Friday, March 12, 2004


Lots of people are up in arms over the fact that an obese soprano has been denied a role in a leading English Opera. But opera is as much theatre as music and casting a role appropriately (so that the actor looks right in the part) is elementary in theatre. And if the patrons would rather look at a slim woman than a fat one there is nothing odd or unnatural about that.

{And what about the current "war on obesity"? Shouldn't the obesity warriors be applauding any move that discourages obesity? I think the strange silence from them shows that their war is really a war on food companies like McDonald's, not on obesity}.

As it says here
: "Deborah Voigt, who is thought to weigh some 220 pounds, has one of the most impressive dramatic soprano voices around. She was due to display it at the Royal Opera House this summer in a production of Richard Strauss's "Ariadne auf Naxos." Unfortunately, however, she would have had to display far more than just her voice: The production requires her to wear a slinky little black dress. In Ms. Voigt's case, the word "little" was something of a problem, and the director decided that the mise en scène could not survive such a sight.

Cue uproar! On and on it has gone, as the Royal Opera House has been subjected to a barrage of verbal assaults from the arbiters of operatic taste, who have condemned her dismissal as the ultimate triumph of style over substance. There is, we are told, only one thing which really matters: the quality of a singer's voice. The rest is superficial, a blight of the modern obsession with looks and image. As the New York Times' critic, Anthony Tommasini, put it yesterday, "The Royal Opera would seem to have forgotten the most basic truth of the genre. Yes, opera is a form of drama. But drama in opera has never been dependent on literal reality."

Indeed not. But when so many of its most passionate supporters live in an alternate universe, refusing to recognize how weird is their sense of aesthetics, then it's little wonder that opera is, if not a dead, then at the very least a dying art form".

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