Slimmer soprano Deborah Voigt says looks count

Tue Jun 17, 2008 1:40pm EDT
 
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Slimmed-down soprano Deborah Voigt, back at London's Covent Garden four years after bosses fired her for being too fat, says opera, like other forms of entertainment, is increasingly obsessed with looks.

The 47-year-old American accepted an invitation from the Royal Opera House to return to the same production she was dropped from in 2004 when the casting director felt she would not suit the "little black dress" he envisaged for the part.

The decision sparked heated debate in the world of opera and beyond about the importance of artists' appearance. Voigt shed 120 pounds with the help of gastric bypass surgery and is back as Ariadne in Richard Strauss's "Ariadne auf Naxos."

Until recently opera had a reputation for casting large and barely mobile men and women as dashing heroes and beautiful queens based purely on the quality of their voice.

The shift in recent years towards good looks as much as talent, epitomized by the popularity of the "popera" genre, reflected the broader world of entertainment, Voigt argued.

"There's no getting around the fact that the face of opera is changing," she told Reuters in her back stage dressing room after the opening night of 'Ariadne'.

"It would be very easy to say, well, it shouldn't matter and in a certain decade it shouldn't have mattered when we didn't have to think about television and there wasn't so much competition for entertainment dollars."

Opera would have to draw the line somewhere, however.   Continued...

 
<p>Deborah Voigt poses for photographers during a break in the New York Times Arts and Leisure Weekend discussions in New York, January 6, 2006. Slimmed-down soprano Voigt, back at London's Covent Garden four years after bosses fired her for being too fat, says opera, like other forms of entertainment, is increasingly obsessed with looks. REUTERS/Chip East</p>