Opera singers ‘need a bit of beef’, Dame Kiri te Kanawa says
Young opera singers of today are becoming “more beautiful than their voice”, Dame Kiri te Kanawa has warned, as she laments the drastic pressure to lose weight leaving them weak.
by Hannah Furness (via The Independent) - The soprano, now 69, said singers must have “a bit of beef” in order to perform well, as she bemoaned the modern tendency of opera becoming “popera”.
Dame Kiri, a world-renowned performer since the 1960s, added she was wary of anyone who “suddenly” decided to be a singer on the “X Factor” route to success, warning it took years of dedicated training.
Speaking of the industry today, she acknowledged her own looks “didn’t hurt” her rise to fame, but claimed there is now too much emphasis on singers’ appearance.
“Sometimes they’re more beautiful than their voice, and that’s a bit of a sadness,” she told this week’s Radio Times magazine.
“When I was at the Met (in New York), I would see these young girls, starving hungry but terrified to put on weight. They couldn’t even go down to the canteen and eat in front of anyone because they were being watched,” she said.
“You can’t do that. You’ve got to have beef on you if you’re going to sing. I was never really hugely big, but I certainly weighed more than I do now. I ate to sing.
“If I started to get a bit lumpy round the middle, I would start thinking, ‘Well, I must get it off,’ but I was also aware of how much I couldn’t or shouldn’t take off.”
When asked about reality television shows producing famous singers, she added she was “always wary” of “someone who is a bus driver and decides, aged 28, that they want to be a singer.”
Dame Kiri, who is currently working as a patron and jury member of the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition, also dismissed pop acts who “cross over” to opera, calling them “popera” which is “not in my world”.
Christine Chibnall, planning director at Opera North, said it was more important for singers to find their own optimum weight.
“In my experience physical weight and voice, size and stamina do not relate,” she said. “What is important is that a singer is fit and that means of the right weight for them.
“Fitness is the key to sustain long roles and muscle tone is important to support long breaths and good phrasing and secure top notes. I personally have not come across a singer whose voice was affected by weight loss. The right fit weight for an individual will give them the best vocal fitness.”