Knoxville Opera’s ageist, lookist casting policy has drawn first blood. Dr Claudia Friedlander, who runs a voice studio, has published an open letter to the opera company that can’t apparently get much right.
The objectification of singers based on age and appearance is ill-conceived and highly detrimental to opera as an art form. Opera companies prioritize these attributes over vocal excellence at their peril. The vocal and artistic maturity required for superb performances of these roles has nothing to do with the age of the singers, and the shape of their bodies ought to reflect the physical demands of singing rather than some preconceived aesthetic. Because opera is such a buyer’s market these days and there are more gifted singers than the profession can possibly employ, it might appear possible to cull singers over a certain age or weight from your applicant pool and still end up with a viable cast, but if opera is to not only survive but thrive we must be showcasing not merely viable singers but transcendent ones.
There won’t be much transcendence at Knoxville any time soon.
Read Claudia’s full letter here.