Page last updated at 12:56 GMT, Sunday, 7 March 2004

Royal Opera silences 'fat lady'

Ariadne auf Naxos at the Royal Opera House
The new production of Ariadne replaces togas with evening wear

A leading soprano has been sacked from a Royal Opera House production, reportedly because she is too large.

Deborah Voigt was dropped from a June production of Ariadne auf Naxos at London's Covent Garden after it was felt she would not suit her costume.

"It is not just a question of how someone looks - it is also how they move on stage," a Royal Opera House spokesman said.

Ms Voigt has been replaced with slimmer singer Anne Schwanewilms.

'Excuse'

Casting director Peter Katona defended his decision in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper, saying Ms Voigt would not look right in the black evening dress he had planned for the part.

Mr Katona also said that a number of opera singers use their job as an "excuse" to eat too much, when in fact size has little to do with the power of a voice.

The new production of Ariadne replaces traditional toga-type outfits with "elegant, modern evening dress".

The Royal Opera House spokesman said: "Although Ms Voigt is a wonderful singer the costume and type of production made it not such a fortunate suggestion that she should be in it."

The decision has reportedly saddened Ms Voigt, who is estimated to weigh between 15 and 20 stone.

Her associate manager, Michael Benchetrit, described the move as "ridiculous".

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