Nursing soprano hits out at fat-shaming reviewers

Nursing soprano hits out at fat-shaming reviewers


norman lebrecht

August 27, 2019

From the US soprano Kathryn Lewek:

Please help me spread the word. Opera singers are often the targets of #harassment, #bodyshaming & #fatshaming from #operacritics. This must stop. #timesup on on these juvenile bullies.


She has not named the offending reviewers and media.

Deborah Voigt responds: ‘One of my reviews mentioned my “three double chins.” Oh, and then there was that time I was fired from that little opera house in London. It’s been going on for YEARS.’


  • Brian says:

    The offending reviewers and media are probably hidden somewhere amongst all those hashtags. Am I the only one to find reading texts full of Twitter hashtags tedious to read? Playing a sonata in F sharp major is definitely easier.

    Wishing Ms Lewek and her family well.

    • Olassus says:

      Depends on which one …

      — Beethoven No. 24, “Thérèse,” Op. 78?
      — Scarlatti K318 (L31)?
      — Scarlatti K319 (L35)?
      — Scriabin’s Sonata No. 4, Op. 30?


      • Brian says:

        Indeed, Olassus, nice point there. And, expanding the genre, we could include Korngold’s symphony…

        On a linguistic note, I should have written: “Am I the only one to find texts full of Twitter hashtags tedious to read?” Apologies.

  • John Rook says:

    Where does awareness campaigning end and self-publicity start?

    • Yes Addison says:

      I also hope she isn’t trying to weaponize her fans to harass people because she didn’t like what some reviewers wrote. Operagoers can be overinvested enough on their own. Lewek has received her share of laudatory reviews as well. The “press” section of her website is full of them.

      • david hilton says:

        Of course she is. She’s explicitly calling for the harassment of people who disagree with her. Thank goodness most of us live in Western societies that preserve an individual’s right to form their own opinion, and, indeed, to express that opinion in print. I’ll take free speech and a free press over someone’s aggrieved cry for a campaign to silence people who have expressed views she dislikes any day. Yes, she may be legitimately offended. That’s what robust free speech often results in. But the opposite is worse: a society where none of us are entitled to say what we think about Ms Liewak, and where she — and not society at large — defines the parameters of what is or is not permissible speech.

  • Karl says:

    Opera is a visual medium so looks matter.

    • Harry Collier says:

      The main point of opera is the music, not the staging. Which is why I aways listen to Don Giovanni, or Tristan and Isolde, with my eyes closed.

      • Karl says:

        Then they could save a lot of money by doing opera in concert. But they don’t. Because opera is a visual medium for most people. And looks matter to most people.

    • Ms.Melody says:

      Give me an overweight soprano with a glorious voice and a fabulous technique over a svelte, elegant mosquito any day.

  • FS60103 says:

    As I understand it, the offending comment was made by one solitary (and famously unpleasant) Canadian critic. But hey, what the hell, let’s smear an entire profession…

  • V.Lind says:

    I remember interviewing a famous soprano once. It was relatively late in her career, and she had a son. I remarked on her rather good figure, compared to that of some of her contemporaries. (Probably politically incorrect, but she was not discombobulated — simpler times). She said quite candidly, “They eat too much.” She was Italian and told me she loved pasta but simply did not indulge as she found it all too easy to gain weight.

    Abusive commentary on any subject is abhorrent. Suggesting someone watch their weight is not anything other than an observation. By all reliable accounts, excess weight is deleterious to health. This lady would appear to be sensitive if she is still showing the after-effects of having borne a child, though I am not entirely clear what her issue is from that confused and repetitious hodgepodge above. But I’m not sure commenting — if courteously and neutrally — about artists on public stages who carry too much weight is not fat-shaming. If the fat are ashamed, that’s their problem, and there may well be things they can do about it. Like eat less.

    Pavarotti once confessed that his problem was that the only exercise he took was raising his elbow with a forkful of food in it.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    I know that Norman does not like the use of all caps, but here I go anyway….

  • M. Burton says:

    Mrs Lewek could have taken maternity leave, stay home and take care of the baby as other opera singers do. She is not an artist that would starve without performing a year or two. But she decided to keep singing, travel around the world and nurse the baby in dressing rooms. She presents this as something heroical and plays the victim’s role. C’mon, lady, you are pathetic.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Well…she might not be able to take “a year-or-two” away from work as opera houses may start to forget about her. But if she feels she hasn’t yet properly recovered from giving birth then she might have been wise to take more time off than just 6 weeks. Opera singing is quite physically demanding (more so than, for instance, an office job).

  • Cantantelirico says:

    Did she actually take a picture of her breastfeeding her daughter, post it on social media and then take umbrage when some of her followers felt that that was something best done in private?