Bodies Beautiful?

Should the Fat Lady Diet Before She Sings?
THE dramatic soprano Deborah Voigt returns to the Metropolitan Opera on Thursday as Elisabeth in Wagner’s “Tannhäuser,” and opera buffs are abuzz with anticipation over this popular American artist’s first foray into the role at the house.
Yet besides wondering how she will sound, many in the audience will no doubt be curious to see how she looks. Ms. Voigt, a large woman, has been dieting, exercising and losing weight. The physical appearance of opera singers became a hot topic last summer, when word came that Ms. Voigt had been forced out of a production of Strauss’s “Ariadne auf Naxos” at the Royal Opera House in London. Ariadne is her signature role. But the director of the company’s trendy production thought she was too heavy to look right in a black cocktail dress that he deemed crucial to his concept.
Though countless Voigt fans were distressed by this insult to her artistry, the story did stir debate about nagging questions in the field: vocal endowment is obviously the most important factor in casting a role, but is it everything? Shouldn’t the element of drama in opera demand that singers look reasonably like the characters they portray? And what about the new generation? Do younger singers who have grown up in a visually oriented age believe that looking good and staying in shape are prerequisites for a career?
[Click *here* for remainder of article.]
Recommended recording: