Tag Archives: London

When the Fat Chick Sings…

Sad, but oh so true.

One thing that a lot of people don’t know about me is that I have a master’s degree in Opera Performance.  Yup, at one time, I was a budding opera singer.  But after I failed to land one of the 5 paid positions in America for opera performers but did land venture capital for a software company, I decided to put aside my operatic aspirations.  Nevertheless, I feel compelled to jump in on the current kerfluffle regarding reviewers commenting on women who dare to sing while fat.

This all came to a head recently as a pile of reviews from a gang of privileged old white guys surfaced in London.  The reviewers skewered Irish mezzo Tara Erraught’s performance as Octavian in the Strauss opera Der Rosenkavalier at the Glyndebourne Festival not because of her performing or even her singing, but rather how she looked in a dress–and pants (Octavian is a pants role after all).  Any of us who have had any kind of presence online ever might recognize some of this “troll tripe”:

“It’s hard to imagine this Octavian as this willowy woman’s plausible lover.”  The Guardian, Andrew Clements

“Unbelievable, and unappealing.” The Times of London, Richard Morrison

“a chubby bundle of puppy fat…” Financial Times,  Andrew Clark

These are not troll fodder screen captured in the comments section.  These are quotes taken from “professional music reviewers” in arguably respectable publications.  While one of the reviews mentions in passing that the role is “gloriously sung” most of them focus exclusively on this performer’s looks.  There is a lot of outrage over these reviews, which I share.  There is also a fair amount of surprise that this sort of language is being used to describe singers in one of the most glorious art forms on the planet.  Unfortunately surprise is something I cannot feel about that.

Irish mezzo soprano, Tara Erraught

As a chubby, budding coloratura soprano, I was told at both the undergraduate and graduate level that I would never have an opera career unless I lost weight.  Professors shared their tips for which Weight Watchers meetings I should attend along with my vocal and theater training.  Because even twenty years ago, when I was in college, we in the biz knew that fat female opera singers were enduring caricatures but not successful performers.  Some of us back then called it Kathleen Battle syndrome.  She wasn’t much of a singer.  She wasn’t bad, but she certainly was far from the best.  Working with her was an absolute nightmare.  But she made huge bank back then for two reasons–she knew how to build her fame by building scandal and keeping her name in the press and she looked great in a dress.

No matter how great your singing voice, fail to look great in a dress and you might get the axe.  I certainly remember singing sensation Deborah Voight’s triumphant review in the New York Times for her role in Ariadne auf Naxos by Richard Strauss.  I also remember her getting fired by London’s Covent Garden because she “was not appropriate because of the costume that Ariadne was meant to wear in this production.”  In other words, Deborah did not look good in the dress that was selected for the role, therefore Covent Garden would need to select another singer.  Voight has since had weight loss surgery and is often heard “singing the praises” of this procedure.  Naturally since her weight loss, many believe she looks better in a dress. And actually the whole issue of her weight loss has helped to stay in the press–helping her meet both requirements of “Kathleen Battle syndrome”.  Naturally, her bookings have skyrocketed.

And the desire for our divas to be thin is hardly new.  Histrionic diva Maria Callas is well known for being stick thin.  And rumor has it that she resorted to many drastic measures–including swallowing tapeworms to maintain her tiny waist.  Gone are the days when a truly great soprano might hope to have a great dessert (Dame Nellie Melba) or a pasta dish (Luisa Tetrazzini) named after her.

Luisa Tetrazzini was the only soprano that Caruso felt could match him in tone and volume. Too bad she’d be fired today for failing to look desirable in a dress.

I think one of the things I find most appalling about the whole thing is the argument by some of these critics that fat, female opera singers just aren’t believable.  They imply that somehow we can get audiences to suspend their disbelief to the point that they accept:

A husband won’t recognize his wife at a party if she’s wearing a tiny mask over her eyes.  He can hold her hand, flirt with her for hours but not recognize her at all.

