Hamburg fires top soprano for being pregnant

Hamburg fires top soprano for being pregnant


norman lebrecht

April 21, 2018

Message from Julie Fuchs:



Today, I have an unexpected announcement to make: The Staatsoper Hamburg has unfortunately informed me just this week that the artistic integrity of the Jette Steckel production of ‘Die Zauberflöte’ cannot be maintained if the soprano singing Pamina is four months pregnant.

As you can imagine, I am very disappointed as I am feeling vocally and physically in top form. I am fully committed to fulfilling my contracts as planned and previously announced. I was very much looking forward to making my debut in this role, and singing for all of you in Hamburg. My apologies to those of you who already booked tickets. Whilst I respect the artistic vision of the theatre, I am saddened that we were not able to find a solution to accommodate this slight physical difference which does not negatively affect my vocal or artistic performance. It was my strong desire to find small production changes to make my appearance possible. As is the case with most women, in this second trimester of my pregnancy, I am happy to report that I am feeling full of energy and my good health has been confirmed by my doctors. I look forward to returning to the stage in June to sing Poppea at the Opernhaus Zürich.

Artistic integrity used to mean relevant and true to life. What does it mean in Hamburg?

UPDATE: An equivocal response from Staatsoper Hamburg.


  • MusicLover says:

    Apparently there’s a legal issue – the staging involves flying and other physically dangerous activities, and this is problematic from a liability and safety standpoint. Doesn’t sound like it was handled very well by the company…

  • Sue says:

    I don’t know what ‘artistic integrity’ means anymore in Europe. Does it mean giving offensive anti-semitic rappers an award? And what about ‘political integrity’? Just like ‘cultural enrichment’ – hollow propaganda in the brave new world.

  • Mihail Ghiga says:

    I have seen this on fb earlier. If this is true, I mean the reasons were “artistic integrity”, they are idiots. Being pregnant cannot do worse to the opera than whatever regie theater they are doing. I have not seen it, not heard about it, but what can they do? It has to have sex, violence, some refference to nazis, islam, or communism, Trump, immigration, and whatever, the range of imagination of stage directors nowdays is quite limited.
    On the other hand, they could just pretend they care for her safety. Because, well, it is not really a healthy thing for a woman in her condition to do this, regie theater and all considering. She being a singer, well, they want to sing until they die no matter what.

    • Ellon Carpenter says:

      Are you serious? You think pregnant women should not sing in an opera production because “it is not really a healthy thing”? How do you know? Are you her doctor? She already said she was in great shape, felt great, etc. Women have run marathons while pregnant, with no ill effects. It should be her decision alone to decide whether she will perform or not. As for singers wanting to sing until they die, well, that is just absurd. She is not going to put her baby at risk, anyway.

      • Jim says:

        May we all sing until we die!

      • Bruce says:

        Ellon — from Mihail’s “they could just pretend they care for her safety” remark, I got the impression that he was giving voice to the excuses they might have used, not expressing his own opinions.

        Of course there are plenty of people out there who really do think that way, so it’s impossible to be sure; but that was the impression I got.

    • Dmitri says:

      You’re an idiot. I sang a Turiddu opposite a Santuzza who was pregnant. She was a strong, steely, perfectly healthy woman, who could not have sung better.

      I hope you change your mind, because that’s an utterly stupid thing to say.

  • Grant says:

    Pregnancy is a physiological state, not a pathological one. It is no reason to prevent her singing. I presume the artistic director wants Pamina to appear virginal. Something ironic for regie where I expect one day to see Zauberflöte set in a brothel!

  • ketzel says:

    Lawsuit time. She can find plenty of instances where singers were accommodated. The best example is when Joyce DiDonato broke her leg and did the rest of the run from a wheelchair. They changed the production for her. According to these people in Hamburg, they should have fired her because Rosina can’t possibly have a broken leg. Outright sexism.

    • Sharon says:

      Does Germany have laws against pregnancy discrimination?

      • ketzel says:

        I don’t know, but I live in California, and if this happened here, well actually no one would dare. I think the law says that employers have to make reasonable accommodation for pregnancy, disability, etc. Germany is modern and informed by feminism, I don’t see how this can be allowed. And let me add, these directors must be complete philistines. Don’t they realize people go to opera to hear great music, and if the singer they want to hear is indisposed and can’t do their ridiculous stage business, no one cares except the tone-deaf people who create those productions. Singers are artists, you don’t fire them for being human.

  • Nick says:

    Did not Gundula Janowitz sing Donna Anna at Salzburg in the Grosses Festspielhaus looking very pregnant? More than one critic remarked on this fact.

  • Adrian Tamburini says:

    Having read the comments above, if there is a safety issue then I think the company has a duty of care for this soprano and her unborn child. But if it’s solely because of the ‘artistic integrity’ of the production then that is completely ridiculous and the Staatsoper management should be made to explain.

  • Dominic Stafford says:

    Was it Sheila Annett who sang Pamina at ENO about 7 months pregnant? She unintentionally caused hilarity by singing the translation (whilst clutching her bump): ‘I have lost it! I can’t find it! Wherever can it be?!’…

  • ketzel says:

    Also Anna Pirozzi sang Lady Macbeth while 6 months pregnant. Lady Macbeth is supposed to be barren, but everyone was able to deal with it.

  • John G. Deacon says:

    It seems the Hamburg opera house needs to get a serious grip on itself.

    Here in Valencia last year we had Fura del Baus’s version of Saint-Saens (renamed) Samson & Al Qaeda (sic) and aimed at idiots. In the Bacchanale the cast were situate in Mosul and all armed as ISIS terrorists. During the “festivities” a pregnant woman was hoisted up some 6m off the stage where her belly was slit open and the foetus fell to the ground. Meanwhile a naked couple were humping away under a table. If audiences can tolerate this sickening rubbish surely a small bump can be ignored. Why do we get insulted so ?

  • Basia Jaworski says:

    Julie Fuchs is a wonderful actor-singer with a beautiful voice and a great stage presence.
    If the production is too dangerous for an unborn child it says a lot about the production. And the stage director.

    About Fuchs and her recording of Ciboulette by Hahn:

    • Laura says:

      YES. Have seen her in Zurich. The big irony is that she WILL be singing Poppea in none other than a Beito production there in June. The last Beito production I saw had performers beating each other with belts onstage so that could be “fun”…

  • Henning says:

    Just wonder who is the father when Pamina is pregnant? Sarastro or one of the Priests?