LONDON She's lost the weight, but has she lost the voice?
Reviewers loved the Royal Opera's production of "Ariadne auf Naxos," which opened Monday. But soprano Deborah Voigt who was famously dropped from the 2004 revival for being too heavy to fit into her costume got a mixed reception.
Most couldn't escape at least nodding to the controversy that flared when Voigt was denied the title role for being too fat and the dramatic transformation that cut the singer down to size.
The New York Times said Voigt's behind-the-scenes saga added another wrinkle to what was already a behind-the-scenes opera. But other reviewers seemed annoyed by the attention lavished on the controversy and put off by Voigt's powerful voice, which they said wasn't subtle enough to capture the pathos of the titular role.
"Enough of the fat lady story: it was the stridency and steely edge in her singing that was the problem," Rupert Christiansen wrote in the Daily Telegraph, saying Voigt's voice drowned out Ariadne's "self-absorbed vulnerability and melancholy."
Voigt could still "rattle the rafters," but her singing lacked "beauty and bloom," according to The Independent's Edward Seckerson.
"I can remember a time when she would never have so badly dropped a stitch in one of her aria's key phrases," he said.
The Financial Times said the revival did a great job of weaving together the opera's incongruities but complained "Voigt cannot summon the personality to match the sound."
Voigt, who had gastric bypass surgery and subsequently lost more than 100 pounds, told The Associated Press before opening night that learning how to perform with her altered physique "has taken a lot longer than I thought it would."
"Four years on, I am still having to rethink how I sing," she said.
The Times of London gave Voigt the benefit of the doubt, saying she was magnificent once her "supertanker voice" took the time to settle. And The New York Times dismissed her early stumbles.
"An occasional intonational mishap aside, she sounded lustrous as she pleaded for death, her huge, gleaming voice as commanding as ever in her signature role," Vivien Schweitzer wrote.