Men return from war, disguise themselves with hats and very fake mustaches, call themselves “Albanians” and their girlfriends have no clue it’s them.  In fact the girls fall for each other’s boyfriends and nobody is the wiser until the finale.

An angry dwarf steals a ring and the world ends.  Ends!

A man turns into a swan.

A man falls in love (for reals) with a mechanical doll.

We can accept all of this?  And we can accept that while these folks are doing these things they burst into song SOMETIMES FOR HOURS.  But somehow we can’t accept that a plus-sized gal can love or be loved or be sexy?  Or…

Are we dealing with an increasingly elitist art form that enforces male privilege and classism?  Are we creating spectacle purely to allow rich people to wear designer gowns and reenforce their position as arbiters of culture?  Are we proving yet again that even a woman who can sing for four hours in French and belt out high F’s night after night while wearing a corset and dancing in stiletto heels has no value unless she is also considered appropriately F#%$-able by aging frat boys?

I am deeply grateful that I had an opportunity to study and perform opera.  I still love singing very much.  And I still do, publicly, every week.  But thankfully, I no longer have to diet, wear a corset or worry about not being able to pay my heating bill because of how I look in a dress.  I am The Fat Chick.  And I have sung.  Therefore this blog post has come to an end.  See  you at the curtain call.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie

AKA The Fat Chick

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Stuff that Weighs More than Me: Molto, Molto Venti Coffee!

coffeepot

This week’s entry for stuff that weighs more than me was inspired by the picture above which was submitted by the most amazing and awesome Bev Whittington.  According to Bev, the giant pot above can be found in West Australia in Swan Valley.  However, after extensive digging, I wasn’t able to find out much about it.  Please feel free to chime in with more info if you like Bev.  Or if anybody else knows about this thing I’d love to hear about it.

In fact if you have any other pictures of giant things that weigh more than me, I’d love to see them!  Please post them to my timeline or email them to jeanette@thefatchick.com.  The more detail, the better.  I’d love to feature YOU in my blog!

While I’m quite confident that Bev’s giant espresso pot weighs more than me, I am unable to say exactly how much more than me.  So I decided to look for other giant coffee pots and coffee cups.  And my goodness, folks do love their coffee.  I found a huge number of giant java sources all around the world.  I was literally spoiled for choice.

coffeecup2For this week I settled on the world’s largest cup of coffee.  This was created by De’Longhi of Italy and was unveiled in London on November 5, 2012.  This huge coffee cup was actually filled with gallon upon gallon of coffee (black).  In fact, this super, molto, giantico, venti caffee was the equivalent of over 216,000 shots of espresso.

All that wake up juice was probably required for the four designers who labored for 504 hours to put it together.  Here’s the stats:

Height: 9 ft. 6 in. (When somebody asked for a “tall” they weren’t kidding…)

Width: 8 ft. 8 in.

Volume: 3487.1 gallons (US)

Weight: Over 12 tons

Conclusion: Both the World’s Largest Cup of Coffee and the giant espresso pot in West Valley Australia weigh more than me.  And can somebody get me some decaf?

Love,

The Fat Chick

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Stuff That Weighs More Than Me: Edible Hotel Made of Cake!

Edible hotel-1773351YAY this marks my 400th blog post.  Woo Hoo! Let’s break out the bubbly!  And you know what goes great with champagne?  Cake!

Look out Hansel and Gretel, what we have here is an entire hotel made entirely of cake!  With walls and rugs made from homemade cookies, treasure chests created of marzipan and window sills made of fudge this is one suite with a serious sweet tooth!  This hotel within a hotel is located in central London.  It took an army of 14 chefs over 2,000 hours to bake and over 900 hours decorate the confection which includes windows and walls created from over 2,000 macaroons and a multicolored rug fashioned from 1,801 meringues.

