With those words, Deborah Voigt revealed that she had pulled out of what would have been her first Br‹nnhildes in a complete Wagner Ring, in a new production to be staged by the Vienna State Opera between 2007 and 2009. While she will honor her commitment to sing the role in Vienna's Siegfried in April and May of 2008, she no longer plans to sing the entire cycle there.
She made the disclosure in an interview with journalist Larry L. Lash published in The St. Petersburg Times of Florida on New Year's Eve.
"Clearly I've been through a lot of changes in my life in the last couple of years," she told Lash.
That's the truth.
Voigt made headlines around the world in 2004 when London's Royal Opera House released her from an engagement as Strauss's Ariadne (her signature role) because the production team thought she was too fat for the little black dress they had for the character. In the event, she used the time she had off to have gastric bypass surgery, which has led to a weight loss of more than 140 pounds over two years — and to opportunities she could not have expected when she was heavier, such as her first staged Salome last fall at Lyric Opera of Chicago.
That kind of change in a singer's body necessarily requires some getting used to, including fine-tuning of technique. Happily, most critics who have heard Voigt recently find no loss in the size or luster of her voice.
"I'm not a singer who sings by what she hears. I sing by sensation," she told Lash about the adjustments she has had to make. " ... So yeah, there have been times in the course of the whole experience when I don't feel as engaged in my abdominal muscles as I'd like, because there's not so much weight there anymore. Has that resulted in some sort of change in the quality of the instrument? I can't hear it."
But she still feels like she's getting used to her new body — so she thought twice about taking on such a strenuous and high-profile role as Br‹nnhilde. "I wasn't signed only to do the Ring cycle [in Vienna]," she told the Florida paper, "but also at the Met — and, not on paper yet, but I discussed it with San Francisco as well. And when I looked at my schedule with my manager, we thought, this is just way too much German repertoire, too soon, and we thought something's going to have to go: We need to put off Br‹nnhilde for a couple of seasons — and that meant canceling across the board."
So, as things stand now, Deborah Voigt will sing the role only in Siegfried in Vienna; her first complete staged Br‹nnhilde will be in the new Metropolitan Opera cycle, directed by experimental theater luminary Robert Lepage, between 2010 and 2012.
Meanwhile, she has just begun a recital tour that will take her, over the course of this spring, from Florida and Illinois to California and Toronto as well as New York's Carnegie Hall. Next week she sings the title role in a complete concert performance of Salome with Leonard Slatkin and the National Symphony at Washington's Kennedy Center. And in March, she will become the voice that launched a thousand dhows, as she sings the title role in Richard Strauss's Die ‹gyptische Helena (The Egyptian Helen) in a new production at the Metropolitan Opera.