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"Tara Erraught's Octavian is a chubby bundle of puppy-fat."
May 21, 2014 3:13 PM   Subscribe

"The thing that really gets to me about the reviews is that all of them, almost grudgingly, admit that she sang the extraordinarily difficult role beautifully. And yet the bulk of their criticism is reserved for her body type." Irish Tara Erraught, soprano star of this year's Glyndebourne festival, garnered almost universal contempt from London's male critics. Guardian roundup, including a mention of Alice Coote's open letter to critics.
posted by DarlingBri (111 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
It really has gotten to the point where it's more shocking to see female performers held to identical standards to their make counterparts.
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:37 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]


Several years back, I cast a remarkable woman as Lady Macbeth. She was considerably heavier and a little older than the actor playing Macbeth, but the two of them oozed believable sexual attraction for each other on stage. Her performance was stunning.

The main critic wrote that she gave a great performance but wasn't believable because she was "too fat." He wrote "too fat." He didn't believe that the actor playing Macbeth would actually be attracted to her in real life because she was "too fat."

Fuck that guy. Fuck all those critics. These are the same assholes that will turn around and be critical of the company for casting a pretty little thing because she's not talented enough to handle the role. As if there's some factory that is churning out remarkable singers and actresses who also look like women the critic would want to fuck. Argh. Fuck those critics so hard.

Young actresses, look however you want to look. Work on your craft. If the only thing a critic can think to say about your performance is something about your appearance, they're a shitty critic that doesn't understand the art they're reviewing.

Seriously, fuck those guys.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:37 PM on May 21 [134 favorites]


I am so angry about this. I'm going to need to watch that video of the dog with the bucket like 50 times now just to calm down.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:40 PM on May 21 [42 favorites]


It reminds me of Aziz Ansari's brutal bit on racism literally dying out, and it makes me hope the same will happen to backwards males who hold these kind of ridiculously narrow standards, but I'm not holding my breath.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 3:48 PM on May 21 [10 favorites]


If it's the case that you simply don't like the sound we make, just say you don't like the sound we make. That's entirely valid. But don't make sexist and puerile remarks about our figures; at best, it's childish, and at worst, it dilutes the currency of everything else you have to say."

YES.

Ok, I'm not much of an opera afficionado, but weren't the great divas of yore bigger? I feel like I saw images of a pretty sturdy Maria Callas... At any rate, I'm guessing the male stars don't get nearly the same amount of criticism?

I'll just be over here warming up my rage aria, thanks.
posted by TwoStride at 3:50 PM on May 21 [4 favorites]


I have written and deleted several incoherent things.

Are these reviewers new to reviewing? New to opera? Because those are the only possible explanations.

Also, their editors need to be have rotted tomatoes and eggs thrown at them, at major-league-pitcher speed and accuracy. If you're an editor and you let one of your reviewers say that a performer was icky because she was too fat, you should quit your job. If you let them say that in the same review in which they praised her actual performance, then you should be hounded from the profession.
posted by rtha at 3:51 PM on May 21 [30 favorites]


%^(@$*^)P!@#)%^&!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ugh. I hate this. There have been many wonderful things happening in opera in the last couple of decades, but the recent requirement that everyone be movie-star beautiful is enraging. Alice Coote's letter is spot-on.
posted by a fair but frozen maid at 3:55 PM on May 21 [5 favorites]


Ok, I'm not much of an opera afficionado, but weren't the great divas of yore bigger?

The "issue" seems to be that Erraught is portraying a teen boy, and dressed that way (not in a corset and bustier the way she would be if she was portraying a female character). The bottom line of these reviews is that fat people simply aren't romantic, or believable objects of romantic interest. Not an uncommon bit of bias towards fat people, unfortunately.
posted by muddgirl at 3:57 PM on May 21 [2 favorites]


(...or not a corset, but a structured bodice that emphasizes the hips and chest)
posted by muddgirl at 3:58 PM on May 21


Yeah, I'm still just failing to believe that a believable teen boy is a requisite (or even a fixed physique) for the opera to be good. It was really quite startling how little those reviews had to say about voice and delivery... This makes me sad.
posted by TwoStride at 4:02 PM on May 21 [2 favorites]


Some one should review reviewers. In this case a lot should be made of penis size.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:02 PM on May 21 [7 favorites]


A chubby bundle of puppy fat would be a fair description of many young teen boys, so it seems like opera critics are looking for unbelievable characters.
posted by muddgirl at 4:06 PM on May 21 [14 favorites]


a fair but frozen maid: "There have been many wonderful things happening in opera in the last couple of decades, but the recent requirement that everyone be movie-star beautiful is enraging."

...which is, besides the fact that these reviews got by actual professional editors, the most unbelievable thing about this story; not that it should matter, but Tara Erraughts is, if Google image searches are anything to go by, fucking gorgeous.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 4:06 PM on May 21 [16 favorites]


Isn't a little padding helpful for singers to get more resonance/depth? Kind of like a soundbox?
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:10 PM on May 21 [2 favorites]


Tara Erraughts is, if Google image searches are anything to go by, fucking gorgeous.

The level of derision in these reviews is such that I've been pondering if these reviewers are genuinely angry that the formerly svelt Tara Erraughts who they praised for voice and beauty has actually dared to gain weight without their consent, thus ruining each reviewer's... something, I dunno what, something really fucked up and misogynist.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:11 PM on May 21 [11 favorites]


Some one should review reviewers. In this case a lot should be made of penis size.

Today's review by X is far more revealing of the reviewers' flaccidly declining libido than any tevhnical merits of the singer.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:20 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]


For whatever it's worth, here's a reply to the controversy by one of the critics (Christiansen).

I'm not sure I'm convinced, and I don't know dick about opera, but I think he has a point with this statement:
The singer Alice Coote – someone I admire this side of idolatry – has weighed in to the chorus of complaint with an impassioned plea to remember that “opera is all about the voice”.
I cannot agree. Opera is a visual as well as an aural experience, a form of theatre: it may be 75 per cent about the voice, but it is also 25 per cent about the ability to act well and create a convincing character.
This rings true to me. If it's only about the voice, ditch the costumes, the sets, the lighting, etc. It would make the production so much cheaper.

