Thread: Opera Small Talk

          
   
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  1. #1501
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sospiro View Post
    An open letter to Brian Salesky, Executive Director & Conductor, Knoxville Opera from vocal coach Claudia Friedlander.

    Maestro Selesky,

    Auditions for Knoxville Opera’s Education/Outreach Program performances of La Bohème posted to YAPTracker today. Under the Restrictions heading you wrote “Knoxville Opera will cast age appropriate, attractive artists in these roles.”


    The full letter.

    I agree with Claudia Friedlander but sadly it's a sign of the times.
    While I also agree with Claudia Friedlander in most of what she said, she went a bit far. Why did she include "non-whites" in it? She seems to be the one who hints at non-whites being less attractive than whites (which is of course a preposterous statement).

    There are extremely attractive opera singers, male and female, who are not white (e.g. Noah Stewart, Alyson Cambridge - the latter, by the way, I saw live precisely in La Bohème). The conductors' exclusion criteria statement, announcing that he will cast "age-appropriate, attractive" singers, makes no reference to race whatsoever.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively News Coordinator Top Contributor Member MAuer's Avatar
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    I think she hit the nail on the head when she mentions "fatties." Admittedly, this is only my suspicion which I have no way of proving, but I believe that when many people these days talk about singers who look believable in their roles, the individual's weight is exactly what is meant. Race or ethnicity doesn't enter into it, unless the character's race/ethnicity is essential to the plot (i.e., Otello, Madama Butterfly).

  3. #1503
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Clayton's Avatar
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    It is a difficult subject; everyone will draw a line in a different place. Some people think boys dressing up as girls (or the other way round) is wierd. I on the other hand...

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    Opera Lively Media Consultant Top Contributor Member Ann Lander (sospiro)'s Avatar
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    Bryn Terfel is hardly an old painting ...

    "The world calls them its singers and poets and artists and storytellers; but they are just people who have never forgotten the way to fairyland."
    Lucy Maud Montgomery

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    Opera Lively Staff Member Top Contributor Member Hoffmann's Avatar
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    I agree with Claudia Friedlander's letter.

    One also sees the repercussions when singers - especially sopranos - take it upon themselves to lose enormous amounts of weight to better fit directors' physical expectations, only to run into perceptions of vocal changes afterwards. Deborah Voigt, for example, about whom some critics (not sure whether professional or amateurs) claim that her voice never was the same. Similarly, I've read (mostly amateur) critics who reference Maria Callas' recordings as "before weight loss" and "after weight loss".

    Speaking for myself, when attending operas, I appreciate it when singers manage to fit my notions of what a character should look like. However, it's hard enough to cast some roles with tough vocal requirements, much less casting while trying to adhere to impractical standards of physical beauty, such that I appreciate it when singers are great at conveying their characters, regardless of what they look like.

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  9. #1506
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Clayton View Post
    It is a difficult subject; everyone will draw a line in a different place. Some people think boys dressing up as girls (or the other way round) is wierd. I on the other hand...
    Do it all the time?

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  11. #1507
    Senior Member Veteran Member Povero Buoso's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sospiro View Post
    Bryn Terfel is hardly an old painting ...

    I think that physically and vocally Bryn is exactly what a Scarpia should be from that clip.
    "Non sono in vena" Rodolfo summing up P.B's feelings on his dissertation.

  12. #1508
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Clayton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amfortas View Post
    Do it all the time?
    Certainly not!


    Only Fridays are tutu night.

  13. #1509
    Opera Lively Media Consultant Top Contributor Member Ann Lander (sospiro)'s Avatar
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    "The world calls them its singers and poets and artists and storytellers; but they are just people who have never forgotten the way to fairyland."
    Lucy Maud Montgomery

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  15. #1510
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Festat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva) View Post
    While I also agree with Claudia Friedlander in most of what she said, she went a bit far. Why did she include "non-whites" in it? She seems to be the one who hints at non-whites being less attractive than whites (which is of course a preposterous statement).

