Date of Award


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name


Organizational Unit

College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Sarah Morelli, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

John Sheinbaum

Third Advisor

Antonia Banducci

Fourth Advisor

Rodney Buxton


Ethnography, Image, Music, Opera


Though present-day American society generally assumes opera is one of the few remaining entertainment fields where talent matters more than physical appearance, as the 2004 firing of Deborah Voigt demonstrates, present-day opera singers are increasingly being held to stricter image standards. In 2004, Covent Garden dismissed Voigt from their production of Ariadne auf Naxos, in which Voigt was supposed to reprise her critically acclaimed interpretation of the title role. According to Voigt, Covent Garden's casting director Peter Katona felt that she was too large to fit into the black dress the new production required of the character. Voigt's removal from the production and consequent media attention made opera's new image standards public. My ethnographic and archival research concludes that present-day opera singers are expected to fit much more stringent physical standards. Though popular publications like Classical Singer, Time, and Newsweek have published articles exploring the new standards, little published academic work has explored this topic. As both a singer and an ethnomusicologist, I have spent several years observing and interviewing singers at various stages. This thesis explores evidence supporting the focus on image within opera and examines how this emphasis impacts various facets of the opera community.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Emily L. Stephenson


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

117 p.