A big correction from the NY Times

A big correction from the NY Times


norman lebrecht

August 28, 2021

The newspaper reported positively last week on the new seats at San Francisco Opera, engineered for the larger patron. But its reporter somehow underestimated the size of its potential users.

Here’s the apology: An earlier version of this article described incorrectly the bariatric seats. They were designed to hold weights of up to 600 pounds, not 300 pounds.

Was it the SF Opera, or the PR, who rang the Times to put them right?




  • Terence says:

    600lbs? How do such people even move around.

    Four times my weight, and I’m the average height.

    Have they forgotten gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins?

    • Bone says:

      Well, we are talking about Americans…unfortunately, we have embraced body diversity to the detriment of health, all the while still insisting there is nothing wrong with morbid obesity (see Lizzo).

      • True North says:

        In America, there’s an excuse for absolutely everything.

        Look at that mentally ill, slug Joe Biden! The left worships his bipolar outbursts to sell socialism just as Hitler’s enablers.

    • CA says:

      Some people may be of that weight for reasons having nothing to do with diet. I imagine that there will never be a 600-pound occupant of any of those chairs. Moving around at that weight is extremely difficult. Some are just unable to leave their beds or their homes.

      • Brian says:

        There is not a single person in the world, nor has there ever been, whose weight is unrelated to diet. It is impossible to reach a weight of 600 pounds without eating a substantial amount of food over an extended period.

    • BRUCEB says:

      You’d be surprised.

      I see bariatric patients in the hospital fairly often. The ones who can move around at all are usually very strong — they have to be, to lift & shift all that weight.

    • Bill says:

      You might be the average height, but you are light if only 150 lbs, as the average weight for American men is more than 30% higher than that. You don’t need to be gluttonous to pack on substantial weight — just a small number calories in excess of what you need each day will eventually lard you up well. And those excess calories can easily come from healthy foods!

      You should try treatment with high-dose corticosteroids sometime and see how skinny you stay. Not everyone who is obese is that way because they are weak-willed.

      Perhaps no one enjoys your company enough to want to make you an enjoyable meal!

    • “How do such people even move around.”


    • David says:

      So is hubris, arguably the most serious of the 7 sins. Please look into the complex reasons why people may be severely overweight. It is not simply a matter of “gluttony” (rolling my eyes)

  • James Weiss says:

    Do they have a great many 600 lb patrons in San Francisco?

  • Allen says:

    600 pounds is nearly 43 stones in the UK. I hope they at least have defibrillators on hand.

  • V. Lind says:

    Any seat that big is going to let me — and I would imagine about 3/4 of the audience — have room to put their coat and bag or briefcase. (And a picnic, and all their Christmas shopping). Think of the checkroom revenue they will lose!

  • Dave says:

    That’s 42 stones. They can’t be serious.

  • BRUCEB says:

    From the article:

    “The new, ergonomically tuned chairs are slightly higher, roomier and firmer than the old ones. There is 2.5 inches more leg room, and the chairs have been staggered to improve sightlines, giving even the shortest operagoers and balletomanes a better shot at seeing what is taking place onstage. The seat widths are about the same as before, ranging from 19 inches to 23 inches, but the new armrests are narrower, making seats feel roomier. And there are cup holders for those who want to bring a drink to their seat.”

    “The renovation began in 2013 with replacement of seats on the box level, and it includes 12 bariatric seats, designed to hold weights of up to 600 pounds, that will be 28 inches wide, as well as 38 spaces for wheelchairs, an increase of six from before the renovation.”

    “To put it bluntly, it takes a lot more effort to sell a ticket these days,” Smallwood [technical director of Lyric Opera in Chicago, which undertook a similar renovation of its seats] said. “You want it to be comfortable so they’ll be here again.”

  • There are many indignities in life for the overweight. Having your opera seat collapse was probably an unnecessary addition to that set.

