It Ain't Over

Deborah Voigt, who is starring in Wagner's Tristan und Isolde at the Met, proves opera to be full of drama, excitement, and relevance.

BY Robert Hilferty

March 17 2008 12:00 AM ET

The outrageous
decision, though, forced Voigt to reexamine old issues.
With the money she still received from the breached Convent
Garden contract, she decided to get gastric bypass
surgery. It wasn't a direct response to what had
happened -- she had already been wrangling with this
notion for a long time, as diets seemed only to add weight.
This was a last resort.

When I saw Voigt
debut her new body in her first Salome in Chicago, it
was another breakthrough. She had avoided that role
for a long time because, as she joked, she'd have to
do the Dance of the 77 Veils instead of the Dance of the
Seven Veils. After shedding about 135 pounds, she was
a lithe figure, traipsing about the stage with John
the Baptist’s head in Strauss’s kinkiest
opera. The slimming-down had no deleterious effect on
her voice.

This story
resonates deeply with gay men. But Voigt doesn’t
appeal only to the opera crowd. She also has a campy,
Broadway side, with a measure of sass and sarcasm. She
has done benefit concerts for Broadway Cares/Equity
Fights AIDS during which a bunch of barely clad muscle men
hoisted her presurgery body on heir shoulders. Before
embarking on Isolde -- a must-see, must-hear
performance for anyone who takes opera seriously --
she opened Lincoln Center’s American Songbook Series
at the end of January. She can deliver “A
Spoonful of Sugar” and “Losing My Mind”
like the best of them, from Julie Andrews to Barbara
Cook.

Voigt is
literally a phenomenon, a great artist not cut in the tragic
mold of Callas. She is a triumphant icon for a new era. When
I asked her why, only two days after her Isolde debut,
she was not resting but performing Strauss’s
“Four Last Songs” at Carnegie Hall, she said,
“If I can run with it now, then I should
run.” She shows no signs of burning out.

Tristan und Isolde runs through March 28 at the
Metropolitan Opera in New York City. The performance on
Saturday, March 22 at 12:30 p.m. will be transmitted
live to movie theaters around the world as part the of
The Met: Live in HD series.

Tags: Music

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