Singer weighs into ‘Dumpygate’ affair while Times and Independent critics offer halfhearted apologies.
Opera critics who referred to mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught as “dumpy” and “unsightly and unappealing” in Glyndebourne’s new production of Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, have been labelled "bullies" by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.
The 70-year-old soprano currently touring Australia told BBC Radio 4 that she thought the critics were irresponsible. “Who’s going to pick up the pieces after they’ve finished? Who’s going to put that little girl in a darkened room and who is actually going to counsel her to get over this?”
Dame Kiri said that she thought Erraught was “gorgeous” and suggested that she should burn the newspapers. “Don't listen to a single person and get on with your life,” she said. Appealing to the critics, Dame Kiri said, “Please don’t destroy her, it’s cruel… Young people are dying because of being bullied. This is very, very serious.”
However, the singer also thought that the problem might have stemmed from a “costume disaster” suggesting that the opera company might have “taken their eye off the ball” as a result of the recent death of former Glyndebourne chairman Sir George Christie.
“Take that wig off, put her hair in a ponytail, put her in some jodhpurs and some very lovely tights to give her lovely slim legs,” Dame Kiri said. “If you look at the coat, it’s a shocker!” she added, obviously warming to her subject. “I hope they will re-dress her, that would be a kindness.” If it had been her, she said, “I’d throw the wig and the floor, stamp on it and say, ‘I’m not going on the stage looking like that!’”
Meanwhile, following yesterday’s decision by The Daily Telegraph’s Rupert Christiansen to “stand by every word” of his unkind review, two more of the UK's ‘gang of five’ opera critics have made statements. The Independent’s Michael Church, who had described Erraught as “dumpy”, told BBC Radio 3 that he had now removed the phrase from his review.
Despite that, Church could only muster a halfhearted apology about his use of the word. “I do regret slightly using it but the whole point of it was not to make a personal attack on her, it was really to attack the directorial notion,” he said. “She has a very engaging personality, a fine voice. She is very talented, but this a role which she is not really made to sing… I do regret giving her personal hurt but the direction was designed to make her seem dumpy, to make her seem clumsy, not boyish at all.”
The Times’ Richard Morrison, on the other hand, complained that his description of the singer as “unsightly and unappealing” had been taken out of context suggesting that he had been referring to “the characterisation of Octavian, not the woman playing her – a distinction that seems lost on many people”.
Unable to muster the actual word ‘sorry’, however, the best Morrison could offer was to say that, “several musicians I count as close friends tell me that what I wrote would have upset greatly the promising young singer who took the role of Octavian. I regret that.”