Anyway, I know it's crazy of me, but I thought it would be a good idea to present the other side of the issue, too. Personally, I can see both sides (at least as represented by Mr. Christiansen's reply here). Certainly, some of the criticisms were just plain mean and insensitive, and his seemed the most measured of all the critical reviews.
posted by Edgewise at 4:20 PM on May 21 [3 favorites]


She's not fat at all, what are they smoking?
posted by miyabo at 4:22 PM on May 21 [5 favorites]


Look, when the skinny girls can start belting it out in the ranges those which heft can manage we'll talk. Until then I'll take me singers in whatever body shape they need to get the job done.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:23 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]


Nobody here remembers Deborah Voigt, huh?
posted by Houstonian at 4:25 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]


Some one should review reviewers. In this case a lot should be made of penis size.
I get the idea here, but I'm not really feeling it. I think much should be made of their incompetence, their puerile fixations, and their lack of anything insightful to say about the actual art. Especially because we (presumably) don't have good information about their penises, so the attempt at parity really, really doesn't work. Attacking a person's insecurities only works if they're actually insecure about those things.
posted by kavasa at 4:27 PM on May 21 [3 favorites]


But we can get good information about their penises. Oh yes, we can acquire this information. We just need a few volunteers.
posted by delfin at 4:29 PM on May 21 [2 favorites]


A highly talented female performer portraying a teenaged boy gives a praise-worthy performance. Male writers for corporate media write stupid, sexist commentary that misses not only the boat, but the whole body of water.

For the first of these it's quite easy to suspend my disbelief.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 4:30 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]


Edgewise, given that Christiansen spent all of 4 words on the 75 percent that is voice - "sings with vibrant assurance" and 53 bloviating on about her looks and overall dismisses her contributions to the opera as a "problem" *because* of those looks despite her fine vocal performance, I don't think much of his defense.
posted by tavella at 4:31 PM on May 21 [23 favorites]


I cannot agree. Opera is a visual as well as an aural experience, a form of theatre: it may be 75 per cent about the voice, but it is also 25 per cent about the ability to act well and create a convincing character.

Acting and emoting isn't about a person's figure, either, though. I love opera, I've gone to performances whenever I can, and have been to see many, many different performers in many, many different circumstances.

I've probably mentioned this before, but the best performance I've ever seen was in a rowhouse in Baltimore, and it was a Verdi flight that was done without costumes or props. The conductor was about to leave Baltimore for the Met, and by the end of that performance I saw why -- *everyone* in the place was weeping, it was a tour de force. That flight was such an emotional, transformative experience that hearing that rendition of "La donna è mobile" from Rigoletto directly led me to having an epiphany and breaking up with my then-boyfriend (for the best, so glad that happened).

Again, there were no props, no costumes, no set, no big name stars. But the acting and direction were amazing -- the theatrical, as well as the aural, aspects of that performance were *amazing.*

It's beyond cheap to reduce an artist to her dress size. If all you're getting out of a performance is, "is that woman on stage fuckable?" then I think you're falling down on your job as a critic and as an audience member.
posted by rue72 at 4:37 PM on May 21 [46 favorites]


I guess I'm naive, but I'm surprised that cultural crocs are still criticizing women performers in such retrograde terms. On internet comment sections, sure, but as a major part of the review itself in the fine arts section?
posted by Dip Flash at 4:38 PM on May 21 [2 favorites]


The fuck? This is some BULLSHIT. This woman is pretty average shaped/sized. I mean, seriously. I wear a size 12 or 14 pants and I bet I'm bigger than she is. So, in short, fuck this guy and his little opinion.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 4:48 PM on May 21 [6 favorites]


Someone from my Facebook feed wrote:

"Response to this nonsense poses a dilemma somewhat like the "Obama shouldn't be President because he's a Muslim" business: i.e., if one says "it's her singing that matters," one is tacitly agreeing with the absurd claim that she is unattractive; but if one says "She's actually very beautiful," one is implying that it's OK to criticize female singers for not being attractive."
posted by straight at 4:55 PM on May 21 [42 favorites]


cannot agree. Opera is a visual as well as an aural experience, a form of theatre: it may be 75 per cent about the voice, but it is also 25 per cent about the ability to act well and create a convincing character.

Even if one espouses this view, it becomes difficult to explain why the review was 85% about the visual and 15% about the aural.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:00 PM on May 21 [7 favorites]


Even if one espouses this view, it becomes difficult to explain why the review was 85% about the visual and 15% about the aural.

Presumably because there was nothing to criticize about the music and snarkier reviews are more fun to right.

See also.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:04 PM on May 21


cultural crocs

Fucking autocorrect. Cultural critics.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:06 PM on May 21 [3 favorites]


Yes, God forbid that a young mid-18th century aristocrat should be a bit round in the face.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:09 PM on May 21 [3 favorites]


Well, this depresses me no end. I agree with previous posters: if that critic is saying, "well, it's just not about the singing, it's about the visual aspect" and bangs on about her weight for much more length than the singing he also wanted to say was important, then he's a horrible critic who is obviously full of shit.
posted by Kitteh at 5:26 PM on May 21


> cultural crocs... Cultural critics.

Autocorrect can be very expressive; I think this was perfect!
posted by Anitanola at 5:28 PM on May 21 [14 favorites]


Opera is a visual as well as an aural experience, a form of theatre: it may be 75 per cent about the voice, but it is also 25 per cent about the ability to act well and create a convincing character.

Gosh, really?

Off to smash my opera CDs -- brb
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 5:29 PM on May 21


Next thing you know he'll be claiming opera is 90% about the plot.
posted by mollweide at 5:36 PM on May 21 [2 favorites]


It's the voice. Everything else is tertiary at best...
posted by jim in austin at 6:01 PM on May 21 [2 favorites]


Look, when the skinny girls can start belting it out in the ranges those which heft can manage we'll talk.

Skinny women can handle ranges just fine. I have known a weird amount of opera singers in my life and they complain about body shaming and pressure to be super skinny pretty much across the board, but size doesn't affect singing ability.
posted by sweetkid at 6:03 PM on May 21 [4 favorites]


In a way I'd have more respect for these critics if they came out and said, in so many words, 'Tara Erraught is too fat to play the role of Octavian'. But no, they have to cloak it in euphemisms ('dumpy', 'stocky', 'intractable physique' .. nudge nudge, wink wink, know what I mean?), turning what might have been an honest critical judgement into a thoroughly nasty joke.

While on the subject of Rupert Christiansen's review, let's not overlook his remark that the soprano Kate Royal is 'stressed by motherhood'. He's an experienced opera critic and I generally respect his judgements, even when I don't agree with him, but he does seem to have a problem with women.