The eight tasting rooms contain a variety of special features including a Caribbean-inspired room with a treasure chest with edible pearls and a South Pacific-inspired room complete with a Easter Island statue made entirely of chocolate mud cake which stands over two meters high!

It’s difficult to estimate the entire weight, but here are a few stats:

1. Number of rooms: 8

2.  Marshmallow Garlands: 20 kilos (over 40 lbs.)

3.  Edible Bunting: 10 meters long (over 30 ft.)

4.  Sugar used in the project: Over 600 Kilos (Over 1,322 pounds)

Conclusion: The Soho London Hotel made completely out of cake weighs more than me!

Stuff that Weighs More than Me: World’s Largest Box of Chocolates

largest-box-of-chocolates-1Well I hope your Valentine’s Day was full of everything you desired.  Like this GIANT box of chocolates maybe?  This colossal confection was commissioned by Thornton’s and holds the record for the World’s Largest Box of Chocolates.  This giant box of sweeties was unveiled in London, U.K. back in 2008 to advertise the (then) new Thornton’s Box of Moments Chocolates.

chocolatesThe giant box of chocolate sported thousands of the assorted twist wrapped candies that were available free to passersby.  So enjoy the vicarious thrill of imagining the best Valentine’s Day present ever while you peruse these sweet stats:

Box Height: 5.04 meters (16.5 feet)

Box Width: 3.5 meters (11.5 feet)

Total Number of Chocolates: 220,052

Total Box Weight: 4,805 pounds (over 2 tons!)

Conclusion: The World’s largest box of chocolates weighs more than me!

Some Athletes are Notably Missing from NBC’s Creepy Bodies in Motion Video

An Olympian woman licks her lips accompanied by a boom chicka wow wow 70’s soft porn soundtrack in NBC’s Bodies in Motion clip on the NBC website.

I’ve admitted it before and I’ll admit it again.  I am complete Olympics junkie.  I LOVE watching the Olympics and cheering for people who have devoted a serious percentage of their lives to be incredibly good at something.  But I have to admit how sad and disappointed I’ve been with the NBC coverage which seems intent on objectifying women and shows a ridiculous fetish-y need to show off the rear ends of incredibly talented women athletes.

First, there was the concern over the London weather being too cold for the beach volleyball players to wear their bikinis.  Then there was the uproar over Gabby Douglas’ hair.  And if that wasn’t enough, NBC felt the need to post a totally inappropriate video called “Bodies in Motion” that along with it’s 70’s soft porn style soundtrack featured a whole lot of women’s bodies, often without faces, in loving slow motion that featured, a lot of women’s butts.  Not that Olympic booty isn’t wonderful.  But seriously, these women train hard every day of their lives to be excellent at their sport.  So why oh why do we need frame-filling close-ups of beach volley-butts?

Probably most distressing to me about this video is who ISN’T in the video.  Weight lifters?  Nope.  Boxers?  Uh-uh.  Fencers, Judo Competitors, rowers, horseback riders, in short anything where women sport bodies considered slightly less movie-star-ready or wearing slightly more clothing?  No, no, no, no and no.

And what really frosts my fridge is the effect that this desire for conventionally attractive bodies has on sponsorship dollars for women athletes.  Sure if you’re gorgeous, blond, bouncy, ponytailed and razor thin, money can often be found.  Meanwhile serious athletes like Sarah Robles often have to get by on a few hundred dollars per month and help from neighborhood food banks.

Let’s face it, not all athletes look like porn stars.  Not all of them were considered worthy to star NBC’s soft porn video (which has since been pulled due to public outcry).  Nope, lots of athletes look just like you and me.  And nearly 1,000 of them participate in the fit fatties forum that I host with the ever-awesome Ragen Chastain.

So my little chicklettes, even if your rear-end is not bikini-clad or featured in barely safe for work fetish videos, don’t despair.  Remember that fitness comes in all shapes and sizes.

Love,

The Fat Chick