The recent Glyndebourne reviews from leading newspapers the Times, the Independent, the Guardian and the Telegraph have all been heavily criticised for their overly personal content with comments directed at both the physical appearances and personal circumstances of the leading female performers.
Singers, musicians and writers have all responded with blogs, articles and open letters, all unanimously saying that it is the voice up for critique and not the person.
Mezzo soprano Jennifer Rivera recently published her insight into the realities of juggling motherhood and a career on the stage:
What the critics have the right to observe about my performance is whether it is good or not, and why, technically or emotionally it does or doesn't move them. What they don't have the right to do is conjecture about why things don't sound good.
Tenor and blogger Christopher Gillett discusses the relevance of ‘good looks’ and its place within the profession:
Ah, but it's not their job to look good. Well, curiously enough, it isn't really a singer's job either. A model's, yes. A singer's, no.
One of the reviewers, Rupert Christiansen of the Telegraph has since responded defending his views:
Opera is a visual as well as an aural experience, a form of theatre: it may be 75 per cent about the voice, but it is also 25 per cent about the ability to act well and create a convincing character.
It raises the questions: what does being a musician actually mean? Can a musician ever be judged on their talent alone? Perhaps it’s the case that critics and often audience members fail to see beyond the character portrayed on the stage to the person. With a career in the public eye, public perception is something that forms part of everyday life but should reviewers be allowed to make comments that go beyond professional opinion, becoming personal and potentially hurtful?
On the other side of the debate we have to ask whether it is right to censor opinion? Is image an important part of the overall experience of Opera?
Do the comments in the latest Glyndebourne reviews reflect a growing public obsession with image and beauty on a wider scale, especially within the music industry? Is this something not only reviewers, but the public, need to address?