ask jenny > A "Busty" Hansel?

Dear Jenny:
1) I admire your performing career, your endurance, your honesty, and this amazing hilarious blog. So...there's that. :-)
2) I'm a rising college sophomore mezzo who's just been given the lead in our Fall opera Hansel and Gretel (ever heard of it? lol), and I'm scared to death. The director asked me what my dream role would be, and I honestly told him Hansel....I DIDN'T EXPECT HE WOULD ACTUALLY GIVE IT TO ME. I thought he would give me the witch or the mother because in those roles, who honestly cares how pretty they are? Actually, the uglier and frumpier the better! Because here's the frank truth: I'm fat and I have ginormous boobs--like the largest size a girl's rack can get! Plus, I'm tall--almost taller than the thin tenor he cast as the witch. And Gretel's pretty skinny too!
3) My course of action? I've lost about 20 lbs, and I've even done stupid stuff trying to make my boobs smaller like wrapping them with cellophane (which by the way, does NOT help at all). However, it's still not enough; I won't lose enough weight in time for the opera. I know I'm capable of singing the role, but I'm afraid the audience will judge my looks too harshly. I'm afraid that I'll let my insecurities affect my character. I'm afraid that my "natural womanly features" will affect how masculine my movements are.
4) Any advice is GREATLY appreciated, but I understand if you can't respond. Your adorable baby deserves more attention than a random blog question.

Best Wishes!

June 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSlightlyScaredMezzo

Oh Slightly Scared Mezzo -

I AM playing with my adorable baby while I write this, because I couldn't not respond. First of all, STOP IT. You are perfect and gorgeous and there is absolutely no reason you need to be skinny to sing Hansel. The director cast you in this role, probably because you sing it well, and he wasn't worried about your size so you shouldn't be either. I understand why you are - it's impossible to be overweight and not feel like you will be judged, and in the entertainment industry it's even worse than regular life. And if you want to lose some weight because it will make you feel better (as in physically feel better) and it will make it easier for you to run around the stage, that's great, go for it. However, please don't sit around worrying that you can't do this role right now. I mean, you are performing an opera where you have two fully grown adults playing 10 and 11 year olds - there is already a suspension of disbelief going on from the part of the audience. If you can sing and act the role well, you can win over any audience no matter what you look like. This is one of the great things about opera singing - the requirements are so huge that even though we are succumbing to the hollywood ideal in a lot of situations, there is still nothing that can compare to a great voice doing everything it can do. Do me a favor; google this years Cardiff Singer of the World finalists and watch some of the ladies perform. I happen to know that at least two of them are not size 0s and man they can SANG. I'm not going to blow smoke up your a@# and tell you that when you get out in the real world size won't matter. There are plenty of casting directors who do care about size when casting, and that is just a reality. However, you are who you are right now, and you are PERFECT just the way you are. You are Hansel. Go be Hansel and put down the cellophane. You can do it!!!!

June 22, 2013 | Registered CommenterJenny

Dear Jenny,

Your thoughtful and surprisingly speedy response has led me only to a deeper respect for you, not only as a tremendously talented artist, but as a kind-hearted yet candid person too. Thank you for the boost of confidence which has just restored my initial excitement for this role; you also made me realize that one CAN win people over despite their first judgments, and Cardiff Singer Jamie Barton is an example (honestly, I even subconsciously judged her before she opened her mouth). However, that judgment isn't a death sentence. You're right! She has a WONDERFUL voice that sparkles on the top and a lower register to die for! Now, I think I'm permanent fan of her's. With vocal talent and emotional involvement, who says you can't win over an audience? And my lack of self-confidence is basically shooting myself in the foot because it's preventing those two things from really happening!

I'll try just as hard to achieve my physical goals so I won't have this difficulty in the real world, but I'm not going to punish myself for it. I'll be the best darn Hansel I can be! And you know what? The audience will just have to believe that Hansel has really strong, overdeveloped pec muscles for a 10 year old boy, that's all.

Oh thank you Ms. Rivera! If I were there in person, I would give you a big big hug, but for now, this will have to do: *computer hug*

~No Longer Scared Mezzo ;-)

June 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSlightlyScaredMezzo