Oh, not again! Critic calls an opera singer ‘Miss Piggy’

You’d have thought that, after the Glyndebourne fat-shaming furore,  music critics would be a little more careful with body-shape issues.

Not a bit of it.

Leipzig launched this weekend what many feel is a must-see production of Richard Strauss’s Frau ohne Schatten. The cast is impressive. But the MDR radio critic Dieter David Scholz, after praising her ‘stupendous tones’ , attacks the American singer Jennifer AnnWilson for looking like Miss Piggy. You can hear his shameful comment at 05.20 here.

jennifer ann wilson2

This is, in any language, unacceptable.

It is made worse by the fact that a previous reviewer, two years ago in Berlin, attacked this singer in exactly the same offensive terminology. Laziness? collusion? mindless cliche peddling? Call it what you will. It has no place in the discussion of opera or the profession of music criticism.

Ms Wilson is not a size 8. But she’s a terrific singer, and no artist deserves to be referred to in animal caricatures.

We await to hear Leipzig Opera’s response to this disgraceful piece of phoney criticism.

jennifer ann wilson

photo: Leipzig backstage

 

UPDATE: Mr Scholz has sent this response to Slippedisc reader Saski Constantinou: ‘I didn´t attack Mrs. Wilson. I didn´t say, that Jennifer Wilson was like Mrs Piggy! I said that the costume-bildner was so ugly to dress her like that! Which was not very nice for her. I critisized the costume-builder, not Mrs. Wilson!!! Thats a difference. And I said wonderful things about the voice of Mrs. Wilson.”

We think that is no justification for his terminology. no excuse. If he is saying a singer looks like, or is made to look like Miss Piggy, he is drawing attention to sensitive body image issues. That is not acceptable.

 

 

 

 

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  • Actually, he says the costumes are ugly and unflattering and she is costumed to look like Miss Piggy.
    Admittedly, he does say her figure is not sylph-like. But he doesn’t call her Miss Piggy.

  • Dear Norman,

    I am delighted to be mentioned in the same breath as the magnificently gifted showbiz icon, Miss Piggy! Please send Herr Scholz my most heartfelt thanks.

    All best,

    Jennifer “Miss Piggy” Wilson

    PS – and don’t forget it, Kermie!

  • Now my German is ropey at best, but I’m sure I caught that he was describing the pink fabric costume as her being dressed up like Miss Piggy, and not making reference to the singer herself.

  • If indeed he said that Jennifer looked like Miss Piggy then THAT is totally disgraceful, uncalled for, rude and UNPROFESSIONAL.
    What pleases me is to see my friend Jennifer make the comment that she did.
    You Go, Jennifer.
    Several friends of mine who live and Leipzig as well as my two best buds from Hamburg, Hans and his lady Erica who took the train to the Premiere, all said that Jennifer was SUPER and the entire production was excellent.
    So there.
    I still say, it was a stupid thing to say, IF indeed he said it, which it seems to appear that he did.
    John Edward Niles

  • The problem continues to lie in the directors’ conceptualization of operas. Their mental pictures, and hence, the work of costume designers, results in hideous outfits and wigs and unflattering lighting design. Singers are taught not to complain about “such things” and need the work so badly that they’ll appear on stage looking horrid. While there are a handful of big name artists who may be in positions to object, even they usually keep quiet and end up in trashy or downright ugly productions.

    Houses need to stop reaching into the depths of the ill-informed and uneducated for directors and singers should be given a voice ( sorry, I just couldn’t resist that one

  • Whether he was referring to Miss Wilson personally or the way the ugly pink costume made her look, it was inappropriate. I guarantee that were she not overweight or not a woman, the Miss Piggy reference would not even have occurred to him. It is still somehow considered ‘witty’ when critics make such references to a singer’s appearance; they seem to compete to find pointedly sized-based analogies and word choices or alliterations when the singer is fat, especially when they are having a hard time find anything pertinent (like voice quality, musicianship or acting) to critique. Jennifer Wilson is a beautiful woman with a fabulous voice and presence. Calling the costume alone unflattering or even ugly would have sufficed.

