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Athletes often make good musicians
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Why American football players make perfect opera singers

The unusual story of an American football star turned opera singer proves that there is a deep affinity between music and sport, says Ivan Hewett

9:00AM BST 11 Apr 2015

Ten years ago, Ta’u Pupu’a was a lineman for American football team the Cleveland Browns. The amiable Polynesian giant was forced to change tack when a player in an opposing team trod on his foot and crushed it. Fortunately he had a childhood passion to fall back on – singing. A chance meeting with another, rather more famous Polynesian singer, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, led to a scholarship at the Juilliard School in New York. Now Pupu'a is a fully-fledged professional, and last week made his UK debut in Graham Vick’s production of Michael Tippett’s 1970 opera The Ice Break.

Pupu’a is not the first sportsman to make the cross-over into high level performance in opera or music. Chi-chi Nwanoku, the characterful Principal Double Bassist of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, was a promising runner of Olympic potential before injury forced her to throw her energies into music. Terry Edwards, one-time director of the Royal Opera Chorus, played in England’s Olympic basketball team. Gregory Porter, touted as the next big thing among jazz singers, was all set for a career in American football until a shoulder injury forced a rethink.

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