Slim Fast Soprano

Dean Nicholas
By Dean Nicholas Last edited 128 months ago
Slim Fast Soprano
Interior of Royal Opera House

We're not advocating James Gandolfini go on a diet - far from it. This is about Deborah Voigt, the American soprano banished from the Royal Opera House four years ago for, well, how can we put this delicately: tipping the scales at a heftier than optimal weight. Last night she made her return to the Covent Garden stage - having lost 10 stone in the meantime.

The Royal Opera was heavily criticised when, having been scheduled to play the eponymous role in their 2004 production of the Richard Strauss opera Ariadne auf Naxos, Ms Voigt was unceremoniously dumped on account of her weight. The casting director decreed the role required a slinky black evening dress, which the soprano was unable to fit into.

Though Ms. Voigt admitted she was overweight, the outrage directed at the "Hollywoodisation" of opera was well judged: with such a respected art form kowtowing to fashion and seeking out svelte sopranos, what future for the less slender yet perhaps more skilled stars? After being given her marching orders, Ms. Voigt subsequently underwent gastric bypass surgery to shed the pounds, a decision she attributes to her own health concerns rather than industry pressure.

Despite concerns that her drastic weight loss would weaken her voice, it seems that being in better physical shape has actually helped out, particularly with the star's breath control. Voigt's hometown paper, the New York Times was certainly impressed by her performance, describing her as "lustrous" with a "gleaming voice". And as for the offending dress? Both soprano and garment have kissed and made up - and they've even made a touching video commemorating their reunion.

The show's not over until the no-longer fat lady sings - and she'll be doing that until July 1st, in fact. Get your tickets here

Image courtesy of Swiv's Flickrstream under the Creative Commons license

Last Updated 18 June 2008