Columnist to diva: How do you stay so thin?

Columnist to diva: How do you stay so thin?


norman lebrecht

November 27, 2014

Neil Steinberg is four-times-a-week columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. He’s been on the job for 18 years and has got the hang of it by now. His byline has made it into headlines.

So the Sun-Times splash Steinberg: Opera is fini if the fat lady keeps singing is not altogether out of character.

It tops a fairly bland interview with a soprano, Adina Aaron, who’s singing Bess at the Lyric.

But there’s one paragraph of Steinberg’s that is so wrong on so many levels that we had to bring it to your attention for discussion. Prepare the sickbags now.

As an opera goer, while I certainly appreciate a well-formed star and so understand Aaron’s point, my focus is on the music and the staging. I don’t consider the cast’s bulk when deciding what operas to attend.

Oh, ffff’s sake. Discuss.

steinberg aaron


  • Anonymous says:

    What is the point of your indignation here, Norman? He does not think it is important for singers to be thin. He tends to like them for the way they sing. Unless you want to counter all the viewpoints you put forward after the Glyndebourne debacle this summer?…

    Think of it from a singer’s point of view. Young students are now told to lose weight as soon as they arrive at the conservatoire (at what is probably a fairly crucial time in their physical and vocal development). Certain opera companies are now quite frank in saying that they will not put individuals that they do not consider physically attractive on stage. This situation is allowed to develop because no-one takes a firm stand. You cannot defend Tara for not being stick thin, then berate a critic who says that an artists’ weight does not matter to him.

  • V.Lind says:

    I’ve read that paragraph — and the whole article, despite the absence of a link — and I’m damned if I can see what is so offensive about it. Unless you are saying fat ladies singing is not acceptable any more, which would be inconsistent with what I have read here.

    I don’t like “a well-formed cast” either — it is infelicitous, to say the least and I suppose those who mark these things out of ten would fail i ton a politically correct scale — but the point made about artists’ weight and appearance in the article is made by Ms. Aaron. All he is saying, perhaps a little clumsily, is that to him the music comes first, not the appearance of the singers.Weren’t you going on and on about the very same thing when a certain review of Glyndebourne appeared this summer?

  • Petros Linardos says:

    I read the article and found no “How do you stay so thin” question from Neil Steinberg.

  • Max Grimm says:

    I have read the article and it is the diva herself who broaches the subject, talking about how people are surprised to learn she’s an opera singer, as the stereotype of the obese singer exists and is kept alive by depictions in advertisements.
    It was once again Mrs. Aaron who talked about physical fitness, as she had considered a career as professional athlete before becoming an opera singer.
    I fail to see anything offensive or any thematic link to the debate sparked by the comments regarding Ms Erraught in the Rosenkavalier months ago.