It used to be that opera was one branch of the performing arts where talent was all, which is why it made such waves in 2004 when soprano Deborah Voigt was fired from the role of Ariadne at Royal Opera House for her failure to fit into a black dress. Now, Daniela Dessi has come under attack - humiliatingly, at a press conference at Rome's Rome's Teatro dell'Opera. According to the Telegraph,
"She is a long way from my image of [consumptive courtesan] Violetta, who is certainly not a well-built girl," said Mr Zeffirelli, adding that she was too old to convincingly appear in a tale of youthful passion.
Said Dessi, 52, whose opera singer husband also quit in solidarity, "These days directors unfortunately have excessive power. I could maybe accept that, if they made their views known before one signs the contract, rather than after the artist has started to work with the orchestra conductor and the production is sold out." Dessi is an acclaimed irico-spinto soprano who has performed leads in opera houses all over the world; this would have been her European debut as Violetta, whom she sang in Japan.
After the Royal Opera House controversy, Voigt underwent gastric bypass surgery and lost over 100 pounds. While she claims the notorious incident did not effect her decision, one hopes that Dessi will not feel pressured to take similar measures - and that Zeffirelli will consider an apology to a respected and talented performer who deserved better.