Opera veteran Dame Kiri Te Kanawa has leaped to the defence of one of the art's rising young stars, who has been labelled "dumpy", "unsightly" and "a chubby bundle of puppy fat" by male critics.

Comments made by prominent male critics about 26-year-old Irish mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught's appearance have caused a furore at an English opera festival this week.

The remarks, published in the Financial Times, the Telegraph, the Guardian, the Independent and the Times have angered many fans and industry professionals.

Dame Kiri was among those to jump to the defence of Erraught, telling her to "burn the papers" and to rise above the comments.


Erraught starred as Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss, which opened the prestigious Glyndebourne Opera Festival. It is a male role typically played by a female.

Comments included one critic calling her "a chubby bundle of puppy-fat", describing her as "dumpy of stature", "stocky", "unbelievably unsightly and unappealing both as boy and girl" and as having "the demeanour of a scullery maid".

The young star was not once criticised for her performance.

"I'd say burn the papers, don't listen to a single person, go and sit with friends who are absolutely lovely and love you ... don't talk about this and get on with your life," Dame Kiri told Radio 4's Today programme.

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa says Tara Erraught should
Dame Kiri Te Kanawa says Tara Erraught should "burn the papers" which criticised her.

She also begged critics to be kinder to Erraught: "Please don't destroy her, it's cruel," she said.

Erraught, who has enjoyed a successful career and many positive reviews, was also defended by other industry players.

Slipped Disc, a classical music website, questioned what her appearance had to do with the art of opera.

"Tara Erraught may carry slightly more heft than a size eight, but what has that to do with performance?" the website said.

"Does excess body weight affect artistic performance on stage? Obviously not, as Luciano Pavarotti loudly demonstrated."

Erraught has been singing since she was 10 and was inspired to pursue opera when she visited Italy on a family holiday aged 13. By 25, she had performed 100 professional shows.

Staff reporter