Miriam Gordon-Stewart is not surprised that the world of opera has attracted great performers. The creative director of Victory Hall Opera in Charlottesville says it takes a certain body to produce the big sound associated with this art form.
“Singers are so often taller than normal people. Their bodies are built to create this super human sound, and a lot of times it comes in a big package,” she explains.
But Tracy Cox, a soprano and fat activist, says fewer and fewer singers are appearing on the opera stage. “It’s kind of the stereotypical idea we have of the opera singer – the fat woman with the horns, but in the repertoire there’s nothing that explicitly calls out the fat singers, and there’s actually had fewer and fewer opportunities for us as the industry shifted towards more cinematic casting.
That’s why she was thrilled to receive an email from Gordon-Stewart, inviting her to star in an adaptation of Neil LaBute’s play, Fat Pig.
“My character, Helen, a fat woman, and a man, Tom, in a normative body fall in love, and there’s basically a phobic pressure on the relationship. A character named Carter says, ‘If she lost 80 pounds, she would be magnificent.”
Cox says it’s the first opera about a fat woman in a romantic role. “She’s the nicest, she’s the calming force, she’s the nicest, and you as an audience member start to really root for her, really care for her and really get upset when she faces anti-fat prejudice or cruelty.”
There are, she adds, lighthearted moments in the story of a mid-level businessman and the first woman he truly loved.
“She’s a librarian, and she has the kind of meet cute romantic comedy. It really grabs you early on rooting for these people, because it’s really lovely and easy and fun and fun to watch.
But Tom cares deeply about what others think, and the story takes a tragic turn for Helen.
“It looks like they’re going to break up,” Cox recalled. “Helen says, ‘Your love has meant so much to me, it’s been so healing, that I would literally do anything to keep it from ending, and she has this stark, devastating aria where she says over and over : “I would cut, I would shrink, I would staple.” “
Gordon-Stewart wrote the lyrics for this opera, the first of its kind, in hopes of creating a conversation about this topic in an increasingly obese society.
“Often, in opera, we are asked to play characters that are purely fantastic or that few people today can identify with. It’s like characters who are kings or queens, or characters who are mythological beings,” says Gordon-Stewart. “In this case, we are dealing with characters that we can all recognize. At Victory Hall, we always try to bring contemporary stories to life.
The show will debut at the Piedmont Virginia Community College Theater with performances on January 21st and 27and. Cox hopes they will sell:
“Performing arts producers aren’t convinced that audiences want to see people who look like them, and that’s something that I think is fundamentally wrong. I sincerely believe that this piece could really open the door to other plays written by fat people for fat people. People will buy tickets to see themselves on stage.
She adds that the music alone, composed by Matt Boehler, is a reason to see Fat Pig.
“You know, this is the first time I’ve had a role written for me, and Matt Boehler is – I don’t pronounce that word – is truly a genius. He’s an incredible singer himself and a wonderful songwriter. , so the role is perfect for me.”
Fans can also look forward to the performance of Troy Cook who has sung in operas around the world, but with COVID driving many opera-goers away from theaters, Victory Hall is planning a film that will make this story accessible to everyone, no matter what. anywhere online.