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Classical 101

"Call Me Debbie": Deborah Voigt's New Autobiography

Soprano Deborah Voigt calls herself the "Anti-Diva." Not for her the rumored hissy fits indulged in by opera singers in days gone by. This is a blonde blue-eyed American girl from Illinois, the daughter of God-fearing Baptists who put the fear of God and just about everything else into young Debbie. Her new memoir Call Me Debbie makes this clear. Her parents were teenagers when she was born. Their marriage was not happy. Their home was not happy. Both parents were deeply rooted in a faith disallowing rock music, dancing, parties,  cards and anything else that would appeal to an American kid. Voigt writes of an emotionally arid upbringing where she finally met a best friend. Food. In her thirties, the soprano topped off at 340 lbs., and so began the saga of "The Little Black Dress" But first, understand Voigt is the real deal. She has a sterling voice, great range, and beautiful control. Her voice falls easily on the ears. She is a fine musician who knows exactly what she is singing about and what characters are singing to her. How many opera singers perform Wagner's Brunnhilde and then the title role in Annie Get Your Gun? Her breakout performance was as Richard Strauss's Ariadne for a small company in Boston in 1989. Her performance made front page of The New York Times, and a star was born. The star was addicted to food, sex and booze. She was fired from a production of Ariadne auf Naxos, an opera she had sung all over the world-because her figure did not accommodate the little black dress the director wanted his diva to wear. Her dismissal and the reason for it went public. This was not a reason to be on every TV chat show or every tabloid. But there she was: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKqonY8zLag Debbie took the payout and had gastric bypass surgery. Her 140 lb weight loss revealed a stunning woman. Critics carped that the surgery had affected her voice. It seems there had to be something else to complain about, now that she was no longer heavy. Her career continued full speed ahead. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSpf5f8InA4 What the public didn't know was her devotion to alcohol and to destructive romantic relationships. Her friends were often outraged and concerned. The drinking and the dangerous sex life landed the lady in rehab and AA. I don't know what her daily life is now. She writes a great deal about her dog,  Steinway. (That makes me sad. I love dogs, but wouldn't want a pet featured prominently in my memoirs.) Call Me Debbie has pages of desperation and abusive sexual fantasies. There's plenty of gorging on Pepperidge Farm Coconut Cake, Haagen Das and double orders of fast food. There's are ovations and successes at the world's greatest opera houses. The ovations continue. Debbie has found the strength to endure the rest and put it aside. Call Me Debbie has its harrowing pages. But you never forget the talent and success of a woman  who worked very hard, and against all odds, she won!