The Diva and the Little Black Dress
Four years ago, in 2004, the American operatic soprano and uber-celebrity Deborah Voigt was, um, let go from a Covent Garden production of Ariadne auf Naxos, for which she had been contracted, because the costume designer for the production was determined that his Ariadne should wear a little black dress; and at the time "little" and Ms Voigt were not compatible concepts. In other words, she was too big for it. As this was one of the Richard Strauss roles for which Deborah Voigt was and is famous, and one which she has performed amid acclamation throughout the opera houses of the civilised world, this parting of company between the Royal Opera House and the diva caused considerable uproar among those who know about these things (especially, not unnaturally, the Americans).
But tomorrow Deborah Voigt opens as Ariadne once again — at Covent Garden. Using some of the money that the Royal Opera House paid her for that breach of contract in 2004, the sturdily built diva reduced her dress size by one means or another from 30, her one-time maximum, to 14. To mark this triumph over adversity, and very much following up the inspired suggestion of Ms Voigt herself, her PR team in New York, 21C Media Group, produced a gem of a mini-video about the saga, co-starring Deborah Voigt and the Little Black Dress, and put it on YouTube, with the consent of both the Royal Opera House and, of course, Debbie herself, whose idea it had been. You can watch and hear it here. The video has caused almost as big a stir as the unhappy events of 2004, but it has raised many more smiles. The New York Times featured the whole story, including the Little Black Dress and the video, on the front page of its Arts section on 11 June ("Second Date with a Little Black Dress"), illustrated with a still from the video: well worth reading. It is also about to appear on American television and it has already scored over 25,000 hits on YouTube, and counting.
For those who didn't spot the none-too-serious list of credits tucked away at the side of the YouTube video, and in view of the family connection (yes, we are by chance related, rather closely actually), I reproduce it here:
Sean Michael Gross – Executive Producer
Glenn Petry, Albert Imperato – Co-Producers
Matt Veligdan – Director
Sean Michael Gross – Assistant Director
Matt Veligdan – Cinematographer
Louise Barder, Max Lefer, Glenn Petry, Matt Veligdan – Script Editors
Matt Veligdan – Film Editor
Louise Barder – Casting Director
Albert Imperato – Boom Mic Operator
Matt Veligdan – Sound and Music Editor
Sean Michael Gross – Technical Director
Damian Fowler, Albert Imperato, Deborah Voigt – Production Assistants
Emma Nilsson – Props Director
Matt Veligdan – Sound Effects
Sean Michael Gross — Dress Animator
Alison Ames, Jessica Lustig, Michael Lutz, Philip Wilder – Consultants
Sean Michael Gross — Gofer and PA to Little Black Dress
Glenn Petry – Stunts Coordinator
Little Black Dress courtesy of Louise Barder
Catering by Starbucks
Who says that opera divas on the grand scale don't have a sense of humour?
Look out in due course for the genuine original of that now famous Little Black Dress — well, the one in the video, though not the one from the ROH costumes department — on eBay. It's only a matter of time. And if you hurry, you may just be in time to get tickets for Ariadne. Better make sure to win the lottery first, though. Meanwhile you can listen to a brief but glorious clip of Ms Voigt singing Ariadne here (scroll down to Strauss: Ariadne auf Naxos and click the audio sample).