The Sopranos' Title Caused Some Confusion Over What Kind Of Show It Would Be

Before the name "The Sopranos" became synonymous with the most famous television family and its anguished patriarch Tony (James Gandolfini), HBO executives feared audience members would think the show was about opera singers. In the 20th anniversary oral history for Deadline, several cast members revealed they were also mixed up about the series' title. Edie Falco, who played Carmela Soprano, detailed her confusion: 

"When I got a phone call for an audition, I'd heard about it from my actor friends. But it was called 'The Sopranos,' so I thought it was about singers, I assumed I wouldn't get called, and didn't really think much of it. When I read it I thought, I know exactly who this woman is, and I know I'll never get cast."

The title also stumped Jamie-Lynn Sigler when she auditioned for the role of Tony's daughter, Meadow. She told Deadline she was expecting to show off her musical skills during the audition process because the name "The Sopranos" sounded perfect for her background in summer stock and community theater: 

"When I went for my callback with David Chase I remember saying, 'You guys need to hear me sing. I don't see an accompanist, so I can sing a capella for you if you want.' I remember him kind of looking confused and saying that's not necessary for this. I tried to cover quickly and said 'OK, never mind.' I didn't realize it wasn't a show about singers."

Sigler does end up flaunting her talents in episode 6 of season 2, "The Happy Wanderer," and the rest of the series is riddled with memorable music cues, but that is the only connection "The Sopranos" has to soprano singers.

The title's deeper meaning

According to the book "The Sopranos" by Gary Richard Edgerton, HBO attempted to have the title changed to "Made in New Jersey" — the final episode would be called "Made in America" — which certainly fits the significance of the setting and Mafia rituals, but creator David Chase was insistent on keeping the name "The Sopranos," based on a local family he knew from high school. Chase and HBO eventually compromised, adding the image of a gun in the series' logo to inform viewers it was about mobster violence.

"The Sopranos" is a simple title, but it's significant. It speaks to the themes of familial legacy and intergenerational trauma the series explores throughout its six riveting seasons. The series centers on Tony reexamining his childhood with his toxic mother and his overwhelming fear of passing down his inherited mental health problems — depression, panic attacks — onto his son, A.J. (Robert Iler), who starts dealing with suicidal thoughts and anxiety as a teenager. One of the best episodes in the series, season 1 episode 7 "Down Neck," explores these ideas. "The Sopranos" depicts a knotty world where Tony must live up to his family name to protect and lead his Mafia family. It's a world where code and brotherhood means everything, but you can be stabbed in the back in an instant. Despite the initial confusion, "The Sopranos" is the best title for the phenomenal series.