Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Does it matter? Black or fat in opera

My idea is that it should not be hard to be black or fat singer in opera. Of course, we would like to have singers who looks like our ideal Alfredo or Violetta. But then we have voices, glorious, wonderful voices. Should they be excluded? Opera is not movies or even straight theatre. It is theatre where voice and orchestra set the mood and reality in opera.

Ever heard people say they can't believe in opera because people are singing in opera and not talking. But internal discussion in films or the story teller in films don't make the movies not possible to go to. And theatre do they say they can't believe because people live in houses without roofs and the rooms don't have 4 walls.

Opera says believe in this reality with orchestra, people singing arias, duets, sixtets, etc.

Montserrat Caballé is one of the wonderful voices we would not have seen and heard if opera should be more realistic. Mmmm. Because all real women as thin.... No.

Many wonderful singers are lost from view when only white people are considered for "white roles". We cannot loose more great opera singers, singers like Annabelle Bernard, an African-American soprano from New Orleans who sang in Europe but not in the US. It has been lucky for Europe that the US was so unkind to their AA opera singers. But I don't think Europe is without racism.

As I try to come up with names of people of color as opera singers only a few pop up and they come every time: Jessye Norman, Kathleen Battle, Barbara Hendricks. But they are not the only one. It makes me feel so ignorant. And I did not know that Annabelle Bernard was an American, and even less that she was African-American. My white background made me think she was white like me. What a voice she had? Creamy, wonderful sounds. I am too young to even the possibility to see her in opera.

More PR for the not-white opera singers, please...

For more reviews from my travels, see


Beau said...

Annabelle Bernard was one of my teachers when she returned to New Orleans. She had a wonderful rich voice. She was Kammersangerin of Berlin in 1970. She was very popular in Europe. I am still searching for more performances with her.

Michael Hanko said...

I took voice lessons w/Frau Bernard for several years when I was living in Berlin. I have never heard a more glorious voice. Does anyone have any recordings of her?

Michael Hanko

talk show junkie said...

I often rummage thru a website called Opera Depot, wc sells MP3S & CDS of mostly live - either stage or concert - opera 'pirate tapes'. The last X I was there they just added a release of what I believe is their 1st w/Annabelle Bernard, a concert performance fm Vienna of 'Giuramento' (The Oath), a rarely performed opera by this equally obscure Rossini-Bellini-Donizetti-Verdi contemporary Saverio Mercadante. Her colleagues included no less than Domingo & mezzo Agnes Baltsa, w/whom she also co-starred in the Deutsche Oper Berlin's new production - maybe company premiere? - of Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito