Controversy over remarks about singer’s appearance in “Der Rosenkavalier”

Posted on: May 22, 2014


“The opera world has reacted with anger to the disparaging remarks made by several critics about the appearance of … Irish mezzo soprano Tara Erraught” as Octavian in the Glyndebourne Festival’s production of Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, writes Hannah Ellis-Petersen in Tuesday’s (5/20) Guardian I(London). “Praise of Erraught’s performance was overshadowed by descriptions of the singer’s weight by leading [British] critics”: Andrew Clark in the Financial Times, Andrew Clements in the Guardian, Michael Church in the Independent, Rupert Christiansen in the Telegraph, and Richard Morrison in the Times of London. “One of Britain’s most celebrated opera singers, Alice Coote, [wrote] an open letter to the five critics. In it, she states: ‘If young singers are pressurised into accepting a bigger emphasis on physical shape over sound and this becomes any more pressured onto them than it already is today then we are robbing ourselves of the great singers of the future.’ ” In the second of two columns on the topic, the Washington Post’s Anne Midgette noted that critics “sometimes get it wrong” and that certain remarks about Erraught’s appearance were “beyond the pale.” Still, she wrote, “A singer’s appearance is relevant to what he or she does.… Beware of overreacting and adopting the facile position that critics are so awful we’d all be better off without them.” The Daily Telegraph’s Rupert Christiansen, who had written a review that used the phrase “intractable physique,” published a second column stating, ‘I stand by every word of what I wrote.’ ”

Posted May 22, 2014

Pictured: Mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught (left) and soprano Kate Royal in Strauss’s “Der Rosenkavalier” at the Glyndebourne Festival. Photo by Alastair Muir