Who hasn’t heard of the saying, “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings”? This colloquialism stems from the perception of Grand Opera, more specifically, overweight sopranos. As a vocal performance major studying classical voice, the common response when people hear that I plan on becoming an opera singer is, “…well, aren’t you suppose to be fat to do that?”. I usually respond to this question by saying, “Although heftier people have more room to expand their lungs, the voice needs three things to function well: a power source, which are your lungs, articulators, which include your tongue and lips, and a vibrating valve, which are your vocal folds. Being fat is not a requirement for one to be able to sing well.”
Some arguments that defend being hefty as an integral part of being an opera singer include: *Opera singers are fat because the size of the chest wall gives more room for the singer’s voice to resonate making it louder and more powerful than the skinny (or skinnier) singer.* Opera singers are fat because the type of mouth needed to create a ‘good voice’ is often a round mouth, which incidentally is the same type of person with a round face, which also incidentally is the kind of person with the round body type. *Another theory that Freud would be most interested in, is that Opera singers are fat because they are oral people. They give so much out through their mouths, so to compensate they have to put a lot back in. So they eat. And therefore they are fat.
As you may have inferred from my previous commentary, I do not believe being overweight is an integral part of being a great opera singer. This stereotype came about because the majority of the most talented and popular opera singers up until the 21st century, have been overweight. It goes without question that the opera singers depicted on this slide have exceptional, world-class voices.Luisa Tetrazzini, depicted on the bottom left, was an internationally acclaimed Italian coloratura soprano, and is now thought to be eponymous of the popular American dish Turkey Tetrazzini. Deborah Voigt, depicted on the top left, is irrefutably one of the best Brünnhildes of all time, while Montserrat Caballé, depicted on the top right, is known as one of the finest interpreters of bel canto repertoire. Luciano Pavarotti, depicted on the bottom right, is the most commercially successful tenor of all time.
Deborah Voigt told an interviewer that she'd been booked by Covent Garden to sing the title role in Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos but was then, as the date for the production approached, asked to stand down on the grounds that she had put on too much weight. The stage director wanted Ariadne to look glamorous in a little black dress: something of the kind Edith Piaf might have slipped into. In the memorable words of Covent Garden, her increased girth made this "not such a fortunate suggestion", and she was replaced by the comparatively wisplike Anne Schwannewilms, who fitthe design concept more snugly.
Do sexy singers sound the swansong of the fat lady? So is it true? Is opera shrugging off its old, pub-joke association between big voices and enormous bodies? Has the curtain finally come down on the fat lady singing?"I can only say that if I were running an opera house I'd want the best singer for the role", Voigt says, "whether they had hips or not. But there it is". And as she knows well enough, then as now, this is an issue with two sides to it.Opera is theatre. And for at least the past 30 years it's been ruled not so much by conductors as by stage directors who think that seeing as well as hearing is believing. You might argue that the tyranny of physical appearance is already well-enough established in the music world.Adolescent singers with a cute smile but not much behind it tour the world and earn a fortune. It's depressing. It's unjust. But presentation counts sometimes more than talent.
Anna Netrebko featured on the left and Angela Gheorghiu featured on the right are two opera stars that look better than they sound, in my opinion.Here’s what critics have to say about Gheorghiu’s new album:“This new album from Rumanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu is a mixed bag indeed.…are signs of technical flaws, the repertoire is less than inspiring, and the overall impression is one of disappointment.Angela Gheorghiu: Live at La Scala documents the soprano's debut at the great Italian opera house. The singer feels that it was brave and daring of her to appear before Italy's most volatile opera audience for the first time in a solo recital rather than in one of her celebrated operatic roles. Although herappearance in La Scala in La traviata earlier in the year was booed, it's clear that the Gheorghiufanclub took up residence for the recital, and the audience seems to react with equal delight regardless of whether the singing is faultless or deeply flawed.
I feel that just as technology improves, and strives to instantly gratify costumers by the outward appearance of phones for instance, opera is also headed in the same direction. It is now trying to instantly gratify it’s audiences with their performer’s appearance rather than voice through live hd broadcasts of performances at the Metropolitan Opera for instance. The recent sacrifice of talent over looks in order to make opera a trendier more marketable performing art, is incredibly unfortunate. So what is more rewarding in the end? A pretty face that cannot sing, or a heftier one that can?
Evolution of image in opera
Evolution of Image in Opera and its Consequences <br />Alexandra Kotis<br />