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“The opera ain’t over until the fat lady sings”

You’ve heard the expression “The opera ain’t over until the fat lady sings” but do you know where it came from?

The story I heard was that, in the early 20th century, a sheriff in Montana was chasing a robber who ducked inside a local auditorium where an opera was in progress. He hid out in the crowd. The sheriff followed but decided to wait until the opera was over before arresting him. The robber got up and tried to sneak out but the sheriff stood up and announced, “The opera ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings.”

Funny, colorful and not true. 🙁

It’s much more recent, 10 Mar 1976 in fact. A sports reporter for the Dallas Morning News named Ralph Carpenter said it. The context was a basketball game with the score tied at 72 each. Carpenter used the line again during a TV broadcast on San Antonio’s KENS-TV in April of 1978.

The fat lady is found in Wagner’s classic opera Götterdämmerung, part of his Der Ring des Nibelungen. She is the valkyrie Brünnhilde, generally portrayed by a hefty woman wearing a helmet with horns or wings. (Since the Götterdämmerung portrays the end of the world from the perspective of Norse mythology, it really is over when she sings.

Sources

Text © 2018 Gary J. Sibio. All rights reserved.

Image in the public domain.

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Written by Gary J Sibio

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