On a more cheerful note, I look forward to the performance of Rosenkavalier in the coming Proms season on 22 July. The Proms audience is always generous in showing its appreciation, and if Tara Erraught's singing is as good as it's said to be, the applause should raise the roof of the Royal Albert Hall.
posted by verstegan at 6:06 PM on May 21 [4 favorites]


It's really strange, to me, that *professional opera critics* are putting such a focus on the body shape of Octavian. It's one of the most famous breeches roles (i.e. male roles played by women because of the vocal register required). The expectation is that the audience suspends its disbelief about the more obvious gender aspects, which these critics must know. There's plenty of precedent for Octavians who are shorter and rounder than their leading ladies. And nobody said boo about Erraught's acting, just about her build.

All I can think is that the critics got so overheated with the female full frontal nudity that opened this production that they forgot how opera works.
posted by gingerest at 6:09 PM on May 21 [13 favorites]


Yeah, the larynx in the throat. Voice doesn't change with weight changes, only with puberty and respiratory system illnesses.
posted by Renoroc at 6:12 PM on May 21


You know, I'm one of those people who believe that performance, plot, and visual aesthetic are all super-important to opera. I actually think they are MORE important than Christiansen does - saying that the ability to create a convincing character is only 25% of what matters in an opera performance seems ludicrously low to me.

And yet, I still think Christiansen's comments about Erraught are those of an complete asshole. Because since when do you need to be thin to be a convincing Octavian? What does that have to do with ... well, with anything, really?

This isn't about whether performance matters in opera. It's about whether weight is the same thing as performance.

It isn't. And therefore it should have had no place in these reviews.
posted by kyrademon at 6:13 PM on May 21 [14 favorites]


Let's not overlook his remark that the soprano Kate Royal is 'stressed by motherhood'.

I am baffled as to how, exactly, one sounds stressed by motherhood unless one is overheard sobbing in the shower. But no matter; Rupert "stands by every word." And then adds some new ones, in which he describes Erraught, a 27 year old professional opera singer, as "a very pretty girl with a delightful smile and an endearing stage presence."

Dig UP, Rupert.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:15 PM on May 21 [8 favorites]


Video of this production will be streamed live on June 8. (At the link pick the Watch Online tab).
posted by mountmccabe at 6:15 PM on May 21 [3 favorites]


Yeah, if they're so concerned about visual realism in the playing of a teenage boy, it should be played by a teenage boy. If they want a woman's vocal range, they should accept that it's being played by a woman, and that if the woman in question has a boyish body type, that is only a coincidence, and not something that should be a major part of the casting decision. It's like if you have a female comic role in theater that's designed to be played by a man and then you complain about the guy not having hips or something. If you think she should look more boyish, then it shouldn't be about whether she's thin enough, but about whether or not it's possible to sing properly in a binder, which it might not be. If you're not even looking at stuff like that, then you're really just upset at there being talented people who are not skinny.
posted by Sequence at 6:16 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]


I heard some of a report on this story when the name Octavian came up and I started paying attention to the radio. The comments from the critics were briefly reviewed, and I found it mildly perplexing, having grown up seeing Luciano Pavarotti on television all the time, that the size and shape of an opera singer would matter so much. Between him and people saying "when the fat lady sings" I ended up with the impression that being a bit on the over-weight side is not especially remarkable for opera singers.

Then came the accusations of sexism, which made no sense at all. Given the name, I had assumed that the singer they were talking about was male. It seems to make no difference to the story. Critics saying uncomplimentary things about someone of the opposite sex does not mean that their comments are motivated by sexism. I mean, odds are good that they probably are to some extent in some cases, but to my mind the story makes exactly as much sense if you assume they're talking about a man. The evidence presented here is insufficient to convict them of misogyny.

Alice Coote has it right.
posted by sfenders at 6:25 PM on May 21


The opera isn't over until the fat lady's shamed?!

She is fat... and so are almost all of the male singers she performs with.

She's also a wonderful singer, expressive, emotive, sexy, and adorable!
posted by markkraft at 6:33 PM on May 21


It's not that these guys aren't dickbags - and they are - it's just so... tone deaf? You call a good singer fat and ugly in mass media and you think that won't draw boos and make you look like an utter turd?
posted by codswallop at 6:34 PM on May 21 [2 favorites]


I know nothing about Opera... I clicked all on the links and was utterly confused because I didn't see any women who appeared physically unfit. I Googled Tara Erraught's name and looked at all the images and was absolutely astonished there were people out there willing to attach their name to a publicly viewable article critiquing her appearance. But then I once had a quasi-boyfriend tell me I was "getting fat" when I was 96 pounds... And more than one man telling me I was "obese" once I hit 130 pounds... Probably as I had no interest in dating them. So who really knows - seems people throw around "fat" as an insult that is totally divorced from any connotation of actual body mass, in order to prevent the target from feeling rightfully confident about themselves. Ms. Erraught has extraordinary talent, so I suppose if people can't knock her down a peg or two based on actual ability they will go for low blows.
posted by partly squamous and partly rugose at 6:38 PM on May 21 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I don't think she's fat. She's not tiny, but we are getting really crazy ideas of what "fat" is if Tara Erraught is fat.

I mean again, it completely doesn't matter in terms of her performances, which are incredible (from what I have seen having just now heard of her) and those critics are sexist jerks.

But she doesn't seem fat to me.
posted by sweetkid at 6:40 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]


Alice Coote has it right.

Well, I think she does, too, but that doesn't mean that sexism didn't also come into play here. I mean, I think it's a little peculiar to call a 27-year-old professional "a very pretty girl" and I think that doing so says more about the reviewer than it does about the subject being reviewed.
posted by rtha at 6:44 PM on May 21 [13 favorites]


Does this critic speak about male performers in the same demeaning terms? I would be surprised if so. This flavor of dickbag is always misogynist in my experience. Much like the way Hilary Clinton's wardrobe choices are considered relevant, but not Bill's or any male politicians'.
posted by emjaybee at 6:50 PM on May 21 [5 favorites]


Opera is a visual as well as an aural experience, a form of theatre: it may be 75 per cent about the voice, but it is also 25 per cent about the ability to act well and create a convincing character.

