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'Opera singers are cast based on the size of their waists'
#2216552 01/18/14 09:17 AM
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....so say the twin brothers David & Christopher Alden, both opera directors (www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/musicmatters).

Luckily, we pianists aren't judged - or cast (yet) - according to our appearances. After all, the most famous classical pianist in the world isn't popular because of his looks (as far as I know). But......the most highly-paid pianist in the world might be wink .

But what about female pianists? As the visual aspect becomes more important - many, many more people now watch and listen to classical pianists via YouTube than buy their CDs (and most don't even buy the CDs of their favourite pianists) - does that play a part in their popularity with the concert-going public, or their marketability? And are male pianists also subjected to the same scrutiny?

N.B. This isn't meant to be a sexist thread, so please don't start a war on it here.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: 'Opera singers are cast based on the size of their waists'
bennevis #2216678 01/18/14 01:30 PM
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If we are to go to a recital blind folded then looks don't matter.
If we are to go to a recital deaf... folded then sound don't matter.

Since we can hear and look at the same time, both matter!

[common sense silliness]

Re: 'Opera singers are cast based on the size of their waists'
bennevis #2216757 01/18/14 05:07 PM
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I think women are judged by their appearance in all spheres of human life anyway.

Even Hilary Clinton was asked by an interviewer, during the last election season, what her "favorite brand of designer clothing" is. And her response was perfectly acute and retributive: "Would you ask a man that question?"

We make comments about women's appearances that we would never even think to make about men's.

As far as classical pianists go, look up any reviews or comments on YouTube about Yuja Wang, Lola Astanova, Helene Tysman, or even Valentina Lisitsa or Martha Argerich (when they were younger :)). The appearance comments abound.

On the other hand, I don't think it's always a bad thing. Sometimes the appearance of the pianist is part of the performance and entertainment. For example, in the "comedy piano" acts which feature two men playing Rachmaninoff's prelude in C# minor with wooden pegs, I think it's appropriate that they look overly-serious to the point of being silly. Because it's a parody of the super-seriousness and stuffiness in classical music.

More directly, sometimes the beauty of a female performer can be paid attention to, without losing sight of the music. The best example is the set of videos featuring pianist Susanne Anatchkova. She is a spectacular musician, but her beauty is part of the act: she plays the piano in a televised (I think) series in which her character is SUPPOSED TO BE beautiful. And she is. The grace of her appearance matches the grace of the music -- she's not marketed sexually, but rather her looks are used to present the music:

[video:youtube]GlPBPM7_CpU&list=FLgSMdELBzBN5F_1v2CTGKzQ&index=35[/video]

And here is the show I mentioned:

[video:youtube]PerwhZ4X6YU[/video]

Of course we notice good looks; we can't help that. But we can help how we perceive and pay attention to the music and the merit of the performer. And we can control how we choose to treat the performer and her accomplishments.

Finally, just like with everything else in life, good looks help. But I don't think they're necessary to be successful as a performer.


Beethoven - Op.49 No.1 (sonata 19)
Czerny - Op.299 Nos. 5,7 (School of Velocity)
Liszt - S.172 No.2 (Consolation No.2)

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Rachmaninoff - Sonata 2, movement 2 in E minor
Re: 'Opera singers are cast based on the size of their waists'
Dwscamel #2216794 01/18/14 06:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Dwscamel
I think women are judged by their appearance in all spheres of human life anyway.


Of course we notice good looks; we can't help that. But we can help how we perceive and pay attention to the music and the merit of the performer. And we can control how we choose to treat the performer and her accomplishments.

Finally, just like with everything else in life, good looks help. But I don't think they're necessary to be successful as a performer.

I well remember the time when Luciano Pavarotti was routinely engaged to sing the parts of impoverished young lovers like Rudolfo in La Boheme, and the part of Violetta in La Traviata, a beautiful courtesan dying of consumption, was often played by rotund divas. But no longer these days, according to opera directors like the Alden twins (whose frankness in the interview took me aback) - because of TV/video cameras: you also have to look the part as well as sing well.

I've noticed that certain attractive performers attract 'groupies' in classical concerts (I've never been to pop concerts, but I'm sure that's much more widespread there), and it seems to be getting more prevalent. I'm guessing that it's the influence of YouTube, but maybe everything these days is so much more visually orientated....



"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: 'Opera singers are cast based on the size of their waists'
Dwscamel #2216890 01/18/14 09:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Dwscamel
I think women are judged by their appearance in all spheres of human life anyway.

Even Hilary Clinton was asked by an interviewer, during the last election season, what her "favorite brand of designer clothing" is. And her response was perfectly acute and retributive: "Would you ask a man that question?"


