Opera fail: Tenor is fired for being too short

Opera fail: Tenor is fired for being too short


norman lebrecht

February 18, 2019

From classicalmusicnews.ru, posting a message by the Premier arts agency:

The Tatar Opera and Ballet Theater named after Musa Jalil signed an agreement with the Premier Art Agency, representing the interests of the tenor Khachatur Badalyan, to participate in four projects of the International Opera Festival. F.I. Chaliapin.

The singer was supposed to perform in two productions (“Madame Butterfly” 04.02.19 and “La Traviata” 02.20.19) and two gala concerts (02.22.19 and 02.23.19). January 31, 2019 the state contract was published on the website zakupki.gov.ru .

January 20, 2019 for the preparation of stage costumes, the casting manager A. Bagautdinova sent all the necessary measurements of the artist, including height. Upon arrival of Khachatur Badalyan on February 3, it was revealed at the rehearsal of the theater that the costumes did not correspond to the declared sizes, they were significantly larger.

Under the contract, the artist arrives one day before the performance, so the costumes were promptly customised to the size of the day before the performance. The video of the play shows that the costumes do not match the size of the artist.

Khachatur Badalyan’s performance in the opera “Madame Butterfly” on the stage of the Tatar Opera and Ballet Theater took place on February 4 and was greeted with enthusiastic press responses. The management of the theater also recognized that the performance was held at a high artistic level.

February 8, 2019 from the casting manager of the Theater Anna Bagautdinova received a call to the Agency with the message that the Theater cancels Khachatur Badalyan’s scheduled performances due to the artist’s small stature (1m 70 cm) and intends to terminate the state contract.

Badalyan is an international artist who appears on major stages in Italy, France Canada and elsewhere. At 1’70 he is taller than most high singers.



  • M McAlpine says:

    Interesting. The guy is about the same height as Tom Cruise!

  • Mike Schachter says:

    Perhaps they are following in the example of Procrustes in Greek mythology, who stretched or cut people to a standard length?

  • Sibylle Luise says:

    Oh my goodie! Just the other week I’ve heard the young Luis Gomez who’s rather short, but as soon as he opens his mouth, you forget it – and I think in his case I’d even forget it if he were in front of Lise Davidsen, the north godess in the format of a valkyrie. Opera is still about music and singing and I hate it when they do it as a model contest.

  • We privatize your value says:

    This is among the craziest cases of discrimination that I have ever heard of. Why? Because the average Tatar male is about 168 cm high, unlike the average Dutch male, whose height is about 181 cm. In truth, this singer is probably discriminated against for another reason – I surmise he is homosexual, which is generally frowned upon in Tatarstan.

    • Peter says:

      Nureyev was also and TATAR and his height was also under 181

    • MusicBear88 says:

      Khachatur Badalyan married a woman named Svetlana last June. If he’s gay then he’s going to great pains to hide it. Not that many others haven’t done that too, but being a fairly short tenor doesn’t mean anything as to somebody’s sexuality.

      • We privatize your value says:

        MusicBear88, the hypothesis is not “he is short so he must be gay” but “he is taller than the average Tatar, yet Tatars ban him for being too short, this seems dodgy and may thus conceal another motive of discrimination”.

  • Nina says:

    José Carreras is also 1 70.

  • David K. Nelson says:

    Shades of Joseph Schmidt. On the other hand I do not believe Schmidt ever lied about his height which might have played a role in this fiasco.

    • Bruce says:

      From what sense I was able to make from the article (only what’s above, not the linked-to article), it looked like he didn’t lie about his height, they just made the costumes wrong? And then fired him because he didn’t fit them? Ridiculous.

      Still ridiculous if he did lie about his height. More understandable if he’d lied about having the role in his repertoire…

  • Novagerio says:

    And what a gorgeous voice Schmidt had! What was he? 1.50?
    He seldom appeared on the operatic stage, appearing mostly as a concert singer and on films.

  • Raouf Zaidan says:

    I don’t get it ? isn’t he tall enough ? I guess 5 foot 6 inches is not a giant , but he is in good shape and handsome also . Where is the problem ? Its impossible to understand .

  • Caroline says:

    Perhaps the Butterfly is a little taller than the diminutive creature she is meant to be?

    • My love is a short tenor too says:

      How could her height be a reasonable motive for this unbelievable decision? This is outrageous, no matter how tall she is…

  • Bill says:

    Ghosts of Goebbels and Joseph Schmidt!

  • My love is a short tenor too says:

    Male singers of little height are very discriminated in the opera world. When will this subject be brought to light? Even fantastic, really accomplished short singers every now and then have to hear things such as “the stage director wants someone taller for this production” or that they are “physically incompatible with the soprano”… And so it goes! Simply shameful.

  • Peter Freeman says:

    I can think of several short operatic tenors past and present who had careers despite their physicality, most famously the great Carlo Bergonzi of savoured memory. There is no disgrace in having to look up to a soprano. What IS disgraceful is discrimination on such grounds. There are often excuses for numerous ulterior motives in my experience. Very often these have no bearing on a singer’s ability.