Last summer, the London newspaper’s music critic led a pack of baying hacks who wrote or implied that the Irish mezzo Tara Erraught was too fat to sing Octavian in Rosenkavalier at Glyndebourne.
Then the same critic went for the mezzo Alice Coote who had hit back over the weight issue.
Now the fusty newspaper has provoked the wrath of Lisa Milne, the Scottish soprano who has retired early for a number of reasons, only one of which was to do with size. The Times ignored the other issues and focussed on fat.
Its report, beneath a profoundly unflattering picture of Ms Milne, begins:
Lisa Milne has given up the opera stage after years of finding “industry image standards” so “wearying and demoralising” that she underwent a breast reduction.
The Scottish soprano, who received an MBE in 2005, is retiring to teach at her alma mater, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS), in September.
She cited a number of reasons for the move, including feeling defeated by the pressures opera put on the way she looked. Alongside surgery on her breasts, the singer said she had a gastric sleeve operation “in order to look right for the stage” and was tired of “constantly being told I wasn’t pretty enough, wasn’t slim enough, wasn’t tall enough”.
Lisa, however, is not one to take things lying down. Here’s her response:
So THE TIMES printed ‘their’ version of Kate Molleson’s story [in the Herald]. I am really upset by it. They printed a photo from The Sacrifice which was years before I had gastric surgery or breast surgery. For them to focus and headline the article as ‘Soprano quits stage ‘unable to look part’.
WRONG. I resent that implication. I quit the stage because of numerous reasons- primarily to be with my family and because I had suffered from extreme stress and anxiety due to my personal life and the pressures of being away. The issue of my ‘ looks’ was other peoples’ problem. Not mine. If companies wouldn’t employ me because of the way I looked what else could I do but try to change how I looked if I wanted to STAY in the career. I did all that but I realised after the massive losses in my personal life and the joy that was radiating from me after working with young singers that my heart and my career had changed direction.
So to The Times I say – don’t try to turn this into yet another opera singer ‘fat’ story. It isn’t my story. And Kate Molleson reflected ACCURATELY the situation. My looks and the pressure to conform were a small part of a much much bigger and more interesting story.