In 2004, Deborah Voigt, a renowned opera singer, was fired from a London production of Ariadne auf Naxos because, according to the New York Times, she was "too heavy to wear a sleek black cocktail dress that [the director] deemed integral to his concept." The opera company had to pay out Voigt's contract even though she was not performing, and the famed soprano took the extra cash and subsidized gastric bypass surgery. Now, four years later and over a hundred pounds lighter, she is returning to London to wear that cocktail dress and perform as Ariadne. Voigt even made a YouTube parody sending up the "little black dress incident." Voigt seems to play both sides in this situation, reports the Times: "[she] defends the right of opera companies to take appearance into account when they are casting productions, while insisting that vocal artistry should come first."
Though Maria Callas famously ruined her voice when she lost a lot of weight, Voigt's voice, while changed, has not worsened. "Some opera buffs and critics detect a slight loss of warmth in her sound. Others counter that her voice has gained brightness and shimmer," the Times notes.
Voigt has said that she wanted the gastric bypass for health reasons (knee problems, high blood pressure), but before she lost the weight she was a longtime advocate "of the principle that body size does not determine whether an opera singer can be dramatically compelling," the Times says. In addition, she admits that she got the gastric bypass when she did because she was humiliated by her public dismissal from Ariadne. Knowing Voigt's history with the role, it's hard to feel that her return to Covent Garden is a complete triumph; it feels more like a prolonged case of Stockholm Syndrome.
Second Date With A Little Black Dress [New York Times]
Deborah Voigt: The Return Of The Little Black Dress [Youtube]
With Surgery, Soprano Sheds A Brünnhilde Body [New York Times]