Everyone knows the opera stereotype – fat woman on stage, wearing horns and belting out Wagner – but that’s a pretty common misconception. Did you know that opera singers are – on the whole – fairly average sized? That “big girls” are the exception, not the rule?
Being a successful “big girl” in opera means one of two things: 1) you have an exceptionally phenomenal voice, or 2) you grinded your way through a whole heck of a lot of cr*p. Number one being the more prevalent of reasons. If you’re one of those girls not blessed with a phenomenal voice, you’ve discovered that you have to be twice as prepared, twice as good, act ten times better, and be the most professional person at an audition to even get considered for a part. If the average girl gets one of twenty parts, you might get one of fifty. And you still come up against people who won’t even consider you because they simply will not cast a fat person (unless it’s a man).
M is a music director in the local opera and operetta scene. He’s pretty much everywhere, and well known for refusing to cast bigger people in larger, leading roles. He prefers them young, perky and pretty. As a matter of fact, he’s infamous for casting a fourteen year old as Mabel in a Community Operetta Production of Pirates of Penzance who didn’t have the stamina or range necessary for the part (and despite there being five other sopranos who could easily sing it) because she looked the part. And – like I said – he’s EVERYWHERE.
This is what I have to contend with.
Back in college, I thought singing opera meant I didn’t have to worry about my weight. Boy, was I wrong. Every audition is a battle to prove I can transcend ideas of size and show them I can be anything I want. Every audition is an exercise in frustration when I discover that some other girl (who wasn’t as good as me) was cast because she “looked” the part. Every audition is that much more upsetting because it means another year without work or adding anything to my resume.
I’m done with exercises in futility.
I’m done with watching other girls get cast over me because some director couldn’t get his head around me playing a romantic lead.
I’m done with having to be twice as good to just get considered for a part.
It’s just one of the reasons I need to lose this weight. Music, theatre, and acting are a part of my soul. I love being on stage and singing a beautiful piece of music. I love being someone who can help people forget about the world for a few hours, and the magic that happens on stage when the lights dim. These are things I need, and if getting rid of this weight means I can keep on doing it then that’s what I going to do.