The interviewer was just making fun of her pant-suit.

Re: 'Opera singers are cast based on the size of their waists'
bennevis #2216914 01/18/14 11:05 PM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Dwscamel
I think women are judged by their appearance in all spheres of human life anyway.


Of course we notice good looks; we can't help that. But we can help how we perceive and pay attention to the music and the merit of the performer. And we can control how we choose to treat the performer and her accomplishments.

Finally, just like with everything else in life, good looks help. But I don't think they're necessary to be successful as a performer.

I well remember the time when Luciano Pavarotti was routinely engaged to sing the parts of impoverished young lovers like Rudolfo in La Boheme, and the part of Violetta in La Traviata, a beautiful courtesan dying of consumption, was often played by rotund divas.

Pavarotti sang Rudolfo most often with Mirella Freni, who was never a 'rotund diva.' Many of the greats were not large...Tebaldi, Callas, Moffo, Simionato, etc. Whereas audiences seeme to have historically been more forgiving of a fat and/or ugly leading male role. Even in tv, you will often see a less than attractive male character married to a gorgeous woman. Or news anchors, how many fat or unattractive female anchors do you see?

I think it's unfortunate but it pretty much pervades many careers.


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Re: 'Opera singers are cast based on the size of their waists'
bennevis #2216948 01/19/14 01:19 AM
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There ought to be a formal "uniform" for female soloists, analogous to the standard men's tux. Some kind of outfit that covers arms and shoulders.

Re: 'Opera singers are cast based on the size of their waists'
bennevis #2216956 01/19/14 01:50 AM
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Looks matter a lot unless you have truly exceptional skill.

Re: 'Opera singers are cast based on the size of their waists'
Ferdinand #2216957 01/19/14 02:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Ferdinand
There ought to be a formal "uniform" for female soloists, analogous to the standard men's tux. Some kind of outfit that covers arms and shoulders.


I think audience members would find that distracting, just as they used to find Jean-Yves Thibaudet's fashion distracting (his manager told him he needed to tone it down). In much of western culture, men are looked down on if they have too much fashion sense, and women are looked down on if they have too little. Classical piano is far too conservative a genre to afford the opportunity of making changes to those expectations.

Last edited by MarkH; 01/19/14 02:10 AM.
Re: 'Opera singers are cast based on the size of their waists'
Morodiene #2216984 01/19/14 05:07 AM
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Originally Posted by Morodiene
Many of the greats were not large...Tebaldi, Callas, Moffo, Simionato, etc. Whereas audiences seeme to have historically been more forgiving of a fat and/or ugly leading male role. Even in tv, you will often see a less than attractive male character married to a gorgeous woman. Or news anchors, how many fat or unattractive female anchors do you see?

I think it's unfortunate but it pretty much pervades many careers.

There was a big rumpus in the UK a few years ago, when the female judge in Strictly Come Dancing (the original BBC TV dance show/competition that lead to Dancing with the Stars in USA and other spin-offs around the world) was replaced by a much younger, more photogenic one, whereas the head judge himself was much older but stayed put (and is still there).

I also remember the time when BBC changed its schedules at the last minute in order to broadcast La Traviata live from the Royal Opera House in 1994. Because Georg Solti pulled some strings for his new-found star, Angela Gheorghiu. The critics all commented as much on her beauty and youth (and therefore her suitability for her rôle as a courtesan) as much as for her singing, unlike other Violettas in the past that required suspension of disbelief.....

While it's also true that in recent years, dashing young male tenors are stealing the limelight away from older ones who relied purely on their singing to get them big rôles, it's still evident that there is a gender divide in world of classical music. Which isn't to say that there aren't female musicians who capitalize on their looks.......


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: 'Opera singers are cast based on the size of their waists'
MarkH #2216987 01/19/14 05:21 AM
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Originally Posted by MarkH
Originally Posted by Ferdinand
There ought to be a formal "uniform" for female soloists, analogous to the standard men's tux. Some kind of outfit that covers arms and shoulders.


I think audience members would find that distracting, just as they used to find Jean-Yves Thibaudet's fashion distracting (his manager told him he needed to tone it down). In much of western culture, men are looked down on if they have too much fashion sense, and women are looked down on if they have too little. Classical piano is far too conservative a genre to afford the opportunity of making changes to those expectations.

Ivo Pogorelich also raised some eyebrows with his concert attire (which didn't seem to me to be at all outlandish). Thibaudet is, I believe, still wearing Armani, and all power to him grin.

