The Svelte Ladies Slink
“PSSST! COME OVER HERE, FELLA. Wanna see something really hot? Just look at these pictures. Nah, they ain’t naked— but did ya ever see such babes!”
This isn’t some guy in a long trench coat in the dark shadows of a big-city back alley. Clean up his diction and it could be the PR rep from any of today’s major classical recording companies— which, sad to say, are shrinking in number and putting out fewer CD releases.
In a sort of last-ditch effort to find customers before they’ve all metamorphosed into hip-hop heads, company executives have turned to an ageless, inarguable principle of marketing: Sex sells.
Take a gander at Russian coloratura soprano Anna Netrebko in a recent ad from Deutsche Grammaphon. Va-va-voom! “Here is a singer who simply has it all!” Are they talking about her singing? They could be. She is, in fact, a terrific artist. Whether she enjoys such blatantly sexbased marketing is unknown.
Anna Shafajinskaia wears a platinum, aquamarine and diamond “Deco” pendant ($17,150) and earrings ($12,750) and diamond “Victoria” line bracelet ($15,000) and diamond and aquamarine ring ($5,700), platinum and diamond “Legacy” ring ($27,000) and platinum and diamond “Open Square” bracelet ($12,500).
Makeup by Doris Lew;
Hair by Patrick Tankersley
However, I do have the insider’s dope on all those Renée Fleming photos, where she looks like she’s trying out for the cover of Playboy. Although very pretty, this great operatic soprano is certainly no “babe” by any conventional standard. But she personally makes certain she has final approval on every carefully airbrushed photo that gets published. Those misty eyes. Those dewdrop lips. That comehither look. “That’s the way she wants to be perceived,” I’m told, ruefully, by one of her biggest fans.
Although slender, sexy-looking opera singers have been around for generations, the general public still labors under the widespread misconception that all opera stars, male or female, are as massive as Luciano Pavarotti. “It ain’t over until the fat lady sings,” they say, and we still see her in TV ads with Brunnhilde horns sticking out of her helmet.
Truth is, many of the very best sopranos today are large. Some things never change. Poor Deborah Voigt, America’s greatest dramatic soprano, found herself out of a job at London’s Royal Opera this year because she couldn’t fit into a slinky black dress for Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos. But more often than not, today’s wonderfully talented young singers of both sexes really look their roles. It’s now rare to see romantic leads look absolutely nothing like the gorgeous characters envisioned by their composers. And in the spirit of letting local opera-goers know about this, San Diego Opera recently lured four lovely divas backstage at the Civic Theatre for a special photo shoot, complete with borrowed jewels bravely guarded by renta- cops.
Although she now lives in Toronto, Sondra Radvanovsky is a California native. As Queen Elizabeth in San Diego Opera’s production of Don Carlo(left), she gained many new fans. Above, wearing Tiffany’s “Bubbles” suite, with platinum and diamond necklace ($22,500), earrings ($6,500) and bracelet ($12,500) with diamond “Etoile” ring ($38,000), she’s ready to compete with any royal collection.
These wonderful artists bedecked in sapphires and diamonds from Tiffany’s are California-native soprano Sondra Radvanovsky, superb as Elizabeth de Valois in last season’s Don Carlo; rising-superstar soprano Patricia Racette, memorably thrilling in our Katya Kabanova; German-Greek soprano Anja Harteros, an altogether superior Violetta in La Traviata; and Ukrainian soprano Anna Shafajinskaia, a Princess Turandot truly worth losing one’s head for.
Public take note: The San Diego Opera gets more than its share of such fabulous —and comely—talent. So if you keep waiting for that mythical fat lady, you may never leave the Civic Theatre.