A tenor shoots back at fat review

A tenor shoots back at fat review


norman lebrecht

February 10, 2016

In his Evening Standard review of Magic Flute at English National Opera, Barry Millingon observed that:

‘Tamino, sung by Allan Clayton, who is vocally in excellent trim but needs to spend more time at the gym if he is to be stripped regularly to his boxers’.

The young British tenor (whose ironic twitter name is @fatboyclayton) replied succinctly:

‘Barry Millington can fuck off.’

allan clayton

Happy Wednesdays, everyone!

UPDATE: A different take on the show, here.


  • Nigel Harris says:

    Splendid response! And, my goodness, the guy can sing! For me it’s a thing of such beauty
    as to disarm all reasonable criticism.

  • Mark Winn says:

    Excellent and appropriate retort!

  • Nicola Lefanu says:

    And the review continues “Peter Coleman-Wright wins some sympathy with his characterisation of a no-longer-youthful Papageno”

    So PCW needs to get out the anti-aging cream when Mr Clayton is down the gym?

    What a nasty writer.

    • Damien Kennedy says:

      You can’t really equate the two. The character of Papageno is meant to be in the last-chance saloon, looking for love and, in this production, past the prime of youth. It’s not the same as slagging someone off for their looks.

      I’m right behind Allan on his comment, though.

      • Halldor says:

        The idea that Papageno is meant to be over the hill in this production was clearly part of the director’s conception – and Coleman-Wright carries it off brilliantly. I don’t see any problem in the reviewer acknowledging that.

  • cherrera says:

    That should have been his response to the director who asked him to strip.

    That should be the response of every opera singer to every director who asks him or her to strip.

    Unless it’s Salomé.

    But then, if you as an opera singer are going to strip, you will be judged by the normal standards of people who choose to strip on stage, not by the quality of your voice. You can’t say, I’m going to strip, but don’t look at me stripping.

  • Erich says:

    Has Mr Millington looked in the mirror recently?

  • Zild says:

    My heart is on the tenor’s side.

    The critic can of course write what he wants, but he can also fuck off :>

  • Robert (Bobby) Jeffrey says:

    Love is blind not deaf!

  • Blauzacoise says:

    The whole notion of having to be “perfect” in order to show your body to the world is a sign of the prevailing narcissism in our society. For my part, I can live without stripping singers on stage – it seldom adds anything – but I have a lot of respect for anyone with the strength to stay above the current cult of bodily perfection.

  • A violinist says:

    I’ve seen Allan Clayton on stage in his boxers a few times, and enjoyed it very much, along with his singing. In fact, a production where Allan Clayton is not in his boxers is not worth going to.

  • Petros LInardos says:

    Why do singers have to appear in their boxers in the first place? Maybe some directors should be given the same instructions as Mr. Millington.

    • Petros LInardos says:

      Did Alfredo Kraus, arguably acceptable artist by today’s visual standards (aside from being a hell of singer) ever have to appear in underpants?

    • Halldor says:

      Makes perfect sense in the context of this production – which is superb. Go and see it, then let’s talk.

  • Peter Shepherd says:

    How is his name ironic?

  • Bruce says:

    In (apparently) related news, Barry Millington is old and wrinkly: http://www.the-wagnerian.com/2012/11/in-discussion-with-barry-millington-id.html

  • Eddie Mars says:

    Barry Millington is a wаnker.

  • Claudia Friedlander says:

    It’s one thing to opine that a director made a poor choice by asking a singer to strip and quite another to comment on that singer’s appearance. A singer’s body is their instrument. Objectifying their appearance demonstrates an appalling ignorance for what that means as well as a lack of appreciation for the craft of singing. http://www.claudiafriedlander.com/the-liberated-voice/2016/02/r-e-instrument.html

  • DAVID says:

    Two very effective words which are often the only appropriate response, but which in our current politically correct climate, much too concerned with politeness and with never offending anyone (even when one has been offended oneself), take much courage to utter.

  • Lianne Seykora says:

    Heard Allan at Glyndebourne this summer. His commitment, vulnerability, and musical chops made for a thrilling performance. That’s what putting someone onstage in their boxers is all about. To think otherwise is to, ummm… MISS THE POINT.

