Embattled German critic comes out body fighting

Embattled German critic comes out body fighting


norman lebrecht

September 03, 2019

Manuel Brug, called out by soprano Kathryn Lewek for bodyshaming, has hit back in an article, asking his readers for acceptable synonyms for ‘fat’ (or ‘dick’ in German).

The headline? ‘Why it is correct to use the word ‘dick”

In a hole, he really should stop digging.

Read here (auf Deutsch).




  • Tiredofitall says:

    Don’t you just hate fat (dick?), bald critics who don’t know when to shut up? NO ONE CARES.

  • FrauGeigerin says:

    Why is it that often the musicians making it to the media for these sort of things are musicians with mid-level performance careers who rarely appear on papers, blogs, TV etc. for their artistic merits?

    • Mike Schachter says:

      Pure coincidence

    • FrauGeigerin is wrong says:

      This particular singer is THE Königan der Nacht for the world. He is the one trying to boost his fame by continuing to double down on his stupid, out-dated ideas. Plus, he is a fat troll. Felt good to say that.

  • 32VA says:

    He certainly is a dick. A fat German dick.

    Raises the question of why we even need this superfluous layer of do-nothings and know-nothings. Do us all a favour, Mr Brug, and resign. You fulfil no useful role for society whatsever. Find a job in which you serve the public. Try working in a supermarket, or on public transport. No-one needs your crapola about opera.

  • Angela says:

    You really suggest a German newspaper should care about the English meaning of a perfectly normal German word?? We should be allowed to use our own language for our newspapers, I hope.

    By the way, there is a fine difference between “dick” and “fett” in German. They both mean “fat” in English, but “dick”, resembling “thick”, is a rather friendly and nice word, just describing the condition of not being lean and slender. “Fett” would be the ugly world and an insult.

    • Mike Schachter says:

      Many nominal English speakers have a lot of trouble with their own language

    • Yv says:

      Entschuldigung, aber fett ist zwar beleidigender als dick, jedoch kann man in Bezug auf die Körperfülle auch Jemanden mit dick bezeichnen und es durchaus abwertend meinen. Sooo neutral ist dick nicht grundsätzlich, es kommt darauf an, WIE es gesagt wird, um wieder mal die Marschallin zu zitieren…

      I disagree, as “fett’ may be more insulting in german than “dick”.

      But, thinking of the wisdom of the Marschallin “und in dem WIE, da liegt der ganze Unterschied”, it is possible to be mean to someone using the word “dick”, IF the WAY you are saying this has an insulting colour…

      • Tamino says:

        Sometimes ‚dick‘ is just ‚dick‘.

        Brug‘s argument fails to explain it‘s own fallacy though.
        If ‚dick‘ is just a very normal word to describe a very normal, even if not ideal, body, then why does he bother to mention it in the first place?

        Wouldn‘t it have been more logical to talk about ‚Frauen in geschmacklos eng geschnürten Korsetten die sie wie billige Nutten aussehen lassen‘ oder ähnlichen Platitüden zu schwadronieren?

        On the other hand, I get him.
        What‘s wrong with describing a performer‘s (!) body, which is relevant for the staging the way it‘s shown, as it is?

        Sometimes a fat body is just a fat body. Everybody sees it. As it is. Why not say it?

    • Petros Linardos says:

      No, there is nothing cordial and appropriate about the word “dick” in a social context.

    • James Harvey says:

      Really? Then why do Germans call Laurel and Hardy “Dick und Doff”?

    • Saftig would have been nice…but Brug did not mean to be nice in this instance

  • John Rook says:

    Those of us able to read and speak German built MB’s article into our comments on a previous thread. His arguments are legitimate and his reasoning eloquent. I fear many of the objections stem from an inability to understand the language and cultural ignorance.

    • Guus Mostart says:

      Spot on!

    • Really? says:

      So, John Rook, you think someone’s appearance is more important that the way they sing in an opera? That’s what we are arguing, not over dick oder fett, but whether he should have insulted her “choice” of costume at all (as if any singer has a choice what the costumer puts them in).

      • John Rook says:

        You confirm MB’s argument, that of the costume. He also says how well she sang. As for the rest, read Bernard Jacobson below.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        Just because he comments on the singer “being fat” does not mean that it is the only notable thing about the performance.

  • Nijinsky says:

    Gosh, and it all began with Richard:
    Big Dick,
    Little Dick (his son)
    And then Dicky (Richard the Third)

    I even know of a city that’s thick with it.

  • Nijinsky says:

    This is such a dead end, it’s not really funny.

    To chose sides leads nowhere.

    Either one is supposed to feel it’s appropriate to force the critic to like the directors work, or he’s body shaming, when his intention actually was to point out that he thought the way the director exploited the can’t-use-the-word bodies being referred to was in bad taste, and might be seen as body shaming because of the context.

    Or one is supposed to find fault with someone displaying the fun that a little bit of what would otherwise be called debauchery can be for someone in an Offenbach Opera.

    Yet quite a few people are completely assured they know which way to go.

  • Bernard Jacobson says:

    Voice is one of the manifestations through which we most directly apprehend people and so to speak get a feel for them, and another, for better or worse, is bodily habitus. In reviewing an art form for the attraction of which our response to the persons represented by the performers on stage is crucial, why should it be perfectly acceptable for a critic to comment on one but not on the other?

  • Karl says:

    Isn’t chubby an acceptable pseudonym? I’ve known people who are 50 pounds overweight who think they are just chubby. Then they get irate when their doctor tells then that they are obese. The obesity epidemic is getting fueled by denial.

  • Daniel says:

    I recommend anyone to read the journalist’s reply if you properly understand German apart from poor plays on words. I didn’t follow the story from the very beginning, but this seems to be yet another example of a hyperventilating, raging social media audience whose majority doesn’t even understand what the original article exactly said. (Do you, Norman?)

  • Mick the Knife says:

    All of the silly haggling going on does not change an irrefutable fact. Because there are so many fat women singing opera, people have to “close their eyes and listen”. But we can open them if its a violinist or pianist.

  • Edgar Self says:

    re John Rook’s question about well-upholstered pianists and violinists,– Emanuel Ax, Brahms, Eugene Ysaye. Certainly not very many