The first opera about an eating disorder

The first opera about an eating disorder


norman lebrecht

August 29, 2018

Opera Saratoga announces:

“Ellen West,” world premiere of opera based on the early-20th century case of a woman’s battle with severe eating disorder and a doctor’s efforts to diagnose her through existential psychotherapy, with music by Ricky Ian Gordon and libretto by Frank Bidart. Commissioned by Opera Saratoga and Beth Morrison Projects, conducted by Lidiya Yankovskaya and directed by Emma Griffin in her company debut, the production will feature baritone Keith Phares and the first Opera Saratoga appearance by soprano Jennifer Zetlan.

Performances are scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday, June 30; 2 p.m. Saturday, July 6; and 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 12.


  • Gary says:

    I think that honour goes to Laura Bowler for ‘My Friend Annie’ and her Size Zero Opera Company.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Very good composer – a REAL one:

  • V.Lind says:

    Why would anyone want to go to an OPERA about an eating disorder? I suppose anything is fair game and if it’s good, fair enough, but it’s a bit pf an off-putting theme for a night out.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Indeed it’s a ridiculous subject, apparently they could not possibly find something that would refer to a more general human condition. But it is part of the general trend of identity politics: minority groups demand, DEMAND, recognition and for people suffering from eating disorders, it must be profoundly offensive that all those ages, since the Florence Camerata end 16th century, no single bit of attention was given to anorexia in opera, in contrary: sporanos were supposed to be fat. A source of burning grievance.

      • Sue says:

        Completely agree. YOU need to understand MY pain. On and on, forever and forever. That Nathan Lane character, Albert, in “The Birdcage” had to take his ‘Pirin’ tablets. I’d like to distribute Pirin to everybody on the Left in the modern world. That or a ‘chill pill’.

  • The View from America says:

    I’d have preferred a meatier topic for an opera. As it is, this one’s pretty thin gruel …

  • patrick says:

    Totally ridiculous.

  • David A. Boxwell says:

    It’s not starting until the fat lady sings.

  • Mark Henriksen says:

    The Bulimic Bride would be a catchier title.

    • Doug says:

      I prefer “Anorexic Annie.”

      • Sue says:

        I feel outraged and bullied by your comments. I was once thin and now I’m fat again. You are trying to humiliate and weight-shame me!! This stress is affecting my life and YOU are responsible for MY problems. As therapy you need to attend “Fat Studies” courses at your local university so that YOU can feel MY pain. Meanwhile, I need to look in the mirror all the time to see MY weight and how it makes ME look. Then I can share on Facebook or Instagram so everybody can see MY body.

        Christ we live in a narcissistic culture. Pass the bucket please.

        • Doug says:

          Your feigned outrage and virtue signalling are perfect signs of narcissism. Put the bucket over your head. There’s no hope for you.

  • Doug says:

    Who plays the conductor that sexually abuses her?

  • Emily says:

    This opera is based on a poem by one of my very favorite poets, Frank Bidart, who must have adapted his poem as the librettist for this opera. I can’t speak to the music – but Bidart is a genius and a lyric poet of the highest order. The poem, “Ellen West,” is a masterpiece, and broke new ground in the dramatic narrative tradition. It’s absolutely beautiful – despite (or maybe partly because of?) its disturbing subject matter. It’s not at all what you might expect.