  • sam says:

    Phew, glad to know, I was afraid of sitting in those flimsy 300 pound seats, especially after intermission, when I will have snacked on 5 chickens and 3 whole cheese cakes to tide me over until my second dinner at midnight.

  • Cynical Bystander says:

    600lbs equals 272 kilos or 43 stone. I doubt that few people are so heavy but a generalised slur is made about the avoirdupois of the SF Opera audience. Just because 12 seats out of 1900 have a load bearing weight of 300 or 600 lbs says nothing about the average audience. Your facetious sniggering perhaps says more about the sometime level of the comment here.

  • Hanover says:

    A rascal once quipped that opera seats are bedrooms for rich people, so why not go all the way and allow them to function optionally as convertible beds? Perhaps even add a lowered from the ceiling Cone of Silence feature with an unlimited range of optional music if said sleeper prefers something other than the evening’s selection.

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    Those seats are perfect. When the 300-pond guy gets a cardiac arrest at the end of the ‘Liebestod’ another 300-pound guy can jump in and perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation on the sick guy without the necessity to move him from the seat.

    🙂 Dr Pff

  • fflambeau says:

    Nero Wolfe would love it.

    But is it really necessary to support 600 pounds of weight? I know of no one that hefty and if they are, I would guess they would be hospitalized.

    • Joe says:

      I worked with a man of precisely that weight–a smart, good-humored person who routinely ate enormous amounts of food. He once came to a meeting that was expected to go late into the night with a duffle bag full of grinders (aka submarine sandwiches) which he steadily consumed. Quite coincidently, he was the only colleague I ever spotted at the opera. Still alive thirty-five years later!

  • Tess says:

    The extra chair fortification might well be for those special moments when a randy couple, surrounded by dozers, are so moved by an aria to get busy. (It is a better solution than the conductor having to turn and spray a water hose.)

  • BigSir says:

    People need to pay for the space they take up. Include airline seats in that scheme.

  • mary says:

    Don’t forget to reinforce the toilets.

  • Adrienne says:

    Are two underweight people allowed to share a seat? If not, why not?

    Salad for me from now on.

  • Anon says:

    Opera has long been a realm where large people feel more accepted, perhaps because so many great opera stars are large and it doesn’t prevent them from performing. It’s understandable that large people are opera fans.

    If someone like Johan Botha, often acknowledged as one of history’s greatest Heldentenors, can take the stage weighing in at well over 400 lbs., why shouldn’t audience members of that size be able to sit in the audience and listen to him?

    Pavarotti enjoyed his food and wine and his fans loved him for his voice, his larger than life size and his flair for enjoying himself!

    Opera hasn’t been kind to large women recently, but it’s never stopped them from successful careers. The great Jessye Norman, Deborah Voight, even Maria Callas began her career as a large woman. It even looks as though the spectacular Anna Netrebko is packing on a few extra pounds of late. She is still gorgeous and her voice one of the greatest ever!

    Large people are comfortable in this world of opera. They see others like themselves onstage. It’s one place they won’t be gossiped about, criticized or condemned for being overweight. Who’d dare call you fat if you’re in the audience listening to a tenor who weighs 400 lbs?

    This is an extensive seat renovation by SF Opera. Sounds like they’re planning for the future. If the average male weight has increased from 150 to 199 lbs since the 1960’s, if they’re adding bariatric chairs, they should antipate average yearly weight increases.

    And remember 600 lbs on a guy who’s 6’2 is not the same as it is on someone who’s a foot shorter. Yes, people in the US are heavier than in other nations, but they are also much taller. To all the Europeans criticizing the US for weighing so much, let me just say that Europeans are generally shorter and smaller and often more delicately built that US people.

    I feel really badly for those little tiny male European conductors and soloists who are so handsome and well built in their press photos then you meet them in person and they’re like 5’3. A certain Peruvian star tenor comes to mind also. So little tiny short non US people are not exactly in a position to be judging if 600 lbs is a reasonable limit for opera chairs in the US.