Bullshit. Not that opera isn't also a visual experience, but that his criticism was 100% about her acting ability and how "convincing" her character is. Let's for a second look at how the same guy described Pavarotti. The first four paragraphs are downright gushing, waxing poetic about his actual talent and then we get to the fifth and final paragraph, which says:

Alongside this went the projection of an ebullient, exuberant personality. Handsome and athletic when young , he slowly succumbed to a Falstaffian appetite for good food, but even as he became increasingly obese and immobile, his captivating smile and roguish twinkle remained, making him irresistible to women.

So, while Pavarotti was obese, that's almost an aside amongst his other qualities. Things such as "ebbulient", "exuberant", "handsome and athletic", "captivating smile" "roguish twinkle" which made him "irresistible to women", despite his obesity! And really, he was overweight, but his appetite was "Falstaffian for good food", which isn't such a bad thing, really. We all appreciate good food!

Compare and contract to how he talks about Tara Erraught. The paragraph introducing her starts off with "The other problem with Tara Erraught's Octavian..." and from there it goes downhill:

The other problem is Tara Erraught’s Octavian. There is no doubt of the talent of this young Irish mezzo, based in Germany, who sings with vibrant assurance and proves herself a spirited comedian. But she is dumpy of stature and whether in bedroom déshabille, disguised as Mariandel or in full aristocratic fig, her costuming makes her resemble something between Heidi and Just William. Is Jones simply trying to make the best of her intractable physique or is he trying to say something about the social-sexual dynamic?

Translation: Here's the problem. Sure, she's talented, and funny too. BUT she's dumpy and carelessly dressed ("déshabille") which makes her look like a cross between Heidi and some scruffy, grimy kid. Are they trying to make the best of (because it's obviously not a good thing) her unmanageable, hard-to-work-with body?

And then, he moves on to other people. That's all he has to say about Tara.

For reference, this is Tara Erraught. Seriously. She is fucking beautiful.

So sorry, but this guy is bullshit. And I don't even think he realizes it, because his (and society's) bias against women that don't confirm to the narrow body standards types which we deem acceptable is that deeply ingrained.

It doesn't matter if you dress it up with five dollar words. Or whether you actually do talk about the quality of their acting or not. What matters is the tone and the framing. Even if we ignore anything about Pavarotti's/Erraught's actual talent, the way he talks about their appearances is radically different. Pavarotti gets at worst, the jolly fat guy treatment (which is also not great), while Erraught gets much harsher language, with words that are basically value judgements. Please tell me how "dumpy" and "obese" don't have very different connotations.

Think choice of words doesn't matter? We know that talking about women's appearances hurts women, whether what we're saying is negative, neutral or positive. What's discouraging to me is how often I see this kind of shit in the media and how often it's from people who I thought knew better.
posted by triggerfinger at 6:51 PM on May 21 [24 favorites]


But we can get good information about their penises. Oh yes, we can acquire this information. We just need a few volunteers.

For the WORST FUCKING JOB IN THE WORLD!
(literally)
posted by Saxon Kane at 6:54 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]


This is a picture of Tara from her school days in Ireland.

She's large for her size, especially by Irish standards. She has always been a bit large, and perhaps a bit short. And she was no doubt made abundantly aware of that being a bad thing throughout her life and in her career. It's quite likely to be something she has struggled with for years.

What is needed, frankly, isn't suggesting that she's not fat. Rather, what is needed is an understanding that being fat -- or fat over a given percentage on a body chart somewhere -- is not something that she should be ashamed of or punished for. Indeed, it's likely a positive as far as her voice is concerned, which is what should matter when it comes to her career.

Above all, what is needed is a way for other young Taras to get from where they are now to where they will be in the future, without having their lives, health, and self-esteem damaged as a result of the unfair criticism of critics and peers.
posted by markkraft at 7:01 PM on May 21 [3 favorites]


If you don't know dick about opera, you shouldn't be opining about what is important in opera.
posted by winna at 7:03 PM on May 21 [3 favorites]


I will say that, having looked at some of the stills, there is something off about the make up and costuming in this production- it's not the greatest. But that doesn't change the fact that criticism of Erraught's body is fucking bullshit.


But yeah, there's no place for these fat bastards in modern opera.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:04 PM on May 21


Translation: Here's the problem. Sure, she's talented, and funny too. BUT she's dumpy and carelessly dressed ("déshabille") which makes her look like a cross between Heidi and some scruffy, grimy kid. Are they trying to make the best of (because it's obviously not a good thing) her unmanageable, hard-to-work-with body?

That's not a fair translation. The "déshabille" is about when Octavian the character is lounging around the bedroom after waking up with the Marschallin. The character is supposed to be "carelessly dressed"; the critic is not finding fault with that. The costuming critiques are, well, because the costuming really, because the costumes were both wildly unflattering and not effective at helping the Octavian look like an 18 year old boy, because that is the part*. That is, to me, a valid critique. It is not about the singer's body but the clothes she was given to wear.

Saying she is "dumpy of stature" is, however, ridiculous and awful.


* At least an 18 year old boy is how the part was written, what Hofmannsthal and Strauss had in mind from the beginning when creating this opera. This production may have been going for something different, it is not clear. This is one reason I am looking forward to the live stream.
posted by mountmccabe at 7:04 PM on May 21 [3 favorites]


Attacking a person's insecurities only works if they're actually insecure about those things.

Yeah, the penis thing is also inside-baseball for those who follow libel law and such. The idea is I can write something like, "It's because Rupert Murdoch has such a small penis is why he's such a Bond villain. He's compensating for a lack of equipment by being an evil dick." Then when I get sued I say, "Well, I have no evidence I am incorrect. I was making assumptions I believed to be true." It's ridicule without recourse from the victim. What is Murdoch going to do, drop trou and prove he's well hung?

For the curious, this is not generally a good defense. It works in the above example, not because Murdoch would have to prove my libel, but because he's a public figure and a rat bastard and I understand the Streisand effect and have a good lawyer. It also works because I am using Murdoch as a hypothetical to illustrate a point.

