Monday, August 1, 2011

Deborah Voigt: Alcoholism, Obesity, Suicide Despair, Vocal Decline

Opera singer Deborah Voigt has collaborated with playwright Terrence McNally, director Francesca Zambello and pianist Kevin Stites, to create an autobiographical one-woman show titled "Voigt Lessons" which features 18 pieces of music to accompany her timeline. It premiered on last Friday at the Glimmerglass Festival. All the below excerpts are from the New York Times. Read the full article here.

The dramatic soprano singing in 2009.
"Though keeping the timeline a little vague, Ms. Voigt spoke courageously of suicidal despair, alcohol abuse and a low point of her life, when she 'jumped into a bottle and went into a 35-hour blackout.” That is long enough, she said, 'to fly around the world' or 'to sing two Ring cycles,' referring to Wagner’s epic four-opera Ring des Nibelungen, in which she has been appearing at the Metropolitan Opera. Ms. Voigt shared with her audience what she called the eight words that saved her life: 'My name is Debbie, and I’m an alcoholic.' She followed this admission with an elegantly unsentimental account of the pop standard 'Smile' ('Smile though your heart is aching')."

Carnegie Hall in 2004.
"About halfway through the program Ms. Voigt said that up to that point she had been avoiding the subject of 'fatness,' a condition she likened to an expletive. Before she underwent surgery, Ms. Voigt said, she was not 'full-figured' or 'Junoesque' or 'heavyset.' She was fat. At her worst, her weight hit 333 pounds, three digits she will never forget, she said."

Richard Tucker Gala 1992.
"In recent years some critics and opera buffs have noted with concern that Ms. Voigt’s voice is becoming brighter, a little hard-edged and less warm. Toward the end of 'Voigt Lessons' she acknowledged that her voice is changing in its colors and texture. But she feels good, she said; she is comfortable in her body and with her singing."

One confusing section in the NYTimes piece describes the soprano's desire to sing her first aria, but the author makes it unclear whether she only was mistaken about the aria not being in her fach or did she also think it was from the opera Tosca rather than Turandot: "In her youth Ms. Voigt was not really an opera fan, she said. When she finally enrolled at California State University at Fullerton, to study with a voice professor, Jane Paul, she arrived at her first lesson hoping to sing an absolutely beautiful aria she had come upon: 'Nessun dorma' from Puccini’s Tosca. Ms. Paul explained that this was a tenor aria. Well, in 'Voigt Lessons,' Ms. Voigt sang it, an exuberant performance that drew a rousing ovation from the delighted audience."

Deborah Voigt during the rehearsals of Annie Get Your Gun at Glimmerglass 2011.

1 comment:

  1. I was there for Voigt Lessons and wrote about it in my own blog, Taminophile. I found the show very moving. I don't think the NY Times article did it justice. Some reviewers thought the level of personal revelation cringe-worthy, and I can understand their thinking, but that was not my opinion at all.