The opera community has reacted angrily after senior national newspaper critics commented on the size and shape of Irish mezzo-soprano singer Tara Erraught (pictured above, second from right) who performs in Der Rosenkavalier at the Glyndebourne Opera Festival.
Financial Times writer Andrew Clark referred to the singer as "a chubby bundle of puppy-fat", The Independent's Michael Church described her as "a dumpy girl", the Guardian's Andrew Clements called her "stocky" and The Times' Richard Morrison labelled the opera star as "unbelievable, unsightly and unappealing".
Erraught as the character Octavian, far left
Erraught, 27, is considered a rising star in her field having she won widespread acclaim.
The opera world reacted with anger at the disparaging comments against the singer with many taking to the internet to express their views.
Mezzo soprano Jennifer Johnston wrote, "Clearly overt sexism is still rife," in a blog post on the Guardian.
She continued: "There was little comment on her musicianship, dramatic commitment or her ability to communicate to an audience and to move that audience to tears."
Another soprano, Elisabeth Meister, asked, "What on earth does your body size have to do with how well you can sing?" on her blog.
"I’m saddened to see articles that STILL try to tell us women how we should look in order to be attractive, " wrote Meister. "I work in an industry that celebrates the most natural thing a person can possess: the human voice...There are more than enough industries set up around the world to make women feel bad about themselves. We don’t need it in the classical music world too, thank you very much."
Others took to Twitter, where Thomas Kohut, a singer with the London Symphony Chorus, wrote "These Der Rosenkavalier reviews really are unacceptable," and Music journalist Elizabeth Davies added, "Some pretty shocking casual sexism in the opera world this morning".
The Telegraph's critic, Rupert Christiansen, has defended his review, saying, "Fat and thin can be equally beautiful but one has to make an audience believe".
He said Erraught's role of Octavian - a male character traditionally played by a woman - called for a "taller" singer who could carry off the "principal-boy type".
However, he added, "I am distressed to learn that Miss Erraught has been upset by the hoo-ha around the reception of her performance".
In response to the furore, Glyndebourne issued a statement saying, "Tara Erraught is an outstandingly talented young artist whom we are thrilled to have as part of the cast of Der Rosenkavalier."
Erraught, so far, has not commented on the negative reviews.