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The Loaded Weight Question

by Jessica Tobacman



Should singers be asked to list their weight?
In 2004, the Royal Opera House made headlines by dropping the dramatic soprano Deborah Voigt from the cast of Richard Straussí opera Ariadne auf Naxos because she couldnít fit into the little black dress assigned as her costume for the production. That incident is more well known than one in 1996 in which Voigt auditioned for Sir Georg Solti for the lead in Tristan und Isolde, to make a CD recording, and he told her that she could only have the role if she lost weight by a certain date.

In contrast, it was not opera companies or directors but Luciano Pavarottiís doctors that advised him in early 1993 to postpone concert performances at the Metropolitan Opera and to withdraw from directing and singing at the Opera Company of Philadelphia, so he could undertake a two-month weight-loss program.

This double standard for women and men appears at the highest levels of the opera world. Itís showcased, too, by Voigtís return to the Royal Opera House onstage in 2008 after gastri...
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