Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

Deborah Voigt in recital

January 15, 2007

Deborah Voigt
Photo: Myung J. Chun / LAT 2006
Deborah Voigt was in town last night for her LA Opera debut in a solo recital accompanied by Brian Zeger. Voigt has a remarkable voice and it’s a shame that her talent now has to constantly compete with the whole weight thing. The controversy around her firing over her weight and subsequent gastric bypass surgery now seems to be a mandatory point to be made in any of the mainstream media or elsewhere. Towards the end of her recital, a fan shouted out “You look great.” She jokingly turned to walk off stage as if to say “My job here is done” but all I could think of was how sad it was that no one had shouted “You sing great.” I’m certainly glad for Ms. Voigt and hope the changes in her life have improved her health, but I think it’s time to move on and start treating her like a person and an artist instead of a “walking, talking, flirting, singing advertisement for gastric bypass surgery.”

And in that spirit, the recital overall was a mixed bag. Voigt has power, no doubt, and even hampered by a head cold, which she apologized for at the start of the evening, there was little evidence of problems in her performance overall. However, the whole thing still seemed quite boring. I think that most of this had to do with the poor choice of material. Much of the program consisted of off-the-beaten-path oddities including a Mozart cantata, and songs from Verdi, Respighi, and some lesser-known Strauss. All of it was sung technically well, but none of it was very emotionally convincing. The best parts were the American songs from Amy Beach and Leonard Bernstein, which finally seemed to kick things in gear after a rather uneventful hour and a half. Voigt herself is charming and exudes wit and a sort of selfless panache that resulted in a rather amusing piano duet with her accompanist during the encore of “I love a piano.” A lot was missing last night, but there is no doubt that Voigt continues to be a stunning talent in the right places at the right times. Here’s looking forward to her Die Agyptische Helena this spring in New York.

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