    There are extremely attractive opera singers, male and female, who are not white (e.g. Noah Stewart, Alyson Cambridge - the latter, by the way, I saw live precisely in La Bohème). The conductors' exclusion criteria statement, announcing that he will cast "age-appropriate, attractive" singers, makes no reference to race whatsoever.
    I disagree. Is she implying also that fatties aren't as attractive as skinnies? She mentions non-whites because, like fatties, like the visibly disabled, they don't fit the standard — white and fit.

    I have myself witnessed several casting sessions (for movies, TV and publicity, though, not opera) that had "attractive" as part of the brief. Like the Knoxville Opera one, they made no reference to race whatsoever because, as you very well said, it would be preposterous. However, when I looked at the people that were actually cast they were, no surprise, 100% white. IN ALL OF THEM. More than 25 casting sessions.

    So, you see, it's not mentioned — and that's exactly because they know they can't do it without it sounding really bad — but it's heavily there.

  16. #1511
    Opera Lively News Coordinator Top Contributor Member MAuer's Avatar
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    To me, a singer's weight becomes an issue when it restricts his/her ability to move (i.e., Johan Botha). On the other hand, I wish some stage directors would remember that these individuals are singers, not gymnasts.

  17. #1512
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Festat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MAuer View Post
    On the other hand, I wish some stage directors would remember that these individuals are singers, not gymnasts.
    Not everybody is Julie Andrews, right?


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  19. #1513
    Opera Lively Staff Member Top Contributor Member Hoffmann's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MAuer View Post
    To me, a singer's weight becomes an issue when it restricts his/her ability to move (i.e., Johan Botha). On the other hand, I wish some stage directors would remember that these individuals are singers, not gymnasts.
    Weight issues are difficult. Johan Botha is a big boy - so is Peter Seiffert. It was painful to watch these guys move when they were singing roles portraying knights (Botha as Walther in Meistersinger and Seiffert as Tannhäuser). Seiffert's Tannhäuser was particularly jarring as the production had him moving amidst a group of semi-naked dancers during the Venusberg scene, looking bewildered with the dancers kind of helping him around. However, Tannhäusers are hard to find these days, so it might behoove directors to consider productions that don't emphasize the attributes of being plus-sized.

    Of course, when a role calls for a youth, like Siegfried or Siegmund, all bets are off regarding physical types and one has to hope whoever is singing can, in fact, sing the role well.

    I also recall seeing Caballe sing Elizabeth in Don Carlos. She sang beautifully, of course, but everytime she was supposed to sing, she kind of wandered on stage, sang her bit, looked up into the stage rafters/flys pensively, then turned around and sauntered back off stage. In her case, though, I don't think acting was ever really much of her strong suit, so it's hard to blame her weight.

  20. #1514
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Clayton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hoffmann View Post
    ...
    Of course, when a role calls for a youth, like Siegfried or Siegmund, all bets are off regarding physical types and one has to hope whoever is singing can, in fact, sing the role well...
    Siegfried as Siegfried in the Met production... not a young boy but his singing and acting aaaaaaaaaaaaabsolutely superb. I love it.

    I don't want to say this is an exception because it is Siegfried; the opera story and character is principally related through the singing for most if not all opera. Sure the looks of the singer and the stage sets might first make a character/story portrayal but I'm sold on what develops through the music more.

    It is a matter of opinion and as I said different people will draw a line in different places but I say codswallop to the Knoxville opera company's initial call for applicants and to their later statement. They are a senior position in the world (of opera), recruiting, performing and educating and as such have responsibilities.

    It might happen in practice but we need to change that. Everywhere.

    Here endeth Clayton rant.


  21. #1515
    Opera Lively Staff Member Top Contributor Member Hoffmann's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Clayton View Post
    Siegfried as Siegfried in the Met production... not a young boy but his singing and acting aaaaaaaaaaaaabsolutely superb. I love it.

    I don't want to say this is an exception because it is Siegfried; the opera story and character is principally related through the singing for most if not all opera. Sure the looks of the singer and the stage sets might first make a character/story portrayal but I'm sold on what develops through the music more.

    It is a matter of opinion and as I said different people will draw a line in different places but I say codswallop to the Knoxville opera company's initial call for applicants and to their later statement. They are a senior position in the world (of opera), recruiting, performing and educating and as such have responsibilities.

    It might happen in practice but we need to change that. Everywhere.

    Here endeth Clayton rant.


    codswallop?

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