We all know the saying. It ain’t over till the fat lady sings. “It” being the opera, and “the fat lady” being the lead soprano, who often closes out the show with some singing, generally while also dying. So this linguistic cliche of ours teaches us that opera singers are fat, but lately that hasn’t been true anymore.
When the general public thinks of opera singers, they still think of a humongous woman in a viking helmet holding a spear, or, similarly, Pavarotti. This is because the general public is an idiot. Anyone who has actually seen an opera in recent years knows that the new rule of opera is “No Fatties.” How can the world of opera possibly allow overweight people to sing when they broadcast the shows in movie theaters now?! Being an opera singer is akin to being a movie star, and you know how many of those people are fat. Even poor schlubby, jolly Seth Rogen got all in shape after hitting it big in “Knocked Up.”
A few years back a very famous and successful opera singer named Deborah Voigt, who somewhat resembled the above cartoon, was fired from a role because she could not fit into the “little black dress” that the opera’s producers wanted her to fit into. Later that year she had gastric bypass surgery and, a few years later was rehired for the same role by the same company. So that, to me, says a lot about the state of weight in the opera world.
Singers don’t have the luxury of being fat anymore. They are filmed in HD and shown in theaters all around the world. They go on late night talk shows. They attend Hollywood premiers. They need to be smoking hot, obviously, to fit in. And it’s gotten to the point where, in group of actors and opera singers, it’s hard to pick out which is which from a distance! They all look the same now. Too skinny.
But is there hope for the fat opera singer? Retired singer Dame Kiri Te Kanawa has just done an interview in which she decries the idea that singers need to be skinny. In fact, she believes just the opposite. “You’ve got to have beef on you if you’re going to sing,” she says. Today’s singers, she sadly notes, “Sometimes, they’re more beautiful than their voice.”
So to all current and aspiring opera singers out there, I think I have found the perfect solution for you. After wading through all of this data and history, the answer is this: You should be exactly 5% fatter than your voice is beautiful. You can’t be too fat, or you won’t get hired. On the other hand, you can’t be too skinny or people will focus on how sexy you look and not pay attention to your singing. So just be a little less attractive than your voice and you will be fine. Problem solved. I wish all social ills were this easily cured.