I was too fat, too old, for opera

I was too fat, too old, for opera


norman lebrecht

August 13, 2021

‘At 36, I had no repertoire, no agent, no-one who wanted to hear me,’ says Anna Pirozzi, who’s singing Abigaille this summer in Verdi’s Nabucco at the Arena di Verona.

Then she auditioned for Riccardo Muti.

He said: ‘but she is good. Where has she been until now ?’

Anna replied: ‘Maestro, I was waiting for you to call me.

Full interview in Corriere, here.


  • “I had no repertoire”

    What does that mean in opera-speak?

  • DG says:

    From the English auto-translation: “During the lockdown I lost 16 kilos, but it’s still not enough. At this point I decided not to suffer anymore. I am what I am, spaghetti improves mood, and I don’t hold back”

    I am what I am, spaghetti improves mood – I’m going to frame this quote and put it up in my kitchen.

  • Nijinsky says:

    What an absolutely lovely, full, sweet voice.


    Makes one wonder what opera is supposed to be about, when one hasn’t heard more of her, for whoever is straining their voice beyond its natural abilities and then trotting around afterwards assured they’ve done something “great.”

    And all of the other antics….

  • Belcanto says:

    Too fat? Really? How about Jamie Barton?

  • Peter says:

    Well… just a screaming voice! It’s what people seem to like today a lot!

  • John Shea says:

    I’m 80 and not overweight. This just goes to show how style wins out over substance again and again in this narrow-minded society.

  • Diversity is needed says:

    There has always been significant age discrimination in opera wether one wants to begin singing in middle age or has established themselves as singers and find they are too fat.

    The US opera houses continue to engage in overt age-based discrimination even though they are run by one particular group.

    The solution at this point is to simply start suing opera houses who choose to discriminate by placing overt age barriers against everyone generally over age 30. Either through existing laws or creating new laws this practice should make violators subject to large fines and sanctions in receiving public and private funds.

    Protesting in New York City at the Met needs to happen knowing how they have left other singers to languish during COVID. No need to care now!

  • Thomas says:

    In opera there’s no such thing as “too fat”.

  • Ellie says:

    …terrible Abigail last night at Arena di Verona though. She screamed like a goat and yet got so many Bravos that I got scared for the sanity and the hearing of the audience.

    • Stephen Drettler tenor says:

      This is one of Verdi’ most difficult soprano rolls are you sure you understand that

      • Ellie says:

        Oh yeah, I do – don’t get me wrong, I am super forgiving when it comes to singers having a bad day. After all, we are all humans, and at times we are all a bit… off. What I don’t understand is the audience. Now, I would not boo anyone, and I would hate hearing someone being booed but it was a poor performance (by her and overall) and the “Bravo”s were rather… out of tune, so to speak.

    • Paul Dawson says:

      It is utterly sexist for an audience to exclaim ‘Bravo’, rather than ‘Brava’, in praise of a female singer.

      • Ellie says:

        I know, but the ones that were shouting were apparently not Italians, nor they spoke any Italian to know about genders in it (I’m pretty sure they didn’t know much about opera, otherwise they would have known the difference). And yes, I know how difficult Abigail is, but that is not an excuse for a poor performance. I think people were praising her just because she sang so-damn-loud that everyone could hear her (unlike George Petean (Nabucco) who probably couldn’t be heard past row 10 for the first part of the opera. We were at row 6, and I could barely hear him until pretty much the point where he pronounced himself a god). An awful and woeful performance right, left and center. Thank God for the gorgeous choir – they were the ones saving the day.

    • S. Bright says:

      You Should ashut Mouth!

  • Couperin says:

    I’m too broke for opera lol. But, the Met Orchestra has a deal!

  • V. Lind says:

    I remember the Canadian soprano Maria Pellegrini once saying to me, when I commented that she was the slimmest opera singer I knew, that the others gained weight simply because they eat too much. Being Italian, she admitted, she adored pasta. But she resisted it,as she felt it would be deleterious to her signature roles, particularly Mimi.

    Although officially retired from the stage now, she seems not to have let herself go.

    Pavarotti once admitted that the only exercise he got was lifting a fork to his mouth.

    Just as I could accept Alicia Alonso at “49” (more likely 57) as Giselle, I do not much care what an opera star looks like if the voice is there. But I remember once seeing Astrid Varnay doing Elektra at the then-O’Keefe Centre in Toronto with the COC. The stage at a couple of points looked as if it might collapse as she scampered (read thumped) around, and I recall thinking, back in my salad days, that it was a relief she was not doing Salomé. The seven veils might have become the seven vales.

  • Gary Freer says:

    Margaret Price was fat, but such was her artistry and vocal beauty, no-one really noticed.