  • Jennifer Wilson – you are a wonderful artist and we can’t wait to have you again with us!
    Franziska Severin, Oper Leipzig

  • OK. Here is what Dieter David Scholz ACTUALLY says:
    Jennifer Wilson is “eine echte Hochdramatische, die stupende Trompetentöne ausstösst.
    Was ihr allerdings nicht zum Vorteil gereicht, dass sie quasi als Miss Piggy in kurzen pink-farbenen Röckchen auftreten muss, was ihre nicht eben elfenhafte Figur aufs peinlichste betont. überhaupt sind die Kostüme … ziemlich geschmacklos und ungeschickt.”

    She is “a real high dramatic soprano, whose clarion-like voice nails the notes stupendously. What is not quite so advantageous is that she is dressed up like some sort of Miss Piggy in short pink skirts which really don’t show up her (not exactly elf-like) figure to its best advantage. In fact, the costumes are generally pretty tasteless and awkward.”

    I’m in no way defending his comments. But he DOES NOT call her Miss Piggy.

  • I agree that he did NOT call her Miss Piggy but he is very stupid think that by merely SAYING that–it was a Radio Review–the casual Listener would make the obvious connection.
    Journalists have to be so very careful about what they say.
    Like my father always said, there is a difference between reality and the truth.
    The Truth is the Unvarnished Truth, while Reality is what people perceive the truth to be. People hear what they want hear, see what they want to see and believe what they want to believe.
    By using that simile, Herr Scholtz stepped in it and now it will not go away. Too bad! However, I glad to see that Jennifer Wilson is being very professional about it.
    John Ed NIles

      • Well, no actually – he said that she is dressed up like some sort of Miss Piggy, which is NOT, by any remote definition, exactly the same as saying that she looked like Miss Piggy. But I agree that its a pretty sloppy and graceless piece of writing, to which its not surprising that some people have taken offence. And I think we all agree that Jennifer Wilson comes out of this episode MUCH the best with her classy, tongue-in-cheek reaction. I can only say that she wasn’t on my “radar screen” before, and I’ll look out for an opportunity to hear her now.

  • Scholz should remember that Miss Piggy had a violent disposition when she was critiqued, and expressed it with a mean karate chop.

  • Whilst critics continue to enjoy the gravy-train of comps, receptions, and all manner of exclusive accesses, many will continue to offend for offence’s sake, because they love the attention and the illusion of power. The time has come for concert venues, promoters, and others to reconsider the perks we offer to critics, and whether we could be more selective.

  • He wrote that she had been made to appear practically as Miss Piggy, which is NOT the same. (And BTW, CAPTCHA is really a pain in the neck.)

    • After some initial problems, CAPTCHA is working better for me these days. But it is still an extra step, although I understand why it is needed.

      Still, it is my impression that the number of comments is slightly down, versus the old site.

      The new site is much better looking, and having immediate story images makes a helpful difference. Also, the playing-card layout allows more to be glanced horizontally. Big plus!

      I miss, from the old site, the “count” of the number of comments for each story, because occasionally I don’t see the value of a post and then it turns out everyone is excited by it. The count guides you back to see what the fuss is about.

      Two aspects are way more annoying than CAPTCHA, imho:

      (1) the “stroboscope” effect as you mouse over the playing cards; and

      (2) the hang-up that sometimes occurs (more in Android than Windows) when the playing card momentarily expands in its pull-down way.

      It is my impression that these fancy extras do harm without really adding anything.

        • Norman, to be clear, I wouldn’t describe CAPTCHA as a fancy extra, because it has a functional purpose, as discussed. And the playing-card expansion thing would be fine if it only worked without leading to a browser hang-up. Mainly I wanted to say that the new site is a great improvement.

          • Thank you. We’re still tweaking to offer an even better experience and interaction.

  • This is a long one. We are talking about critics here. In the movie Ratatouille the feared food critic, Anton Ego, writes a review of the cooking of…well, a Rodent. And he is humbled by it. The sentiments expressed here should be noted by ALL Critics.

    In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that, in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. Last night, I experienced something new, an extraordinary meal from a singularly unexpected source. To say that both the meal and its maker have challenged my preconceptions is a gross understatement. They have rocked me to my core. In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau’s famous motto: Anyone can cook. But I realize that only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere. It is difficult to imagine more humble origins than those of the genius now cooking at Gusteau’s, who is, in this critic’s opinion, nothing less than the finest chef in France. I will be returning to Gusteau’s soon, hungry for more.

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