The Corner

Salzburg, Singers, and Golf, Part I

Golf courses are full of singers, particularly here in Salzburg. There is a veritable golfing mafia here, among singers. The members include Ferruccio Furlanetto, Barbara Bonney, Thomas Hampson, Matthew Polenzani, and Michael Schade. Furlanetto (a bass-baritone) is the best — low single digits. Bonney is No. 2, carrying a handicap of about 9.

Opera singers tend to have a fair amount of time during the day. This morning, I did a public interview of Bonney (an American soprano) for the Salzburg Festival Society. She was not free because she’s singing opera — she just made herself free. She said that, back when she was singing more opera, she played a lot of golf. Now she teaches a great deal — and plays many fewer rounds.

(That said, she was heading out after our interview.)

During our hour together, Bonney had many interesting things to say about singing and golf, which go together like love and marriage — “They’re the same,” she said. She has thought long and hard on the subject, and may even write a book. Her father was a teaching pro; her mother and that side of the family were big in golf too. The similarities have to do with how you practice, how you control adrenalin, how you deal with mistakes, and so on.

Also, there is the matter of technique: In both activities, you have to feel your way to a proper technique, being able to see so little.

By the way, Barbara may be related to Billy the Kid, a.k.a. William H. Bonney, the legendary outlaw. André Previn once wrote a piece for her on this subject (Sally Chisum Remembers Billy the Kid). Bonney said today that, by the photos, her father was the spittin’ image of Billy. If you see photos of Billy and Barbara side by side — they look alike, too. (Rest assured that the soprano has a much better character.)

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