Thanks to Roberto Alagna, world-class tenor, for walking off stage during an opera performance, thus turning a cliche back into a tradition.
Here's what I gather from the short BBC News article: Aida, an opera composed by (cospicuously Italian) Guiseppe Verdi, was being performed at La Scala, a world-famous opera house in Milan. I hope I haven't already lost your attention. During Alagna's performance of a song called Celeste Aria, the tough Italian crowd, which contained some pretty damn important people, started booing him. Enraged, Alagna walked off the stage. His duet partner was temporarily screwed; his understudy, Antonello Palombi, had to rush on-stage and continue the performance in his denim-wear.
Now, I don't know much about opera (obviously), but thanks to Wikipedia, I DO know that the word "diva" was originally used for female opera singers. We've been using it for bitchy adult alternative vocalists for so long that we've almost forgotten its origins; the first Urban Dictionary definition is as follows:
"a bitchy woman that must have her way exactly, or no way at all. often rude and belittles people, believes that everyone is beneath her and thinks that she is so much more loved than what she really is. selfish, spoiled, and overly dramatic."
There's also a lot of reference to diva being an over-used industry buzzword, and its association with lonely housewives and gay men. A few of the definitions mention the opera singer origins, but that's probably because those contributors looked at the same Wikipedia article that I did.
Luckily, we have Roberto Alagno to thank for reminding us what "Diva" really means. Sure, it's self-important, but it's a matter of being so irrationally proud of your art that you don't take shit about it. He walks off the stage as if to say, "Sure, diplomats and journalists, we have a deal... if you don't want to hear me sing, I don't want to sing for you. Humph!" When you're singing in an opera, you're licensed to be dramatic, and there's no better way to express yourself than to stomp off the stage.
Compare this to American celebrity freakouts. I'll give you two examples...
1) Michael Richards' situation, with the heckling, was kind of like Alagno's. He wasn't being appreciated, and he objected. Unfortunately, he couldn't manage the demands of his art (i.e. he couldn't "jujitsu" it, laugh it off, or take it lightly). Instead, he fucking FREAKED OUT and went on a racist rant that got his name in a lot more headlines than Roberto Alagno will ever manage.
2) Going back a little more, look at Ashlee Simpson's lip-synch faux pas on Saturday Night Live, October 25, 2004 (sorry about the quality of the clip... this video has mysteriously vanished from the Intertron). It resulted in a reaction that was similar to Alagno's... a miffed exit stage-right... but for what? An embarrassing lip-synch switch-up that revealed the authenticity of Ashlee's vocal talents. Not exactly an expression of pride in her art-form. Pretty sad, walking off because you were caught faking... if the crowd had actually booed her during her song, would she have walked off? Probably not, because her voice would have kept on singing.
So good job, Roberto Alagno... if you're not getting the respect you deserve, get off the stage, and do it proudly and angrily. Thanks for showing us the Diva as an indignant defender of his/her own precious performance... a role that still merits respect.