Opera World Left Angry By Sexist Comments
The opera world has been left angry after critics have made sexist comments regarding the appearance of singer Tara Erraught.
Many critics have described the opera singer as ‘dumpy’, ‘stocky’ and a ‘chubby bundle of puppy fat’.
Fellow opera singers have accused them of sexism while music websites have been swamped with messages of support for 27-year-old Miss Erraught.
The row erupted after the mezzo-soprano performed for the first time at the Glyndebourne Opera Festival in the comic opera Der Rosenkavalier.
The reviews provoked a furious backlash because though her singing was widely praised, some included disparaging remarks about her shape.
Rupert Christiansen of the Daily Telegraph said Miss Erraught is ‘dumpy of stature and . . . her costuming makes her resemble something between Heidi and Just William’.
The Times described her as ‘unbelievable, unsightly and unappealing’.
The classical music website Slipped Disc hit back saying: ‘Tara Erraught may carry slightly more heft than a size eight, but what has that to do with performance?
‘Does excess body weight affect artistic performance on stage? Obviously not, as Luciano Pavarotti loudly demonstrated.’
Alice Coote, a leading mezzo-soprano, said: ‘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 . . . opera is all about the voice.’
A spokesman for Irish-born Miss Erraught said: ‘Tara is focused on the music and preparing for her upcoming performances. There will be no further statement at this time.’
However, her parents, who live near Dundalk and went to the opening night at Glyndebourne on Saturday, voiced their distress at the row to the Mail.
‘Tara is concentrating on her work and not getting involved in the debate,’ said her mother Brianain, 50.
‘So, we are not saying anything, even though there’s lots I would like to say. She has a show tonight and just needs to concentrate on that.
‘Tara has such inner strength. She takes the view that what’s said is said, it’s out there now, and it would be much worse if they were criticising her singing rather than her body.
‘She is getting tremendous support from everyone around her. She is a professional and is just getting on with it.
‘We’ve never had to face this before. She’s been reviewed in a lot of places and there’s never been an issue like this before.’
Miss Erraught’s father Joe, 63, added: ‘I am so, so proud of my beautiful daughter. You have to meet her to know you are living with an angel. All of us — her family and people around here — are so proud of her. She is a young woman of substance and I’m delighted to be able to say that about my lovely girl.
‘I saw her performance in Der Rosenkavalier and she was fantastic. She got a standing ovation — what more could you ask for? She couldn’t have done any better.
‘I wouldn’t like to comment on the people who made the remarks about her. She’s a sensible girl — it won’t affect her too much.’
Tara began singing lessons at school when she was ten, but it was a family holiday to Italy that set her on the path to becoming an internationally acclaimed opera singer.
‘We went to Verona and experienced a stunning production of [Verdi’s] Aida, a life-changing experience and my first-ever live opera performance,’ she said in a recent interview.
‘I already knew that I loved to sing, but this opera experience was a new firework that interested me beyond belief. And that was it: I had decided!’
After opera singing lessons, she went on to study at the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin and then joined the Bavarian State Opera company.
She was catapulted to world-wide acclaim three years ago when she replaced an ailing colleague in the role of Romeo with just five days’ notice to learn the part.
One German reviewer said at the time: ‘They call it a breakthrough when a star is born . . . Tara Erraught creates moments of wonder.’
She has won several prestigious awards, toured the U.S. and made her London recital debut at the Wigmore Hall in April. Fellow opera singers have joined the protest at the Glyndebourne reviews and have spoken out in support of the young singer.