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Classical Notes: April 7, 2007 Archive

It ain't over 'til the thin lady sings

Posted at 12:48 PM on April 7, 2007 by Alison Young

You know how it can sometimes take a rather public embarrassment to bring about a change of a bad habit or something about yourself that's not so attractive?

Well, it was a very public humiliation indeed that brought the leading dramatic soprano singing today, Deborah Voigt to make a - please pardon the pun - HUGE change in her life. Although clearly the best singer on earth for the part in a 2004 Covent Garden production of Richard Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos, she was summarily fired because she couldn't get her size 30 body into the slinky cocktail dress they had in mind for her to wear; an outfit deemed crucial to the entire concept of the opera's staging.

Lots of press and speculation later, Deborah Voigt, at great personal risk of losing her beautiful voice, underwent gastric bypass surgery. She lost 100 pounds and now wears a size 14. Maybe not a petite woman, but she looks fantastic and is surely healthier. Best of all, she got to keep her sparkling voice, one that can soar over any Wagner orchestra.

So it really came as a surprise to me that earlier this week, when the Royal Opera Music Director Antonio Pappano, who has now invited the svelte Voigt back to sing Ariadne, insists on dismissing the "little black dress story" as rubbish and only a publicity stunt to help Voigt sell albums.

He stated at a Press Conference to announce next year's line-up, that "(Voigt) says it was about the black dress, but that’s not true. When you hire anybody to sing a role, you do take into consideration what they look like, how they move, how they act. It's not just as simple as saying that somebody is too heavy for a role or not."

Whatever the reason, I am delighted that Deborah Voigt was able to use this very unpleasant experience to change herself for the better. She is probably having the time of her life.