  • Milka says:

    Unless he is obese like a late world famous tenor there should be no problem.
    Opera is both music and visual– to have a “sell by date fat tenor ” as Tamino
    would be a casting mistake, especially when running around in boxers otherwise
    one would think our Pamina is a little kinky taking up with an obese love object .
    The three ladies refer to Tamino as handsome etc . and one doubts that a fat
    butterball would elicit their observations and jealousies .One knows that it is
    essential to suspend all reason when attending some operas ,but there is a time
    when enough is enough ………….

    • Claudia Friedlander says:

      So whose standard are we supposed to apply for physical beauty in opera productions, then? Attractiveness is an entirely subjective thing. It’s the beauty of the voice, musicianship, and commitment to the character that matters in opera. One could just as easily screen for race, age, or disability as we might weight.

      • Nina Spinner says:

        I absolutely agree with this comment. Quite honestly, I’d prefer a chubby Tamino to a skinny one anytime, unless the skinny one is the better singer. I may disqualify as an audience member by the standards of the reviewer, though, for not thinking that thin automatically equals attractive and for putting the voice first, before physical appearance.

      • Milka says:

        Look up “Fat David ” and say which you prefer

  • cherrera says:

    Stripping says: my naked body, as such, has something to say, above and beyond what my voice alone can express.

    Because he is using his body in lieu of his voice, audience and the critic have every right to judge whether his naked body as instrument is out of shape, just as whether his naked voice as instrument is out of shape.

    The comment “he needs to spend more time at the gym if he is to be stripped regularly” in this context, is no different than “he needs to spend more time with his voice coach if he is to be cast as a lyric tenor regularly.”

    • Claudia Friedlander says:

      No, stripping says the director instructed the tenor to strip. The buck naked stops there. Critics can judge whether that choice enhanced the production or not. It’s ridiculous to comment on the tenor’s body.

    • Halldor says:

      Loving the unexamined assumption here that no male physique beyond that of the stereotyped youthful, implausibly-toned gym-bunny is capable of expressing anything artistically. Pure misandry.

      This is Mozart, not Poldark. Please, stop objectifying and start empathising.

  • Marcy Richardson says:

    I also don’t understand the whole “if you’re going to strip, expect to be judged for your body” comments. As someone with one foot in the burlesque world, there’s no rule there that you have to be a certain size or shape to appear not fully clothed in public. this concept that you must have a “gym body” in order have some kind of “right” to bare skin ever is ridiculous. Also, I’m pretty sure that as consenting adults, we all have seen a non “gym body” naked at one point or another (or daily!) and been attracted enough to said person to do the deed. No matter what society tells us, all types of bodies are sexy and have sex all the time. Nobody should be trying to hide their bodies for the sake of not being athletic-not on stage, not at the beach, not when it’s hot, never. It’s not right.

  • Peter says:

    And why Mr. Millington didn’t object, that Monostatos was not sung by a black man? And why was the giant snake in the beginning not real?
    I mean phantasy and imagination are not for everybody, not in the age of pornography. We gotta keep it real, right? The whole world can fuck off!

  • Wiebke Göetjes says:

    Great answer Allan! Let him fuck off and keep singing beautifully!

  • Brian B says:

    Better the critic’s vitriol were aimed at the producer who would make him appear in his boxers in the first place.

  • Stephen Endelman says:

    Love this!

  • A. Sympathetic Colleague says:

    ‘Abschied’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fDsz2pSRtec
    nobody but nobody will remember the critics when we’re all dead and gone.
    Except for Hugo Wolf.

  • Una says:

    Opera singers in general are not great at stripping off, and most people regardless of their figure, look better with some clothes on them, including BM! A stupid review. Should have had a go at the director not the tenor but if he had complained, the tenor might have not got the job in the end.

  • Corinne Orde says:

    Hard to understand why someone of BM’s vintage doesn’t appear to know how physically demanding the job of an opera singer is. Who, after a day spent travelling, vocalising, voice training or coaching, or in a long rehearsal session on their feet, and an evening spent in performing, would choose to spend what little free time remains in a gym?

    • Simon Biazeck says:

      Someone who suffers from low self esteem, possibly, but by no means everyone. Allan doesn’t, he attends the vocal gym of Mozart and Handel and Britten et al. I trust Herr Millington is now doing the do in an away direction.

  • Ian says:

    I love all of Allan Clayton xx