Using this technique against the critics wouldn't be so much hitting 'em back, but rather a public shaming. It might also serve to point out that if they are commenting about appearance, then having their attributes commented on is fair game.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:06 PM on May 21


Opera singers are the superhuman professional athletes of singing, as Coote notes. They can do things with their voices that are so far off the normal bellcurve of ability that to apply one's criticism to anything other than the voice and vocal acting is akin to saying that Roger Federer's tennis is less than scintillating because he doesn't wash his car regularly enough.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 7:09 PM on May 21 [9 favorites]


It seems like almost every time I hear about something like this - " HARK, A WILD SNORLAX DOTH APPEAR, SHE IS SO GROTESQUELY FAT AND HIDEOUS NO MAN WOULD EVER LOVE SUCH A BEAST, MY SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF HAS COME UNSUSPENDED. I MUST NOW WASH MY EYES WITH SOMETHING CAUSTIC, BUT THE IMAGE OF THIS HORROR I CANNOT UNSEE"

I go *googlegooglegoogle* and see ... someone who looks like me.



Fuck this, and fuck that especially , I'm putting cheese on these hashbrowns because it will make one of these dipshits angry and because cheese is fucking delicious.
posted by louche mustachio at 7:10 PM on May 21 [29 favorites]


Let's for a second look at how the same guy described Pavarotti.

Google says: Pavarotti has "about 4,680,000 results", Erraught "about 30,800 results". Pavarotti also had the advantage of being dead when that was written. You might've picked a better example. I'll not be surprised if it turns out there are many such, but I'm even more not surprised that critics tend to be more respectful than usual when they're writing about the most famous opera singer in the history of the universe.
posted by sfenders at 7:10 PM on May 21


Tara reacts to her critics.

(I need to figure out how to use that death-glare pic in a meme/demotivator, because damn...)
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:13 PM on May 21 [7 favorites]


She's large for her size, especially by Irish standards.

I genuinely have no idea where this comes from. The average Irish woman is a size 16, like her UK counterpart.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:14 PM on May 21 [8 favorites]


The costuming critiques are, well, because the costuming really, because the costumes were both wildly unflattering and not effective at helping the Octavian look like an 18 year old boy, because that is the part*.

Critiquing costuming choices is valid, but when the critique goes on to include:

"Is Jones simply trying to make the best of her intractable physique" (emph. mine) I'm gonna call bullshit on it being a straight-up costume critique.
posted by rtha at 7:17 PM on May 21 [13 favorites]


make the best of her intractable physique

As noted I have a similar physique and can assure y'all it is in fact quite tractable. MORE CHEESE.
posted by louche mustachio at 7:36 PM on May 21 [6 favorites]


I am saving myself from being blinded by rage by reminding myself that more people have probably now heard of Tara Erraught than know the name of any other 27-year-old mezzo-soprano. I hope she manages to capitalize on it somehow.

She's been pretty active on Twitter recently, although she's been quiet for a couple of days. I wonder if she'll say anything.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:57 PM on May 21 [8 favorites]


Next thing you know he'll be claiming opera is 90% about the plot.

The critics only look at the opera for the articles. I swear.
posted by vitabellosi at 8:03 PM on May 21


Look, when the skinny girls can start belting it out in the ranges those which heft can manage we'll talk.

How about we don't shame women no matter what their body size is? Is that a thing we can handle in 2014?
posted by elizardbits at 8:22 PM on May 21 [29 favorites]


It might also serve to point out that if they are commenting about appearance, then having their attributes commented on is fair game.

Much though I hold these critics in contempt, this doesn't follow. Even when critics are pointing their analysis in the right direction, their own capacity to perform in the art they address is moot. A really good critic provides feedback that helps audiences decide where to spend their time and helps artists refine their performances. That's the job, not being a former or underemployed artist with some free time to comment on others' work.

Anything that invites MORE irrelevant but judgmental commentary on other people's anatomy just worsens the problem of body-shaming by normalizing such commentary. (I'd have let this go as a joke except we still seem to be talking about it.)
posted by gingerest at 8:57 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]


Indeed, rather than shaming the critics for their penis sizes, they should be shamed for being lousy critics.
posted by Joey Michaels at 9:04 PM on May 21 [12 favorites]


She is amazingly beautiful.
posted by orangewired at 9:23 PM on May 21


Tosca, New York Metropolitan Opera review
By Andrew Clark

Luciano Pavarotti's Mario is a bearded slob, looking more like a harried chef than Tosca's romantic partner. However, in spite of his obesity, he did sing well.
posted by foobaz at 9:34 PM on May 21 [3 favorites]


How can someone listen to a voice like that and think "Nope, unacceptable, the body this voice came from is bad and fat." Rhetorical question, because there is no possible answer that contains sense. Are they worried in paternalistic concern about Erraught's health, about her ability to do her job as a singer? No, because she could not sing like that if she were not taking care of her voice and the health of the body from which it comes. There are pro athletes who don't have that kind of breath control. Tara does, because she is a pro, and singing is her goddamn job.

Her voice is gorgeous. Tara is gorgeous. The latter has fuck-all to do with the former. It makes me sick at heart that this misogyny is still, still, still an issue, in every imaginable (opera?!) part of life. "Attention, woman artist: no matter how good you are, no matter how good your art is, you will never escape the prison that society has made your imperfect, female body. Please go forth chastened and hate yourself accordingly!"
posted by nicebookrack at 9:41 PM on May 21 [2 favorites]


I've been following tweets from Tara Erraught and others involved in the Glyndebourne Rosenkavalier for weeks. There has been much excitement around the production, and it was touching to see the cast wearing red socks on opening night as a tribute to longtime Glyndebourne chairman George Christie, who died shortly before the production opened. (On the last night of his life, his family played a recording of the 1965 Glyndebourne Rosenkavalier for him. For those who don't know, Der Rosenkavalier is a very special, sentimental opera to many people.) It has been so upsetting to see the story of this production turn on a dime to suddenly be dominated by the nastiness of a few critics.

I started following the reviews and the opera community's response when the hilarious and educational @Opera_Cabbie first called out Rupert Christiansen's review. I loved Alice Coote's open letter. Now that the story has blown up in the press, I haven't kept on top of all the commentaries, but I did appreciate this photo of "the first Octavian," which has been making the rounds on Twitter.

I agree that, when fully staged, opera is in part a visual experience. I think reasonable people can debate whether it is ever fair game to comment at all on a singer's physical shape or appearance in an opera review. However, it seems obvious to me that ad hominem insults like "dumpy" (Christiansen, Church) and "unsightly and unappealing" (Morrison) are irrelevant, unnecessary, and hurtful and have no place in a review, and it just boggles me that Christiansen is saying he "stands by every word." If his main point is that the singer's costuming as Octavian did not fully disguise her feminine form, he can at least say so in politer terms; I would still disagree with him that that should be a reason to criticize the performance, but good god, at least he wouldn't be calling someone "dumpy" in a national newspaper.

