Current Standards of Body Type in Opera

I recently read of an incident with Deborah Voigt (yes, I have a love affair with her right now) back in the early 2000’s. She was cast in a performance of  ‘Ariadne auf Naxos’ as the lead Ariadne with the Royal Opera in Covenant Gardens. After a short stint in rehearsals, she was fired from this position because she couldn’t fit into a ‘little black dress’ the director wanted her to wear. She was replaced by a thinner soprano, of less renown, and was asked to leave. This decision create quiet a scandel in the Opera world. She did interview after interview discussing how she felt and the impact this has had on her career. Not surprisingly, this had a great impact on her career, pulling her to the front line of most people’s vision for Opera.

Before and After

In 2001, approx. three months after the dismissal, she had gastric bypass surgery and lost over 100 lbs over the next 2 years! She went from a size 30 to a size 14. An amazing feat for someone that has had weight issues all their life. And this is what I would like to discuss.

Is Opera conforming to the modern stereotype of beauty?

For hundreds of years, Opera had the reputation of being bigger. Bigger stages, bigger costumes and indeed, bigger performers. The phrase ‘It’s not over til the fat lady sings’ is a euphemism for Opera and the typical larger women that have performed. In my first meeting with my vocal coach, he said to me that I was perfect for Classical music and Opera because I’m 6 feet tall and approx a size 14. That was a total reassurance to me because my previous background had been in Musical Theater where both of those measurements were considered bad.

So what type of message does that send?

Granted Deborah Voigt had weight problems her whole life and getting the surgery was a very good thing just for her health. But only a few years later she accepted the role again with the Royal Opera Company after she had slimmed down to what they had required. Personally, I don’t know if I could have handled going back to the company that had fired me, even if I now fit their ‘Mold’. But what does that say? That you only get the roles you want because you are thin? Your vocal ability doesn’t matter as much as your appereance?

I feel that Deborah did what she needed to for both herself and her career. But I wonder how much the world’s image of beauty is infiltrating things which up to this point have not been effected.

What do you think?

And 6 months later . . .

Time fly’s. I know everyone knows that, but I honestly believe that as you age, time speeds up. It’s like some cosmic joke, you get older and the day’s get shorter. So much has happened in the last few months, I feel like I should just erase everything written before and start over. But I won’t.

My lesson’s with Barry have been AMAZING! I don’t think I can completely convey how happy I have been with my lessons. First, Barry is the first teacher I have had that pushes me to not just ‘rest on my laurels’ but to really push me. I had a conversation with his wife, who is also a great singer, expressing how much I enjoy Barry and how hard he pushes me, and she looked at me like I was a little crazy. “Are you sure you like it?” She asked and I laughed it off. Because I truly do like that he doesn’t let me coast like every other teacher has done since I started singing.

His background is in Opera and I’ve fallen in love with Opera. When I first started taking lessons, I really had a hard time because I was still so stuck on Musical Theater. It was a scary concept for me to move away from Musical Theater and to Opera because it was always something that us MT people didn’t understand. But Barry was very patient with me, inching me closer and closer to opera. And he succeeded in the end. I fell in love!

For my 24th birthday, my husband (the amazing, fantastic, wonderful sexy husband) took me to see Die Walkure by Wagner at the local cinema. The Metropolitan Opera does a Live in HD series where they broadcast the production to theater’s around the US. Very cool. But the performance was breath taking. Deborah Voight was phenomenal as Brunhilde! This was the first real full length Opera that I have seen, what an introduction!!! The final scene of the Opera is of Wotan and Brunhilde are saying their final goodbye’s and she is being laid to rest, I was sobbing. It was so emotional because I was imagining saying goodbye to my own father and how horrible that would be. I had never been touched like that through music before. I’m now totally hooked.

I’m watching a Met performance of Don Giovanni right now with my husband through Netflix. A whole slew of Met performances are on Netflix to check out and I’ve queued them all! We finished act one and are onto act two now. I keep going back and forth on whether or not I like it because the performances are great, but the character of Don Giovanni is such a jerk and I really want to smack him! I’ll see it through and let you know how I feel.