Salzburg Festival speaks out on body shaming

Salzburg Festival speaks out on body shaming


norman lebrecht

September 02, 2019

A statement by Salzburg Festival President Dr. Helga Rabl-Stadler on the subject of Bodyshaming:

Congratulations to Kathryn Lewek on her extraordinary artistic achievement as well as on her courage against body-shaming.

A rather influential German critic whose appearance I don‘t comment in order not to put myself on the same level has accused Kathryn for being too fat as Eurydice in „Orphée aux enfers“. However the director and the audience agreed that she is perfect for this role – comedic, seductive, smart. No wonder that even the supreme head of the Olymp adores her.

The fact that she is now defending herself against such unobjective criticism is intended to encourage all women to be sexy and sparkling witty beyond arbitrarily propagated ideal measures.

Anyone who exposes himself on stage with body and soul becomes vulnerable. Artists need our respect for their performance and no flat talks about their physical conditions.

Kathryn has responded: ‘I cherish this support!’

Gratulation Kathryn Lewek, Soprano zu Ihrer außergewöhnlichen künstlerischen Leistung, aber auch zu Ihrem Mut gegen „Bodyshaming“ klar aufzutreten. 

Ein ziemlich einflussreicher deutscher Kritiker, dessen Aussehen ich nicht kommentiere, um mich nicht auf seine respektlose Stufe zu stellen, hat Kathryn vorgeworfen, sie wäre zu dick als Eurydice in Orphée aux enfers.

Regisseur und Publikum waren sich hingegen einig, sie ist perfekt für diese Rolle – komödiantisch, verführerisch, pfiffig. Kein Wunder, dass ihr selbst der oberste Chef des Olymp zu Füßen liegt.

Dass sie sich jetzt gegen so unsachliche Kritik wehrt, soll allen Frauen Mut machen, jenseits willkürlich propagierter Idealmaße sexy und sprühend witzig zu sein.

Wer sich mit Leib und Seele auf der Bühne exponiert, macht sich verletzlich. Künstlerinnen und Künstler brauchen unseren Respekt für Ihre Leistung, nicht platte Sprüche über ihre körperliche Beschaffenheit.”





    • Jonathan Cable says:

      Manuel Brügge can take a long walk off a short pier. He only cares about himself and his alleged reputation. Being a critic doesn’t give him the right to slam anyone he wants and then cry about getting pushback. If you can’t stand the heat, stay the hell out of the kitchen.

    • Jonathan Cable says:

      Brug, not Brügge. Stupid autocorrect, didn’t see it until it was too late.

    • Brug’s response to the brouhaha is interesting, and it’s too bad more people here can’t read it. And especially those writing the usual hate posts that are so common around here. Kosky’s staging was meant to highlight the erotic elements of larger women, and to comment on society’s portrayals of women’s bodies, and the nature of our sexual mores. Brug was commenting on that, but his words were taken in a literal manner than was not intended, mostly because people have trouble reading German.

      Sadly, it has become the nature of social media to throw superficial fire bombs. Short provocations become the sport. They increase hits and thus revenue. How do we find a better balance?

      Perhaps after the word “fat” is worn-out here, we can move on to a discussion of the production’s rhinestone covered penis. Or even better, a discussion of the futile attempts to revive the corpse of a seemingly dead art form…

  • Caravaggio says:

    Two sides to this. Brug often comes across as a self possessed, postmodernist ass. The more radical and incoherent what is in front of him, the more to his liking. Then there is Frau Rabl-Stadler and her selective and convenient hypocrisy. On the one hand, she rightfully condemns body shaming but only because it happened under her roof. On the other, she gives Plácido Domingo a pass for sexual harrassment and abuse of power because if it didn’t happen to her or under her roof then it didn’t happen. Cherry picking, standing ovations and acts of public penitence before god are magical, aren’t they?

  • Paul says:

    Manuel Brug should not post a picture of his face on the website where he wants us to read his critique. How are we to take his writing seriously if we have to see what he looks like. Am I being sarcastic? Or is the pot merely calling the kettle black? People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

  • Ms.Melody says:

    Kathryn Lewek is clearly an extraordinary woman. She sings opera, takes care of an infant, and also has time and energy to engage in a pen war and social media campaign against a critic. Hats off to her.
    The problem to me however is more serious.
    The singers are required to appear in vulgar, pornographic productions , wearing skimpy costumes or none at all and engage in simulated sex acts.
    This happens regardless of their body types. The effect is not always sexy or visually pleasing. But, this is not what opera is about. The shame should be on the festivals and opera houses which allow this garbage to be staged and performed.When staging is reduced to lowly burlesque, one may expect criticism that is afforded to a lowly burlesque show.
    How about restoring some dignity to the art form? Then, maybe, after a while, critics can again focus on discussion of music, role interpretation and singing.

    • Cassandra says:


      Restoring some dignity to the art form!
      Your words ring out like autumn rain in the plains. Survivors rejoice!

    • Chris says:

      I think too many people forget that opera is, essentially, make-believe, or fantasy. View each performance in that light (unless of course the plot is based on a real-life event – The Death of Klinghoffer comes to mind)

      • Ms. Melody says:

        Chris, does this mean “Anything goes”? Are the original creators ‘s ideas and directions owed any respect at all?

    • david hilton says:

      The arguments you make completely defeat the conclusion you seek. You claim that “When staging is reduced to lowly burlesque, one may expect criticism that is afforded to a lowly burlesque show.” Well, check out Ms Lewek in last month’s Salzburg production of Orpheus in the Underworld. It’s on youtube now: As you’ll see, it’s entirely a burlesque show, as Offenbach intended, and is as ‘lowly’ as any opera production I’ve ever seen. And Ms Lewek seems to be having the time of her life shaking her considerable cleavage at the audience and co-stars, and repeatedly bringing into play her almost entirely revealed posterior too. No wonder she was anxious about what the critics might write. She puts it all out there, in a remarkably brave, confident, and unafraid performance. And this critic is pleased to report that she looks great, sings beautifully, and is a fabulous actress. But according to you, all that the production she’s in deserves is criticism that befits “a lowly burlesque show.” That sounds like the excerpt we’ve been provided from Herr Brug’s review. Well then, it seems she has nothing to complain of.

      Seriously, I urge anyone interested in this ‘shaming’ debate to see the production — first 20 minutes will do — as it provides important context. And if that has the effect of obliquely promoting Ms Lewek’s career, so be it. She deserves it! She’s a star.

  • Cantantelirico says:

    She has herself a target.

  • Cantantelirico says:

    She has made herself a target.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    Boring. Next!!!

    • FP says:

      The words “vapid” and “meretricious” come to mind every time I read one of your comments, “Sue”. Fascinating.

  • John Rook says:

    She’s missed the point, rather like Tamara Wilson wanting to impose US guilt on Italian opera. In Italy. I fear MB is right when he suspects a lack of language skills on the part of KL and her social media posse, thus converting their complaint into little more than a forum on identity politics, utterly irrelevant to the subject raised by the critic.

  • Bruce says:

    Looked at the article, which has a photo of the author. He’s kind of a cute little chubster, isn’t he?

    He might be better looking if he smiled more.

  • Karl says:

    Maybe more people would attend opera if the singers were better looking. How many fat ugly pop stars do you see? Remember when Britney Spears showed up way overweight at a performance? When she saw her career was in danger she lost the weight quickly.