for the male lead (almost always a tenor) is "primo uomo". [H. Rosenthal, H. and J. Warrack, "The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Opera", 2nd Edition, Oxford University Press, 1979. p. 398. ISBN 019311321X]

Legendarily, these "prima donnas" (prime donne in Italian) were often regarded as egotistical, unreasonable and irritable, with a rather high opinion of themselves not shared by others. Although whether they are truly more vain or more hot-tempered than other singers (or than any other people in the opera houses) is not substantiated, the term often signifies a vain, obnoxious and temperamental person who, although irritating, cannot be done without. [Susan Rutherford, [http://books.google.com/books?id=s1j6Jl2LOfgC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Prima+donna&lr=&sig=A68hBbMrp3tzzAT70dvP8RIoJ2s#PRA1-PA44,M1 "The Prima Donna and Opera, 1815-1930"] , Cambridge University Press, 2006. ISBN 052185167X ]

Famous prima donnas have often caused opera enthusiasts to divide into opposing "clubs" supporting one singer over another. The rivalry between the respective fans of Maria Callas and Renata Tebaldi, for example, was one of the most famous of all opera, despite the friendship of the two singers. [See for example, George Jellinek, [http://books.google.com/books?id=AARY5QG7U3EC&printsec=frontcover#PPA96,M1 "Callas: Portrait of a Prima Donna"] , Dover, 1986, p. 96 and "passim". ISBN 0486250474] In recent times the term prima donna has almost become a synonym of "diva" and is used to designate popular female opera singers, especially sopranos.

"Prima Donna" is also the title of a song in Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical, "The Phantom of the Opera". It refers to the character, Carlotta Giudicelli, an ill-tempered soprano.

References

Further Reading
*Rupert Christiansen, "Prima Donna: A History", Viking, 1985. ISBN 0670804827


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  • prima donna — ⇒PRIMA DONNA, subst. fém. ART LYRIQUE, vieilli. Cantatrice interprétant le rôle principal dans un opéra ou cantatrice ayant généralement ce rôle dans une troupe lyrique. Le lendemain matin, sans consulter ses enfants, sans dire un mot à personne …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Prima donna — Pri ma don na; pl. E. {Prima donnas}, It. {Prime Donne . [It., fr. primo, prima, the first + donna lady, mistress. See {Prime}, a., and {Donna}.] The first or chief female singer in an opera. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Prima donna — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda En el ámbito de la ópera, prima donna es el término en italiano que se usa para designar a la primera cantante, mujer que desempeña los papeles principales y que generalmente es soprano. El término correspondiente… …   Wikipedia Español

  • prima\ donna — [ primadɔna ] n. f. • 1823; mots it. « première dame » ♦ Cantatrice tenant le premier rôle (de soprano, en général) dans un opéra. « des applaudissements à faire crouler la salle accueillirent l entrée en scène de la prima donna » (Balzac). Des… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • prima donna — 1782, principal female singer in an opera, from It. prima donna first lady, from L. prima, fem. of primus first (see PRIME (Cf. prime) (adj.)) + domina lady. Meaning temperamental person first recorded 1834 …   Etymology dictionary

  • prima donna — meaning ‘chief female singer’ of a company or ‘a temperamentally self important person’, has the plural form prima donnas. The adjectival form, in the allusive meaning, is prima donna ish …   Modern English usage

  • prima donna — [n1] star diva, first lady, headliner, leading lady, lead vocalist, opera singer, singer, soloist, superstar, topliner*; concepts 352,366 prima donna [n2] temperamental person conceited person, crybaby, egotist, narcissist, princess, self… …   New thesaurus

  • prima donna — (Del it. prima donna). f. Protagonista femenina de una ópera …   Diccionario de la lengua española

  • Prima donna — (ital.), die erste Sängerin an einer größeren Oper …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • prima donna — ► NOUN 1) the chief female singer in an opera or opera company. 2) a very temperamental and self important person. ORIGIN Italian, first lady …   English terms dictionary

  • prima donna — [prē΄mə dän′ə, prim′ə] n. [It, lit., first lady] 1. the principal woman singer in an opera or concert 2. Informal a temperamental, vain, or arrogant person …   English World dictionary

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