Ashley Putnam, at 26, just may be an opera legend in the making. One of the new breed of divas, she can sing, look handsomely Mozartian and also act. "In the old days," Ashley notes, "you could overact and overeat and still be a star. I personally find it very hard to imagine that the hero of an opera is going to swoon over a heroine who weighs 200 lbs. and stands 4'11"." She's 5'10" and 148, and the New York critics had no trouble swooning when she made her City Opera debut starring as Violetta in Verdi's La Traviata this fall. "One of the most vivid and honest Violettas in memory," wrote one, while others chorused "a triumph of daring," "a remarkable star," "the find of the season, if not of the decade." The New York-born Putnam favored the flute until she reached the University of Michigan, "when I realized my voice was a better instrument." After grad school, Putnam developed it further at the Santa Fe Opera and then headed out for the burgeoning boonies. ("There is wonderful opera being performed all across America now, luckily for me," she says.) But even after such a boffo start, singing isn't everything. Her current boyfriend is Tim Dunigan, an acting student at St. Louis' Webster College, and she does not believe that art is all. "I'll never sing a performance without mistakes," sighs Ashley. "And even if you were perfect, you can't take applause home with you, can you?"

The Fischer brothers of Washington, D.C., who grossed a cool $2 million the past year, are tasting success as delectable as their product, frozen Yummy Yogurt. Such was not always the case for David, 25 (left), Richard, 26, and Benny, 22. Two years ago they had to borrow $45,000 to open their first Yummy stand in downtown D.C. Summer business boomed, but when temperatures dropped so did sales. Benny suggested packaging Yummy in pints and quarts and selling wholesale. "I promoted the hell out of it. I even hauled 20 gallons into a supermarket and gave out spoonfuls," he recalls. Within weeks 125 local groceries were stocking their yogurt. Now the threesome keep business brisk at their home stand by wearing "Add Culture to Your Life" T-shirts (designed by Richard) and guaranteeing "Only five minutes to the end of the line." ("People love it," says David. "They time us.") The Yummy empire has now grown to four outlets, and the brothers dream of franchising "like McDonald's." The major threat en route would seem to be sibling rivalry. "I always wanted to make money," says Benny. "My older brothers would be out sledding, and I'd be shoveling snow to earn money."