I am not sure I agree that opera is all about the voice, but I think vocal performance is without a doubt the most thrilling, addicting, and essential part of the experience. A clever production design or a visual coup de théâtre can be an exciting part of a live performance but the moments when you really feel the audience holding its collective breath and concentrating intently on the performance are always, in my experience, moments of exquisite vocal artistry—the naked human voice doing something amazing. Thus I agree with this passage, which I think is the heart of Alice Coote's argument:
We cannot people our operatic stages with singers that above all are believable visually or sexually attractive to our critics… That way lies the death of opera. This is not in any case a BELIEVABLE art form .. WHO are we KIDDING? But it is one that can move humans in ways that they cannot explain. And in ways that make them fall in love with great voices singing GREAT music. That is Opera in a state of health.

Opera WILL die if audiences have only average looking, average singing humans walking around in interesting ( or average) looking productions.. This will make them wonder ” WHAT IS SPECIAL ABOUT OPERA? Do I NEED this?
I know what she's talking about. I need opera. I have traveled hundreds of miles just so I could hear certain singers in live performance because their voices are amazing and emotionally moving.

Finally, I'd like to add that I agree with the argument that it's good to have some diversity of performers on the stage reflecting the diversity of, well, the human world. So what if Octavian is shorter and plumper than the Marschallin, something that I'm sure has been true in many productions? My boyfriend is shorter and (at the moment; we both fluctuate in weight) plumper than me. That doesn't stop me from finding him sexy! Sheesh. Anyone who thinks that Octavian has to be tall and willowy to be convincing as the Marschallin's lover needs to expand their imagination a bit.
posted by Orinda at 10:12 PM on May 21 [16 favorites]


I tire of it when every critique of a woman's work seems to require -- or even leads with -- an assessment of her appearance and/or attractiveness. In itself, this monotonous insistence is sexist. It demands recognition of the assertion that woman's primary function is to please the eye of the men who look at her. I'm not going to agree that these reviews are not misogynistic; they are.
posted by Anitanola at 10:15 PM on May 21 [5 favorites]


I did appreciate this photo of "the first Octavian,"

That is marvelous. Just excellent.
posted by rtha at 10:17 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]


Srsly, if you look up Octavian in google images, you see all sorts of female bodies with all sorts of costuming decisions, and "credibility in passing as a stereotypically masculine, stereotypically hawt dude" is clearly not the priority for the majority of productions.
posted by gingerest at 10:43 PM on May 21 [2 favorites]


Opera is not autotuned mass-produced pap. It is the height of musical art. Anyone who thinks that the shape of the person who sings can make any difference to the quality of the performance is a moron.
posted by winna at 11:59 PM on May 21


Ehhh, as a pro classical musician I work in opera (baroque and other early opera, to be sure) fairly often. As in "last weekend". And the sexism of the audiences and critics enrages me with nearly interaction. Why, in the year 2014, are more than 85% of directors and music critics MALE, when most of the difficult vocal and acting roles are FEMALE?
Is opera better with more mansplaining?
posted by Dreidl at 12:16 AM on May 22 [10 favorites]


I went and looked up this Rupert cove on the Telegraph website, and... egad! How on earth can he possibly be a critic of the noble art of opera? Unshaven, no tie, shirt apparently unironed, looking like a down-at-heel academic.

Doesn't he realize that *looks* are such an important part of what one does?
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 4:28 AM on May 22 [2 favorites]


I now wish I were a classically trained opera singer, so I could stage a special concert and invite all these dumbshit critics. The concert would be two hours of me on an empty stage, singing "LOOOOK AT MEEE, LOOOOK AT MEEEEEE! I'M SLIIIIIIIGHTLY OOOOOVERWEIGHT! FUCK YOOOOOUUUU!" to the tunes of everyone's favorite arias, in the appropriate languages, all the while clutching my belly and stroking my double chin. I would wear mom jeans and a sweatshirt over a turtleneck, with a second-act costume change into an ill-fitting leotard, so I could operatically pick my wedgie every three minutes. Mon cul est un oiseau rebelle, fuckers.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:01 AM on May 22 [20 favorites]


This shit is so depressing. I remember this was the same kind of thing that surrounded Susan Boyle's popularity, like "You'll never believe this homely woman can do something of merit!" Ye gods.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 5:56 AM on May 22 [2 favorites]


That's not a fair translation.

This is a totally fair statement. As is the one noting that the comparison to the Pavarotti article isn't a good comparison. So strike my comments about the actual production and I'll stick with what I said about how the media talks about women and how it very, very consistently talks about them differently (and in a way that hurts them) than they do men. I think the vast majority of it goes by unnoticed, but it affects how society views women nonetheless. The gendered/body-shaming/whatever language is subtle, but it's there.
posted by triggerfinger at 6:20 AM on May 22 [2 favorites]


"LOOOOK AT MEEE, LOOOOK AT MEEEEEE! I'M SLIIIIIIIGHTLY OOOOOVERWEIGHT! FUCK YOOOOOUUUU!"

You're telling me that there isn't an Italian aria where these are the exact lyrics?
posted by pseudocode at 6:31 AM on May 22 [5 favorites]


I remember this was the same kind of thing that surrounded Susan Boyle's popularity, like "You'll never believe this homely woman can do something of merit!" Ye gods.
I think the jarring thing about it is that Erraught seriously isn't homely by any definition. So this isn't just that women's looks matter in situations in which they shouldn't, although that's certainly true. It's that the acceptable range seems so narrow. You're not acceptable even if you're super talented and pretty and really well put-together and probably not even fat enough to wear plus-size clothes. You're not acceptable even if you're all those things and are active in an art form that has traditionally been accepting of a broad variety of women's bodies. Do you have to actually be Angelina Jolie before you can expect to be judged on your accomplishments and not how you fall short of some ideal appearance? And if you actually do look like Angelina Jolie, then people will probably say that you just got the part because you're hot and you're not that talented anyway.

It's depressing.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:04 AM on May 22 [5 favorites]


Earlier today I did my daily skimread of the [multiple expletives deleted] Daily Mail online and noticed a rambling bleatfest by "the Mail's theatre critic" (stop sniggering at the back there!) dashing heartthrob Quentin Letts:

Sorry, but if it looks like she's been at the biscuit barrel, we critics have to report it: The Mail's QUENTIN LETTS weighs in on opera's great 'fat lady' furore

I know it's linkbait and it's all written to make money but that almost makes it worse.

