3 comments on “The Weighing In Of Opera

  1. Yes, I also posted that Buzzfeed article. While Sills’ body conformed more to modern ideals, Norman’s and Pavarotti’s did not. Nor did Caballe’s (infamously referred to as Monsterfat Cowbelly), Marc’s, Eaglen’s, or so many others. What happens now, when new singers of size find it nearly impossible to get a break? Well, in many of the classics, perhaps nothing. It’s not hard to put together a great current cast for Donizetti or Mozart operas. But there have always been svelte bodies in the lighter voices. It’s in the dramatic voices that this trend really takes a toll. Whether the theory that fatty tissue around the vocal mechanism lends resonance and depth to a voice or not, true dramatic voices have always been scarce, and limiting the pool of singers purely based on modern aesthetics makes it hard to cast for Wagner and Verdi without the beauty of the singing taking a direct hit. There may be a few sylphs out their with dramatic voices, a la Karita Mattila, but they can’t sing in every production. And those cast might sound passable, even good, so that it is not remarked upon. But what might have been? Raising the one standard necessarily and conversely affects the other. Opera can never get past the necessity for “suspesion of disbelief” because of all the big parts where the character is quite young. Older people must play these parts. So, I do not give any huzzahs on this front. And I’m delighted to see it when a company holds out for the best possible voice, despite looks. It”s opera. The voices should rule.

  2. I’m not sure about this, but it may be that these modern skinny operatic singers will not have the vocal power of the original Brunnhildes. In any case, Wagner certainly knew what he wanted, and I agree. BTW, I never heard “It ain’t over ’till the fat lady sings” until the Reagan era. Did he invent that?

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