OPERA - OPERA NEWS - FAT LADY
can run my scales way up past high F’, promises the soprano
auditioning for Queen of the Night in Mozart’s
simply devine’, replies the theatre manager, ‘but don’t you also
tip the bathroom scales at 180 kilos?’
exchanges are becoming the norm, allege some singers. Management’s
pursuit of younger audiences is making it harder for the fat lady to
sing. Opera is drama, not
a concert or oratorio. Hence, the German devotion to theatricality is
winning out of the Italian obsession with prima donnas.Roles
exist for ample ladies,
especially in the older or contralto parts.
There’s not much
evidence that the power of a voice, let alone its quality, improves with
avoirdupois. Technique contributes more than tonnage, and lung capacity
is no help if dissipated keeping the diva upright. Mini’s tubercular
look relies on histrionics, make-up, costume and lighting, never on a
born Twiggy with the vocal heft of a Callas.
is not a solution. Fans believe that the sparkle went from the soprano
of Wagnerian Jane Eaglen after she lost 36 kilos. If so, the cause was
more likely emotional stress than weight loss. At least a singer who
chooses liposuction is safe from the fate of Dame Nellie Melba who died
of blood poisoning after a face lift.
tenors abound, with Pavarotti the size of two Valkyrie. Basses are
entitled to be large, since half their roles are comic. Baritones,
however, are under pressure to be beefcake as directors take their Dons
down to the buff.
back at our audition: ‘I can hold my top F for fifteen seconds”,
lies the soprano colosso.
simply devine’, the manager concedes, ‘but since you can’t squeeze
into the loo on the Jumbo from LA, can you hold your water for