Friday, July 13, 2007

I'm with him this time.

Benjamin Ivry writes in Commentary, "Size Doesn't Matter." His "Wagner Without Tears" was a mite under-informed about great Wagnerians of the mainstream who suffered from (as opposed to being supporters of) the NSDAP regime. Still, I agree with his point about weight not mattering in opera.
Opera is an art of freakish, exceptional beings, not of marketing-friendly looks. If we allow unimaginative directors and opera house bosses to censor singers because they are fat, soon older singers will also be banned, and we will miss great autumnal performances like those of tenor Alfredo Kraus, who sang artfully into his late 60’s. Similar “realistic” criteria are already being used to keep singers of color from being cast in opera roles, especially in Europe. So cheer those fat ladies singing—after all, even Mr. Gelb’s Charlotte Church has put on weight.
I don't see why he's bringing up Kraus, though. Domingo is pushing 70 and is still, last time I heard, singing Parsifal. That makes loads of sense. Oh, yeah.

In any event, when you let marketing types into the "talent" side of music, this is what you get. Granted, there's a line, when the artist's weight becomes distracting to a majority of the people in the seats. A disturbing number of productions of most stuff, these days, are so overwrought and "stage-y" (i.e., painfully unsubtle) that the singers could be as fat or thin as they please and it wouldn't matter. In fact, it might even give the audience something less egregious at which they might look. Most directors, furthermore, should demand obese singers, as they could blame their infelicities on the heavyset artists.

When most major productions are ideal, or very close thereto, then talk to me. Until then, there are bigger problems than big artists.

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