SALZBURG, Austria (WROC) — Kathryn Lewek, an American-born operatic soprano, took some criticism on a German site, Die Welt, for her role in a production of Orpheus, but the criticism wasn’t about her singing.
The Eastman School of Music graduate (2006 undergrad, 2008 graduate) spoke to News 8 Friday during intermission of her final performance at the Salzburg Festival. Lewek describes the criticisms, which started on August 14th after a performance, as “body shaming.”
“There was one that said I was ‘stocky-looking,’ and a few that were describing me as ‘buxom,'” Lewek said.
She also said that one of the criticisms really got to her really to her. It said: “Fat lady in a tight corset spreading her legs.”
“My heart sank,” Lewek said, describing her feelings when she saw that review.
Lewek gave birth 10 months ago through C-section before this performance, and had a long recovery. And only six weeks after her birth, she sang as Mozart’s “Queen of the Night” in “The Magic Flute” at The Met, in what she describes as an “emotionally traumatic” time.
Now she plays Eurydice in a Barrie Kosky production, Offenbach’s “Orpheus.” She describes the production, and role, as “sexualized.” She said she expected some comments regarding the “liberating” performance, but she said she didn’t “expect to be attacked in this way.”
“We really should expect more of opera critics, they should be reviewing the opera, rather than singers’ bodies,” Lewek said.
Lewek describes opera as “the Olympics of the singing world.” She acknowledges that opera is an audio and visual art form, but says “the point of what we do should be focused on our craft, than to focus on our bodies.”
Some of Lewek’s tweets are trending, especially in the classical world:
Lewek is speaking out and she’s not alone. She says the support from her classical music colleagues is “the reason (she’s) doing this.”
“Unfortunately through this experience and speaking with my friends and my colleagues — this is rampant across the opera business,” Lewek said. “And that’s why I wanted to speak up.”
Through it all, she said she enjoys playing this “racy” version of Eurydice:
“I love how liberated she is, and I love the interactions with the rest of my cast mates,” Lewek said.
Manuel Brug, the author on one of the articles, responded like this in a censored-for-this-story tweet:
And her response:
When asked if she would be interested in having a dialogue with Brug, the singer replied that it wouldn’t be worth her time.
Brug did not immediately return a request for comment from News 8.