The expression: The opera isn’t over until the fat lady sings

“L’opera non è finita finché non canta la signora grassa” Che cosa vorrà mai dire questa bizzarra espressione inglese? Deriva, come si può intuire, dal mondo della lirica e significa che “niente è finito, finché non è realmente finito”! Ci spiega tutto il nostro Mark Worden…

Mark Worden (Standard British accent)

There’s a wonderful expression in English which goes (1) like this: “The opera isn’t over until the fat lady sings” and what this actually means (2) is that things aren’t really over (3) until they’re over.
For example, it could be a sports match (4) in which your team is winning with two minutes to go, but it’s not over yet because the other team might score (5). Or it could be in a political campaign: there are three days to go before the election and, according to the polls (6), your party is winning but in the last couple of days things happen, and so it’s not over until it’s over. And we say: “It ain’t over” or “The opera isn’t over until the fat lady sings.” Now, as you can imagine, this is of operatic origin. Apparently, it is a reference to Brunhilde, one of the buxom blonde maidens (7) in the Wagner Ring…  cycle of operas, The Ring, and this, apparently, she appears in Gotterdammerung – I must confess I’m not a great opera buff (8) myself – but it only became used in its modern context, in a sporting context, by a journalist, a fellow in Texas called Ralph Carpenter who, when he was trying to explain that a match wasn’t over yet, he said that the opera isn’t over until the fat lady sings, and it was a very funny expression. This was in 1976, apparently, and since then it has caught on (9) so… and it’s one that you should use. If ever you find yourself… if you find yourself in a situation in which you want to tell people it isn’t over yet, you just say, “The opera isn’t over until the fat lady sings.”

GLOSSARY

1 which goes: che fa (che recita…)

2 what this actually means: quello che significa davvero è…

3 aren’t really over: non sono realmente finite

4 match: incontro, partita

5 might score: potrebbe segnare

6 according to the polls: secondo i sondaggi

7 one of the buxom blonde maidens: una delle fanciulle bionde formose

8 buff: appassionato

9 it has caught on: ha preso piedi

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