Zeffirelli to Soprano: “You’re Too Fat for My Opera”

01/08/2010 1:50 PM |

2 Fat 2 Sing

  • 2 Fat 2 Sing

Soprano Daniela Dessi has quit a production of La Traviata set for the Rome Opera because the director, weenie king Franco Zeffirelli, publicly ridiculed her weight. “I did say she was on the plump side for the part,” Zeffirelli told the Times of London, “and she is. She is is not exactly the kind of woman who is likely to die of tuberculosis.”

Aren’t opera singers supposed to be fat?

Not these days. Five years ago, Debra Voigt was fired from a Royal Opera House production of Ariadne auf Naxos because she couldn’t fit into the costume. (She had gastric bypass surgery afterwards.) And Anna Netrebko, one of opera’s rising stars, is so popular in no small part thanks to her lithe figure.

(Not that Dessi is even fat! As the chief conductor of the Rome Opera said, “her appearance pleases me as a man.”)

“It has often been said that rounder figures make for better voices in the rarefied world of opera,” write Graham Keeley and Richard Owen in the Times. But “Luciano Pavarotti, who died in 2007, was said to have suffered increasingly poor health, partly because of his fluctuating weight…[and] some opera singers also say that if they are out of shape, a night on the stage can be a struggle.”

“You don’t sing with the body,” Dessi told El Mundo, “but with the voice.”

But this story isn’t really about women’s bodies: it’s about Zeffirelli, and what a huge asshole he’s becoming.

4 Comment

  • The chief conductor of the Rome Opera is behaving exactly as one always imagined that the chief conductor of the Rome Opera would.

    This pleases me, as a silly person on the internet.

  • Although upon reflection, if you take it out of the context of the plot of the opera, “She is is not exactly the kind of woman who is likely to die of tuberculosis” has a certain magic to it as well.


    National stereotypes!


  • Her appearance, she-a pleases me!

  • (I think that was a line of dialogue in “Nine”; Daniel Day Lewis should definitely play the chief conductor of the Rome Opera in the [inevitable?] film adaptation of this kerfuffle)