I ask myself if the musical world hasn't just slightly overreacted to the criticism of Ms Erraught. Why is everything always black and white? Why can't opinionated people have mixed feelings and the ability to look at it from different points of view?
I know that by writing this I will be touching on a very controversial matter, but I think there is no harm in voicing my opinion as I have seen the main public miss the point of these reviews, put them out of context and blow them out of proportion.
Can we maybe stop for a second and analyse the fact that ALL the critics commented on that point which leads me to believe that although a brilliant singer, she might either not have been cast for the right role or been wearing the wrong costume. A production's mistake, not the singer's. That's why I agree that the wording was mean, derogatory and at times completely and utterly inexcusable, the writers could have made their point without using words such as “ chubby bundle of puppy fat” and “intractable physique” .
However people have latched on to this wording and missed the main point they were making. They didn’t criticise her performance according to her looks and weight. They were in general criticising the whole “mis en scene” and were saying she wasn't a convincing man, not a woman. Yes, I am glad people have noticed that the choice of words was tactless and that in some cases it did come from an image based point of view ( a problem deeply rooted in our society). But no one said that Erraught is fat, or that she doesn’t sing beautifully, they were criticising her character (which leads me to believe that maybe she wasn't that incredible after all, as she didn't manage to "wow" the critics )
This brings me to the next point : Since when is opera only been about the singing? I can’t even say this keeping a face. YES, it’s the music and the vocal performances that deserve the listener’s main attention but opera as Wagner finely put it is” the culmination of all art form” . Shouldn’t therefore the acting and casting be of mention too?
Why do singers say” it will be the death of opera”? Yes, it would be the death of opera if singers are suddenly judged on their appearance and looks, but again this is beside the point. Other signers are stating that “if we don’t make opera more attractive to the young public it will be the death of opera”. And that is wrong again, because that will lead opera to be based on “image” and we know the consequences of that, praising our ridiculous notion of the “perfect” image in society.
But no one was saying this. They simply said they wanted a more “believable” Octavian, a 14 year old boy.
And since when is it news that critics completely ridicule and dismember a true artists performance? Since when is it even mentionable that they take a performance that has taken the musician years of practice and analysis and dismiss it with one word, most of the time without any formidable grounds for it?
Now, heaven forbid someone touch on the topic of weight and appearance! No one seems to care about the subtleties of constant sexism in our society (in everyday news, life and mundane situations) we try to ignore them but as soon as someone says a few words we label them as misogynists, sexist, racist. Like a dog barking at a stranger entering a room, we treat them as a threat to our seemingly “perfect” society and I find that this reaction simply affirms the fact that sexism is ever more present in our midst. Instead of changing the things that matter, we jump the gun on the criticism of an opera character, then once the scandal is over, we forget about it and go on with our lives.
We are always trying to find someone to blame and crucify and history keeps repeating itself. It is the easy way, it takes away the feelings of shame and guilt if we try to admit to ourselves that maybe, there are other more important matters to attend. Maybe go and have a look at some WHS stores and notice the fact that the men's section is full of scientific, technical readings and the women’s is filled with gossip and easy reads. I think we should start by putting things into proportion.