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Gridiron Grandioso

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Courtesy of John Powers, Boston Globe

So, people ask Harvard's fullback/tenor, is there any connection between football and opera? "Incredibly so," nods Noah Van Niel, who handles defensive linemen and Donizetti with equal aplomb. "It's rehearsing a set of skills and then going out and performing. There's pressure and there's an audience and there's nerves: Can I do this?"

There are also playbooks, and while Harvard football's is undeniably thicker and more complex, the operatic version comes in four languages - English, Italian, German, and French. "You've got to know them like the back of your hand," says Van Niel, who has taken two years of college Italian.

And later this fall, when Van Niel is auditioning for postgraduate programs in vocal performance, he'll have to know Dies Bildnis from Mozart's Magic Flute and four other arias by heart. "It's just like football," Van Niel says. "When they call a play for you on the goal line, you can't say, 'I don't know that one.' "

So after football practice at the Stadium, the curly-haired, barrel-chested Newton native walks back across the Larz Anderson Bridge to Dunster House, his riverside dorm with the crimson dome, locks himself inside a practice room, and has at Signor Donizetti for an hour.

For Powers' full story, please click here.

- A.S.