(To add insult to injury, this was sat next to an article entitled "The Angelina Effect: Doctors warn over worrying rise in double mastectomies after Jolie's operation" because of course wimmin are so feckin dim they go have double mastectomies to copy their screen idols.)

And breathe.

a fair but frozen maid wrote:
"...There have been many wonderful things happening in opera in the last couple of decades, but the recent requirement that everyone be movie-star beautiful is enraging."

Alas, it's not such a recent thing, I noticed it happening shortly after Classic FM radio station started up in the UK in 1992. Suddenly we had airbrushed LP and CD covers of scantily clad, pouting young women on beaches, dangling violins and the like. So who's behind Classic FM?
GWR created a business plan which was supported by its major shareholder, DMGT publishers of the Daily Mail. An internal dispute over ownership of the licence was resolved and the consortium was completed after Time Warner agreed to back GWR's plans for the station. As time was running out to raise the £6m needed to launch the station, the GWR investment team spent two days presenting to and finally persuading private investor Sir Peter Michael to back the plan with a 30% investment. The founding shareholder group that launched Classic FM was Sir Peter Michael and Time Warner (each with over 30%), GWR (17%), DMGT (5% and several other smaller shareholders.
The Daily Mail. Monetizing misery and misogyny since 1896.
posted by humph at 7:27 AM on May 22


This rings true to me. If it's only about the voice, ditch the costumes, the sets, the lighting, etc. It would make the production so much cheaper.

A fair number of productions do, and there's a whole trend of concert opera going on right now that uses none of the stagecraft. But it's Octavian, one of the most prestigious trouser roles in history, an 18 year old man who repeatedly puts on a maid's dress for gender-confusion comedy. In fact, Rosenkavalier is one of the great stage comedies of the early 20th century, with a buffoonish Ochs who can't see through a simple costume change, and a final act loaded with prop-comedy shenanigans. That Octavian is scored for a soprano and often played by someone old enough be his mother is just part of the fun, and one of the demands of the role since the dramatics demand switching seamlessly between comedic action and beautiful duets and trios. None of which is remotely realistic.

Never mind that young men come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Erraught isn't that far out of proportion compared to some, and if she was a male performer her weight would be unexceptional.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:33 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]


Never mind that young men come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Even allowing this much runs against improving such situations, I think; to me, it would read better as "Never mind that fictional representations of people may be presented in various shapes and sizes as the director sees fit..."
posted by mr. digits at 7:38 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]


(To add insult to injury, this was sat next to an article entitled "The Angelina Effect: Doctors warn over worrying rise in double mastectomies after Jolie's operation" because of course wimmin are so feckin dim they go have double mastectomies to copy their screen idols.)

Wow I was gonna say IM GONNA FIND THAT DOUCHEBAG AND IM GONNA SMEAR A HANDFUL OF DOGSHIT RIGHT DOWN THEIR FACE but then I realized it was an article in the Daily Fail and I figured that there is a decent chance that the writer is already sitting in the dark somewhere alone with dogshit smeared down their face.
posted by elizardbits at 7:40 AM on May 22 [13 favorites]


And just to highlight the double standard, here's a press photo of Octavian and Ochs (played by Woldt) in the same performance.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:46 AM on May 22


Wow I was gonna say IM GONNA FIND THAT DOUCHEBAG AND IM GONNA SMEAR A HANDFUL OF DOGSHIT RIGHT DOWN THEIR FACE but then I realized it was an article in the Daily Fail and I figured that there is a decent chance that the writer is already sitting in the dark somewhere alone with dogshit smeared down their face.



Pretty sure that's not dogshit. It's.. some other kind.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:13 AM on May 22


cjorngensen and delfin an opera singer in my circle of friends has already written a hilarious and very mean review of the reviewers.
posted by geryon at 8:26 AM on May 22 [2 favorites]


Needless to say, I am as filled with rage at this crap as the next person with any decency, but I must say I'm heartened at the tremendous public pushback against it and the fact that that fuckhead Christiansen felt obliged to respond to it (even if he responded by digging in his heels). Not so many years ago, the criticism would have been utterly unremarkable and the rage would have been felt by many but never seen in public (apart from maybe a few letters to the editor that nobody read).

On the "appearance is important" front: yes, many people's response to opera is affected by that (although I seem to be on the low end of the scale—by and large, I really don't care what a singer looks like as long as they can sing), but I don't see how anyone can call it a vital issue unless they only attend live performances and never listen to recordings. If you can enjoy a gorgeous coloratura performance without caring about the singer's body size and appearance, then obviously those things are not vital to opera. (Similarly, my response to people who think an author's life is vital to understanding and appreciating their art is one word: Homer.)
posted by languagehat at 8:28 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]


How frustrating this must be for her. I mean, it's frustrating for me and I'm like, eight circles removed from the opera world.

Opera is built on ridiculousness. The one thing you wouldn't want would be a physically convincing actor switching back and forth. Where's the magic in that? Absurd voices stomping around on stage singing about absurd dramas while wearing absurd costumes is like, the definition of opera.
posted by jsturgill at 8:35 AM on May 22


I wonder if the trend towards more "actor-like" singers is related to the grimdarkification of superheroes. If so, there's certainly cross-over potential.

"SACCHETTI! HO UN SACCO DI SACCHETTI!"
posted by pseudocode at 8:50 AM on May 22


And just to highlight the double standard, here's a press photo of Octavian and Ochs (played by Woldt) in the same performance.

That does not show a double standard. Any critic that complained that the Ochs was too fat would get fired because it would be clear they didn't know and hadn't paid any attention to the opera they were supposed to write about. Woldt is one of the most svelte Ochsen I've seen.

The comic-fat-guy stereotype is not a subtle joke and was by no means new with Rosenkavalier, but I think both of these work well in the satire that Hoffmansthal and Strauss created.

That's another thing that this whole flap highlights: Der Rosenkavalier was written as a satire and it has been embraced as sentiment. Octavian and Ochs (generally) look very different but it is superficial; it is very possible Octavian will grow into the oaf that Ochs is.
posted by mountmccabe at 9:07 AM on May 22


Hey! I'm a classically trained singer! And I'm also fat as hell! And I can tell you ONE HUNDRED PER CENT that these issues do absolutely exist, though it's better in some places than others. Classical music is one of the most gender-normative environments I've ever seen, to the point where female conductors will frequently wear men's eveningwear because that's what we expect to see on the podium. (The first female principal conductor of a major US orchestra was appointed to that post in 2007. It's that bad.) It wasn't until blind auditions became a thing that women started even showing up on the stage in major symphony orchestras.

