Critics Slam Opera Singer, But Not About Her Voice

When an opera singer is too thin it can sometimes cause the quality of their singing to deteriorate, acclaimed opera singer Alice Coote said of Erraught’s critics in a response to the furor on the classical music website SlippedDisk.

“Being underweight is far more damaging to a singer's well-being and performance than being overweight,” said Coote, who sings leading roles at New York's Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden and major concert halls and festivals. “Similarly I can tell you that if our stomachs are toned anywhere near a six-pack our sound will suffer. The relaxation needed for low breathing is not aided in any sense by an over worked-out body.

Westminster's Kessler Price explains why.

"In the past, opera singers have compared their body types to athletes," she said. "They have to endeavor to carry more weight to have the strength and stamina to sing large," she said. "They don't have to be fat or obese -- and who defines what that is. But men, and more so women, try dramatically to reduce their weight, and the weight shift affects the instrument {their voice] trained muscularly. They no longer have it. It may take months or years, but they can relearn to sing with the new body size -- just not immediately."

But says, Kessler Price, the culture is changing, albeit slowly.

"It all started in the 60s with Twiggy and extreme thinness is still present in our culture - airbrushing photos to make women look thinner than they are," she said. "But I do feel like we are at the very edge of the beginning of the turning of that tide."

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