Interestingly, it's women who tend to take note of the attire of female performers. I particularly notice it when listening on radio: female presenters almost invariably describe the dress of the soloist in gushing terms, whereas male presenters rarely ever mention it.....


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: 'Opera singers are cast based on the size of their waists'
bennevis #2217005 01/19/14 06:50 AM
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A man's clothing also matters. But generally their suits are boring and there is very little differentiation between each other so why ask... Most "exciting" that I remember is a few pianists (Kissin, Lang Lang) wearing white instead of black. I even tried to search some other colors but found nothing.


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Re: 'Opera singers are cast based on the size of their waists'
bennevis #2217017 01/19/14 07:39 AM
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If you have a good stylist who can do something with your hair and face, these days, they will put your name and likeness on an album cover, regardless of whether you can actually play. Even here on PW, where one would believe the music to be ultimately more important than anything else, there have been numerous occasions when appearance has taken center stage. At this very moment, there is a thread regarding appearance.



"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

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Re: 'Opera singers are cast based on the size of their waists'
Ferdinand #2217109 01/19/14 01:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Ferdinand
There ought to be a formal "uniform" for female soloists, analogous to the standard men's tux. Some kind of outfit that covers arms and shoulders.


sure, why not a burka ? smokin

Re: 'Opera singers are cast based on the size of their waists'
sophial #2217117 01/19/14 01:56 PM
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Originally Posted by sophial
Originally Posted by Ferdinand
There ought to be a formal "uniform" for female soloists, analogous to the standard men's tux. Some kind of outfit that covers arms and shoulders.


sure, why not a burka ? smokin

Spine-chilling, indeed......(OK, not quite burka)

http://youtu.be/RbtSQupu_Sw


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: 'Opera singers are cast based on the size of their waists'
bennevis #2217125 01/19/14 02:01 PM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by sophial
Originally Posted by Ferdinand
There ought to be a formal "uniform" for female soloists, analogous to the standard men's tux. Some kind of outfit that covers arms and shoulders.


sure, why not a burka ? smokin

Spine-chilling, indeed......(OK, not quite burka)

http://youtu.be/RbtSQupu_Sw
I sang this scene this summer, although sans nun habits and the barefootness of the Carmelites. I love this opera!!

Back OT< I think it's a delicate balance. Looking nice without distracting from the music, but enhancing it. Callas lost extra weight because she was concerned about her jawline being more visible to the audience.


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Re: 'Opera singers are cast based on the size of their waists'
MarkH #2217449 01/20/14 02:37 AM
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Originally Posted by MarkH
Originally Posted by Ferdinand
There ought to be a formal "uniform" for female soloists, analogous to the standard men's tux. Some kind of outfit that covers arms and shoulders.


I think audience members would find that distracting, just as they used to find Jean-Yves Thibaudet's fashion distracting (his manager told him he needed to tone it down). In much of western culture, men are looked down on if they have too much fashion sense, and women are looked down on if they have too little. Classical piano is far too conservative a genre to afford the opportunity of making changes to those expectations.

If the audience were to find it distracting, that would be unfortunate and exactly the opposite of the intention. But I'd think that if the custom were adopted, audiences would in time be less distracted by the soloist's appearance than at present. It's a plus that men's concert attire is generally "boring" as another poster put it. Would the same were so for women. Boring = less distracting.

If custom dictated a narrow range of acceptable stage dress, no one would find fault with a soloist's fashion sense for adhering to custom.

I don't know what nuns' habits or burkas (as others have mentioned) have to do with it. Concert dress should be elegant, neither outlandish nor uncomfortable.

Re: 'Opera singers are cast based on the size of their waists'
Ferdinand #2217453 01/20/14 03:12 AM
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Written for a different event, but this is still an accurate commentary on what we are discussing:

Onion article on gender neutral uniform at the Golden Globes

Re: 'Opera singers are cast based on the size of their waists'
MarkH #2217502 01/20/14 07:23 AM
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Originally Posted by MarkH
Written for a different event, but this is still an accurate commentary on what we are discussing:

Onion article on gender neutral uniform at the Golden Globes


I think THAT is a very different area, one in which much of the appeal is from the ability of the actor/actress to project a physical attractiveness.
Not ALL popular acting is dependent on physical attributes, but a very large amount of it is.
I think these people should be allowed to present themselves in a style that represents the image that has brought them recognition.


Re: 'Opera singers are cast based on the size of their waists'
boo1234 #2217507 01/20/14 07:35 AM
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Originally Posted by boo1234
Looks matter a lot unless you have truly exceptional skill.


Skills matter a lot, unless you have truly exceptional looks.

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