Covent Garden Finally (Re-) Engages Deborah Voigt to Sing Ariadne

Classic Arts News   Covent Garden Finally (Re-) Engages Deborah Voigt to Sing Ariadne
Not so long ago, the Royal Opera House in London caused a worldwide uproar when it released soprano Deborah Voigt from her contract to sing the title role in Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos. But news broke over the weekend that the company has changed its mind — now that Voigt has changed her figure.

The Times of London, BBC News and Scotland on Sunday reported yesterday that the ROH has engaged the now-slimmer Voigt to sing Ariadne in the 2007-08 season.

Ariadne is Voigt's signature role — she once referred to herself as "Ariadne, Inc." — and she is considered by many its greatest exponent at least since Jessye Norman.

Voigt had been scheduled to sing the role at Covent Garden for the first time in the summer of 2004, but the Royal Opera cancelled that engagement the previous year. Christof Loy's staging called for Ariadne to wear a black cocktail dress that was deemed integral to the production concept — and when Voigt was deemed too big for the dress, she was the one replaced.

The incident was first reported in a February 2003 interview with ("Get this," Voigt said, "the management of Covent Garden just released me from my contract for Ariadne auf Naxos in 2004. They simply said I was too fat! It makes me so angry.") But it was a March 2004 report in The Daily Telegraph of London that led to the global brouhaha, with indignation among the soprano's many fans as well as news articles, critics' disapproval and lame humor (including all too many headlines ringing changes on the old opera-ain't-over-till-the-fat-lady-sings clich_) in newspapers the world over.

Voigt handled the affair with considerable grace at the time. But she decided that summer to fix the weight problem once and for all — with gastric bypass surgery. She went public with her decision in March 2005 in order to explain her dramatic weight loss, which was widely commented upon in the opera world; by now the once-hefty diva has, as her U.K. manager, Andrea Anson, told The Times, lost 135 lbs.

Voigt is scheduled to sing the title role in Strauss's Salome at Lyric Opera of Chicago this October and November in a new production by director Francesca Zambello. There's no word as yet as to what exactly this Dance of the Seven Veils will entail, but there is an interesting photograph of Voigt as Salome on the company's web site,

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