Saturday, June 19, 2010

A challenge to my readers!

All three of you.

Let's do a collaborative post about looksism in opera! I want you to post videos in the comments of performances by people who are very attractive but simply not up to the part. These must be productions on a professional level, at least at the regional opera company level--not student or community productions, where one expects to hear singers who are still learning.

The purpose of this exercise is not to mock or belittle anyone. We are not mouse-potato experts on YouTube. This is about how vocal excellence has been sacrificed for looks in the age of television.

If you can't find a video clip of such an unfortunate casting--and that's understandable, because who would want to post something mediocre?--then tell us a story. Tell me about an attractive singer who didn't do the job.


zurga said...

I would like to post a video of Katherine Jenkins singing the Habanera of Carmen.
Unfortunately I don,t seem to be able to do it properly.


Taminophile said...

Well, Zurga, Katherine Jenkins is someone popular in a genre I call PBS classical. Someone beautiful, who has classical training as a singer, who sells CDs of arias and crossover hits, who has become popular with the people who become members of public television stations in the US (I'm not sure how to explain that to people in other lands). You and I both seem to view such people's careers with distaste, resenting the commercial success they achieve when so many other worthy artists languish without the same kind of marketing success.

However, that is not the sort of artist I mean to talk about in this post. For one thing, the clip you suggested was a concert excerpt, not an opera excerpt. In fact, I don't think KJ has done much opera. An example of what I mean could have been illustrated by a video I considered including, showing a tenor who looked like David Hasselhof singing "Ah mes amis!" creditably, but not really well. I then found other clips of the same tenor singing much better. I decided against posting the video.

zurga said...

Thank you Taminophile, I understand.

Lucy said...

Late to the challenge, but I've been mulling it! I think I must have been very fortunate in that I haven't, so far, been to a performance where I felt that, definitely, a particular singer who underperformed had been chosen for looks. I will say though that NYCO's production Don Giovanni bothered me because its concept seemed to rely heavily on ALL of its singers being fit and attractive. (I also felt that it read counter to the libretto WITHOUT presenting a particularly profound/coherent concept of its own. It did get rave reviews, I know... I was just less than thrilled. I was actually surprised by the director's comments in this video because I didn't see those views in the production. Sigh.)

So here are the supposed values of the production and here is a behind-the-scenes video with the attractive cast. No singer was less than adequate (and I thought Giovanni was great), but the range of vocal excellence seemed wider than the variation in levels of fitness and pulchritude. Sigh.

Taminophile said...

Ah, yes, I wish I'd seen that production. Updating opera settings is another topic, but I totally understand what you say about the beauty of every cast member. In a thread about ageism in opera I read just today, someone mentioned that the apparent trend toward exclusively young and beautiful people in opera supports misconceptions about the maturity required to sing and/or act certain roles. Not to mention the fact that the people with the vocal goods to sing some of these roles, even if they're very fit, are simply not going to be be size 0 dancer chicks or 125-lb boys.