There are times that a singer's physique is important; Seattle's current production of the Ring Cycle, for example, has Das Rheingold put on with all three mermaids singing suspended from the ceiling in specially designed floating harnesses. Those roles had to be cast with women who not only could sing the difficult music but who also had acrobatic training (and when one of them was ill, her understudy sang from the wings while the acrobatics trainer took her place in the harness and costume). But that's really uncommon, and even if it weren't, it's a deliberate choice on behalf of the artistic director, not some sort of force majeure that's visited upon the opera world.

Let me put to rest, though, the idea that opera singers have to be hefty. I have worked with a LOT of soloists in a lot of different sizes, and as far as I can tell, there's very little correlation between body mass and power of voice. Any individual singer may have a weight at which they are most powerful and flexible, but that point is going to vary a LOT between singers.
posted by KathrynT at 9:16 AM on May 22 [11 favorites]


related. Opera critics; trolls in nice shirts.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:43 AM on May 22


I was listening to Radio 4 this morning on this, and they had Dame Kiri Te Kanawa on. She said that Erraught was (I'm paraphrasing) a victim of a costuming disaster, while also saying a lot of very nice things about her performance. I found it interesting because she seemed to be saying both that the reviewers were turds and that the singer did not look good. I wasn't really sure how to take that, not having seeing the portrayal.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 9:49 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]


If the problem was the costumes, an intelligent reviewer would write something like "she was not costumed effectively and that was distracting" not "man, if only her body shape wasn't too weird for her costume." Again, ignorance of the art they're reviewing.
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:35 AM on May 22 [5 favorites]


Erraught looks absolutely fine in the photos posted of her off stage, but I think I might have found the dumpy costume distracting also - at least based on the photos. That's where I get torn on the whole debate ... I think there is both a problem with the costumes and a problem with ignorant sexist reviewers.
posted by kanewai at 11:05 AM on May 22


I was listening to Radio 4 this morning on this, and they had Dame Kiri Te Kanawa on. She said that Erraught was (I'm paraphrasing) a victim of a costuming disaster, while also saying a lot of very nice things about her performance. I found it interesting because she seemed to be saying both that the reviewers were turds and that the singer did not look good. I wasn't really sure how to take that, not having seeing the portrayal.

Story.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, she said: “The little girl Tara herself is absolutely gorgeous, she’s got the most lovely voice, she’s the most beautiful little girl but I think she is in a costume disaster.

“And I think that’s what the whole thing is about, I have looked at it, I have seen her.

“If you would just take that wig off, put her hair in a ponytail, put her in some jodhpurs and some very lovely tights to give her lovely slim legs, you should look at the coat, it’s a shocker.”
She also talks about the "cruel reviews" and speaks to the damage that such can do, similar to Alice Coote (without going for the hard-line stance that opera is only about singing).
posted by mountmccabe at 12:37 PM on May 22


It seems that a common criticism of this run is that the direction and production design overshot innovative and made a nosedive into WTF. Especially the wallpaper I saw in stills. It's like someone tried to imitate the color palette of Grand Budapest Hotel but half-assed it.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 1:17 PM on May 22


Especially the wallpaper I saw in stills. It's like someone tried to imitate the color palette of Grand Budapest Hotel but half-assed it.

Garish wallpaper is known as a signature element of Richard Jones' productions (such as: Macbeth, The Gambler, Hansel and Gretel). The trend looks set to continue with this summer's Ariodante.
posted by Orinda at 3:02 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]


Well, Rupert Christiansen's sentences are OK, but I got distracted from them by the fact that he looks like this. He just doesn't look...highbrow writerly. Now, if he were eating potatoes and farting whilst sitting on a barrel, I'd buy every chew and poot.
posted by ignignokt at 4:45 PM on May 22


Tonight it gladdens my heart to read tweets reporting that the Glyndebourne Rosenkavalier audience went nuts like football fans and showered the stage with roses.
posted by Orinda at 7:12 PM on May 24 [6 favorites]


The performance on Sunday, June 8 (tomorrow) will be streamed live starting at 4:30 PM BST (11:30 AM EDT).

Live-ish, actually. It starts out with a 70 minute delay and will catch up after the hour and a half long second interval such that the third act is live.
posted by mountmccabe at 2:16 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


That link does not seem to be working. It is streaming from the Glyndebourne site, though. Or at least we're on the intro now.
posted by mountmccabe at 8:34 AM on June 8 [1 favorite]


So I need to rewatch the third act because I had serious buffering issues (or at least the glorious part after Ochs leaves) but wow, complaining about how Tara Erraught was costumed almost entirely misses the point. And makes one wonder if they looked at how any of the other characters were costumed. It was brash tacky costume disaster after brash tacky costume disaster. The Marschallin's yellow and black dress in the final act? Leopold's jackets? The Baron's underclothes?

It all fits with the garish wallpapers and mismatched carpets, the glowing "FANINAL" in his home and the goofy physical action. I am not entirely sure what they were after but it was certainly a integrated choice. I found it entirely entertaining, but I can see how people that take the opera more seriously, as less of a satire would find it off-putting. [The production has other oddities that I have not figured out such as how flat the meeting of Octavian and Sophie was but who knows].

Anyway Octavian's second act Knight of the Rose costume (the white get up) did look ridiculous, fake and old-timey. But guess what: the whole idea of the Rosenkavalier was made up by Hofmannsthal/Strauss to be fake and old-timey. It works, in a production set in the first half the 20th century (progressing through time, I believe).

And overall I though her Octavian looked like the impetuous youth he acts like. The idea may have been to be a young stud to make it more obvious what the Marschallin is giving up but he shows little confidence and no experience and she doesn't seem too enamored with or attached to him anyway.
posted by mountmccabe at 1:16 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


I'm not a big opera fan but I watched the beginning scenes when the link above popped up in my recent activity this morning. I loved the wallpaper and lighting, and some of the costumes were so hideous that it must have been on purpose. The singing was lovely, of course. I don't get the costume decisions, but maybe it made sense in context somehow? I can understand how it attracted criticisms, though not why they thought it appropriate to use such sexist language.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:25 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


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