Hamburg’s pregnant soprano: I was not respected as an artist or a human being

Hamburg’s pregnant soprano: I was not respected as an artist or a human being


norman lebrecht

April 25, 2018

A message from the French soprano Julie Fuchs, sacked by Hamburg Staatsoper for being four months’ pregnant.



Dear everyone,

Thank you for your huge support during the last few days a little difficult! My intention was not to create animosity or a “media storm”, but simply to be honest with my friends, fans and followers on why I will not sing pamina at the Hamburg opera this month. However, this post made me realize that I was far from being a single case, and I am saddened to hear that many of my colleagues have lived and live in similar experiences, without having the opportunity to express themselves freely.

I do not want to debate every detail but I would like to clarify some of the points already mentioned in my press release: I have informed the theatre of my pregnancy one month before the beginning of the rehearsals so as to allow everyone time to solve all the necessary points . I was assured until the last moment that the few minutes of the stage of a possible change could be adapted to allow my participation. Then, on Thursday, 19 April, I learn that the theatre is sacking me, and this one finally decided that the changes induced by my involvement harmed the artistic integrity of the show. To be clear, my rehearsals had to start 4 days later, Monday, April 23th, yesterday. You would easily understand that I did not feel respected as an artist and be human. It also made me realize how easy it was for a theatre to return an artist without even offering compensation.

Although I understand, of course, that theatres are subject to the law, I firmly believe that a woman is able to decide in agreement with her doctors about what is dangerous for her or her baby. Especially since we all know that scenes are commonly modified for an injured artist, sick or even on personal preferences.

My team is working on this case and I hope you will understand that I am not in a position to comment more accurately at this time.
I sincerely hope that progress will be made in all areas to ensure that all those who work in the arts, both men and women, are respected in their work.

I kiss you and tell you soon for new adventures, I hope, more musical!


  • Una says:

    Wonder how many doctors know about opera, even in Germany, and the dominating role of opera producers in all of this and , yes, all the EU health and safety regulations and a suing culture.

  • db says:

    All support to Julie, I hope she “wins” this case, in whatever possible way.

    On a side note: that last phrase could not have been more badly translated.

  • May says:

    You really have to wonder about the anti-German sentiment in this blog…
    For everyone who isn’t sure about how complicated this issue is, consider the following:
    1. As an opera singer, there are restrictions on what you are allowed to do when you have a contract to sing. Many theatres forbid skiing for example, as accidents do suddenly and unexpectedly happen.
    2. An opera staging remains the intellectual property of the director. I imagine that Mrs Fuchs was optimistic that the director would allow changes in the staging, however the stage director has the final say.
    3. As for Mrs Fuchs, either she needs more reliable contraception, or it was negligent of her to get pregnant in the middle of the season and still expect to be able to keep all of her engagements. No theatre is going to put a performer in a potentially dangerous situation. Perhaps someone in Hamburg gave Mrs Fuchs the false impression that everything could be worked out, but in the end, safety governs first and foremost at an opera house.
    4. Hamburg has offered her future engagements. It would seem that since she got pregnant after signing the contract, Hamburg would not have to buy its way out of the contract, rather, the contract would be void if Mrs Fuchs cannot fulfill her contract. Mrs Fuchs has gotten much more publicity from the matter than if she had just come and sang the role, and as the old adage say, there is no such thing as bad publicity. She comes out the winner, n’est-ce pas?

    • Pedro says:

      OMG… Come on…

      1. The accident can happen to every singer… not only pregnant women.
      2. She was optimistic because during 5 weeks Hamburg Opera told her they are going to find a solution together.
      3. Safety to sing in a podium not more 1 meters to the ground floor?? Please… They say “fly scenes” and they lie. You can check yourself the stage foto and video of this production in Internet.
      4. Hamburg try to bought her silent with future contrats… thats all dear May.

      Because people like you… this industry is patethic. Have a nice day.

      • Bruce says:

        This is from November 2017. I suppose this is the same production.

        There are photos that show several singers standing in a ring-shaped contraption some way above the stage. Maybe that’s the “dangerous” part? (I wonder if “flying” is a mistranslation: surely if the production contained anything that looked like flying, they would include it in the publicity materials.)

        Below the photos, there’s a video that shows the Pamina character in a swing at 0:37 and standing in the ring-shaped thing at 1:37. Again, hard to tell if these are the particular things they thought would be too dangerous.

    • Bruce says:

      1) I wonder if her contract contained an agreement not to become pregnant.

      2) Optimism about the director’s flexibility seems reasonable…

      3) …although it turns out she was naïve to believe that the director cared about the musical side of the production as much as he cared about his stage gimmickry. (Also: she was negligent only if her contracts all contained non-pregnancy agreements. Reasonable accommodations are routinely made for this sort of thing.) (Also: “I have informed the theatre of my pregnancy one month before the beginning of the rehearsals so as to allow everyone time to solve all the necessary points. I was assured until the last moment that the few minutes of the stage of a possible change could be adapted to allow my participation.” She provided advance notice of her ‘negligence’ and was told that something could be figured out to accommodate it. It’s not the same as showing up drunk or unprepared.)

      4) Do you think it’s possible that she would have preferred to simply perform the role and gain attention through her singing rather than through some non-musical means? I always find it interesting when people assume that, because attention results from something, that attention was the goal (or at least an acceptable substitute for the original objective).

      • Frankster says:

        Bruce, you are working the “guy” thing a little too much. If you are not aware, women work while pregnant, perform sports and even compete in Wimbledon while pregnant. The idea that women should not work during pregnancy has been dead for some generations now. If you haven’t noticed, there has also been a world-wide discussion in the past months of women throwing off the “male dominance” thing and finding new empowerment. If any opera company anywhere decides to move sharply in another direction, they would be well-advised to be sure their facts are in order and that their decision has logical and scientific support (a doctor’s statement, for example). The simple declaration of some director that “I’m right, you’re wrong!” is obviously not what is needed for Hamburg’s opera these days.

        • Bruce says:

          (a) It’s Germany, maybe their laws are different and this does not count as discrimination

          (b) I was trying to point out that May is full of shit without actually saying “May, you are full of shit.” (And hopefully get May to question the assumptions behind his/her remarks)

          (c) What does “working the ‘guy’ thing too much” mean?

          • Thomas Silverbörg says:

            It has been my experience over the yeras that German Laws appear to be wonderful on paper, but the de facto use of same has a decidedly feudal taste. Many look great for the outside world, but are not necessarily applied in real life.

          • Tamino says:

            I’m shocked at the lack of comprehension of simple legal issues by many here.
            Life is full of such turns of events.
            The attempt by Julie Fuchs here, to turn this into a shaming of the theater only – which acted reasonably, all things considered, based on the legal framework they had to operate within – smells of a heavy dose of a narcissistic personality disorder.
            It’s unfortunate for her, artistically, but the theater hardly could have acted any differently. Maybe a few days sooner though.

          • Brettermeier says:

            Tamino: “I’m shocked at the lack of comprehension of simple legal issues by many here.”

            But where would be the scandal then…

          • Henning says:

            Tamino I presume you are not the cause of Pamina’s pregnancy so it must be Sarastro or one of the Priests making it a new take on the story line and production!

  • Basia Jaworski says:

    In the summer of 2017 Julie Fuchs sang the role of Leïla in Lille in the live recording of Les Pêchers de perles and she did it more then excellent!.…/bizet-les-pecheurs-de…/