Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Apparently, the fat lady has sung at Opera Australia - and she's not coming back

I have to admit to you, my Friends ... my most recent post left me spent. How in the world can you post something after that - I mean, is there anything worthy of bumping Huguette Clark off the top spot?

Well, my frustration has gotten the best of me and if I don't let it out here, I'm likely to explode. And trust me when I say - no one wants to see me to that. It ain't pretty.

From The Sydney Morning Herald:
The fat lady has sung. And if Lyndon Terracini continues to get his way, she won't get an encore until she at least shifts some weight.

Lest the man charged with overseeing the future of opera in Australia be accused of sexism, he is quick to point out that his shape-up-or-ship-out message applies to all performers, regardless of gender.

"If you're seeing a couple making out and one of them is obese, who wants to watch that?" he says with a theatrical grimace. "It's obscene. You just think, 'Jeez, for Chrissakes, don't let the children see that'."

Terracini's views on how performers should look will outrage some and surprise others who still associate opera with super-sized sopranos in body armour and viking horns. But for the artistic director of Opera Australia, who next month unveils the program for his first season, that's exactly the point.

If casting "triple threats" who can sing, act and look good helps spark an interest among people who think opera is only for the old and rich, then he makes no apologies for upping the unemployment rate of overweight singers.

"You go to a movie and you see people who look exactly right for that role," he says. "They're consummate actors and they're completely involved in what they are doing, so their performance is totally believable.

"That's what I'd like in opera: for people to be fabulous singers, look wonderful and be completely and totally absorbed in their character. If you can't get off the seat, if you've got to sit on a rock all night, who believes that?"
Are we still going around and around about this, people? Come on. If you're going to cast opera on film - then, fine ... this Lyndon Terracini character can have his way.

The Metropolitan Opera - in all it's largeness.
But, I ask you: who wants to go and sit at the Met (pictured) and watch a tooth pick, who you can barely see, give her best attempted Meryl Streep impersonation with a voice the size of Jackie Evancho? That is not opera.

As I have said here before - it appears that the fundamentals of the opera world are changing. Opera is a big art form. An art form which, for the most part, requires big voices, big gestures and big personalities. It has always been centered around the voice and around making a sound big enough to cut over the orchestra and to fill a house without amplification. Anyone who has done it knows that this is a tall order - and, generally speaking, it comes easiest to a person of a more substantial build. Like it or not, there is truth to it.

When did we decide to mold our art form into looking like everything else that's out there? When did we decide that Hollywood's ideal should be our ideal, too?

I'm not advocating that every opera singer should run out and become morbidly overweight. But, becoming so obsessed with your size that you affect the core instrument that is needed to make the sounds that are the bedrock of what makes opera great, isn't the answer either.

"Hello? Mr. Terracini? Pro-ana called and is holding on line-one for you."

Indeed, it now seems that opera is being down-sized and shoved into a small, very confining box ... well, movie screen. The metamorphosis from operatic-grandiosity to Hollywood-fabulosity will begin to take it's toll on our art form. Sooner or later.

Leontyne Price as Butterfly
Now, perhaps a little sanity from The Sydney Morning Herald article:
The Herald's classical music critic, Peter McCallum, says because of the long lead time for opera seasons, it's too early to assess Terracini's performance.

"I don't think we've seen his indi-vidual stamp yet," he says. "Yes, there's Boheme, but we've seen good Bohemes before, notably the Baz Luhrmann one."

McCallum welcomes efforts to engage young people but says high ticket prices remain a barrier. Introducing broader discounts - for students, or people from disadvantaged areas, for example - could help.

As for the artistic director's views on how singers should look, McCallum warns Terracini is on dangerous ground. "It's really hard to cast opera - to get the voices people want and people who look great as well," he says.

"There are plenty of fantastic Asian singers around and we don't mind casting them in the big roles of Italian lovers or
La Boheme, and there are some fantastic female black singers who have played Madama Butterfly. There's got to be a suspension of disbelief … after all, what is a Valkyrie supposed to look like?"

1 comment:

Maia Dobson said...

Even though she's fat, I find her so pretty and talented! I would suggest though that she get a Los Angeles plastic surgery if she wants to get fit.

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