US soprano Kathryn Lewek has criticised the “lazy” and “hurtful” comments opera critics made about her latest role, accusing them of body shaming.
The singer was widely praised for her performance as Eurydice in a raunchy production of Orpheus in the Underworld at the Salzburg Festival in Austria.
But some reviewers went further and criticised her appearance, calling her “fat”, “stocky-looking” and “buxom”.
Lewek called the comments “antiquated” and “ridiculous”.
She said her role in Orpheus in the Underworld was clearly a sexualised one (“she has sex with everyone on stage”) so she had been prepared for “some comments”.
But the soprano, who recently gave birth, was stunned to read reviews that she said critiqued her “postpartum mom-bod instead of reviewing the show”.
One column in particular “really lit my fire”, she said. Written by Manuel Brug in German broadsheet Die Welt, it described Lewek and her fellow cast members as “fat women in tight corsets spreading their legs”.
Lewek said: “It was such a derogatory way of describing what my character was all about.”
Without naming Brug, she lashed out at “body-shaming and fat-shaming” on Twitter, writing: “Time’s up on these juvenile bullies.”
Brug later responded, writing: “If she is so sensitive why is she showing herself the whole time in this corset? It is interesting that the thin ladies on stage all had dresses and the not so thin ones have costumes where you see a lot of her weight.”
His comments sparked a furious backlash from other singers.
“This is absolutely disgraceful,” wrote British tenor Anthony Gregory. “Why is it ‘interesting’ that all the ‘thin ladies’ on stage had dresses? Was that a disappointment? So sorry you’re having to put up with it Kathryn.”
“Commenting on anything that is unrelated to the performance is irrelevant,” added Brit Award-winner Camilla Kerslake, noting that “male singers rarely have to put up with this”.
“This is [a] representation of how our society and the media have gone way off course in analyzing real beauty and art – and that’s devastating,” said violinist Emily Madonia.
Lewek subsequently wrote to the editor of Die Welt imploring the paper to “set higher standards of quality and decency for your employees”.