View Full Version : Twyla Robinson: Heldensoubrette
28th March 2011, 16:07
Last year, there was a thread (http://www.judgmentofparis.com/board/showthread.php?t=2004) on this forum about the gorgeous, full-figured soprano Twyla Robinson, whom I still consider to be the most beautiful singer currently engaged in a full-time operatic career. (Chloë Agnew is a soprano too, but she doesn't sing opera full time.)
I thought it would be worth updating this thread with some further links pertaining to Twyla.
For example, here are a pair of images showing the lovely soprano in the role of the Countess in a 2009 production of Le Nozze di Figaro. Twyla's costume, displaying her buxom decolletge, is most sensual.
The most exciting career event that's coming up for Twyla is that she has been cast in the lead role of the Marschallin in the San Diego Opera production of Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier, one of the most famous operas in the repertory. The first of four performances opens next week. (Show times and ticket listings can be found here (http://www.sdopera.com/Operas/DerRosenkavalier).)
To introduce audiences to their Marschallin, the San Diego Opera broadcast an audio interview with Twyla last week. It's a really interesting interview that gives fans a sense of who she is. Here's the link:
I love her soft speaking voice, with just a hint of a Southern accent that distinguishes her as a Louisiana native. She coins a perfect term for her vocal style, calling herself a Heldensoubrette. Now, a Soubrette is described as follows:
Soubrette is a term referring to a type of female role in opera and theatre. The term arrived in English from Provençal via French, and means "conceited" or "coy". In theatre, the term soubrette describes a character who is vain and girlish, mischievous, lighthearted, coquettish and...she often displays a flirtatious nature.
I love that description. It encompasses so many of the qualities that this forum attributes to plus-size beauties, such as adorable vanity, coquettishness, and girlishness. The German prefix "Helden-" means "heroic," so putting the two terms together, a Heldensoubrette would be a kind of ultimate flirt, the supremely vain coquette, the most seductively selfish and gorgeous vixen who knows exactly how desirable she is and capitalizes on her beauty.
Could there be a more exciting identity for a plus-size goddess?
Anyway, finally, here's a video interview with the cast of th San Diego Opera's Der Rosenkavalier.
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Twyla speaks in four instances:
Briefly, the plot of Der Rosenkavalier involves the Marschallin, a beautiful (and married) woman of 32, who is having an affair with a teen male lover, Octavian. However, when Octavian meets Sophie, a girl his own age, he falls in love with her, and alas, the Marschallin has her heart broken.
Interestingly, Twyla looks much younger and more attractive than the singer who is performing the part of Sophie, her supposedly younger rival. That creates an interesting deviation from the opera's standard structure, and also testifies to Twyla's extraordinary beauty. Even dressed in black, as here, she's very attractive, with a pretty, girlish hairstyle.
Twyla has many fascinating things to say about her character. If I lived anywhere near the West Coast, I would definitely attend one of her San Diego performances in Der Rosenkavalier.
28th March 2011, 18:29
<br>Twyla fans will be delighted to read the <a href="http://twitter.com/_SanDiegoOpera/status/52482851282755584" target="_blank">message</a> that the San Diego Opera just sent to the Judgment of Paris via Twitter:
We just love Twyla and we're so glad she's with us. We'll have another interview up next week as well!We cannot wait. And as a special bonus, the opera company attached an image of Twyla looking lovely while taking a 5-minute break from the non-stop, round-the-clock rehearsals that are taking place to prepare what is sure to be a <i>Rosenkavalier</I> for the ages.
<p><center><a href="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/tr/twyla11.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/tr/twyla11a.jpg" border="0" title="Click to enlarge" alt="Click to enlarge"></a></center><p>
Needless to say, we <i>eagerly</i> look forward to any further interviews or images that the San Diego Opera will release of their vivacious, captivating Marschallin.
For anyone within striking distance of San Diego, mark the performance dates on your calendar:
Sunday, April 3rd @ 2 P.M.
Wednesday, April 6th @ 7 P.M.
Saturday, April 9th @ 6 P.M.
Tuesday, April 12th @ 7 P.M.
<i>Der Rosenkavalier</i> is a witty, entertaining, romantic, and thoroughly enjoyable opera--the ideal entry point into this art form--and this may be your lone opportunity to see and hear the Marschallin (the most important character in the work) performed by a singer who actually has the requisite beauty for the role--beauty of voice and beauty of person. It is a staging not to be missed.
(We only hope that the SDO will capture it on video, to preserve it for all time and to share it with audiences around the world.)
Be sure to visit the San Diego Opera site for tickets, an English synopsis, and more:
- <a href="http://www.sdopera.com/Operas/DerRosenkavalier" target="_blank"><i>Der Rosenkavalier</I> at the SDO</a>
31st March 2011, 14:21
I thought I'd add two stories about Twyla to this thread; articles that give a definite sense of her as a performer. The word that comes to mind is "sensual," because from what I've heard in her performances and interviews, and of course from her images, my impression is that she is an extremely sensual being. This is what makes her performances so captivating. Not for nothing did she adopt the term "Heldensoubrette," the über-coquette, the most irresistible goddess.
The first article is even termed "Songs of sensuality":
Twyla's comments undoubtedly spurred the writer to give it that title.
"The [lyrics] are sexy and transparent all at the same time," she said. There are layers upon layers of music. It's the kind of score where you keep digging and still find new details. I love a challenge; so that makes it very beloved to me."
For a singer to call the lyrics that she is singing "sexy" definitely identifies the luscious quality of her voice. It reminds me of how one writer said that Chloë Agnew's performance of "Panis Angelicus" was the most "erotic" he had ever heard. This applies to Twyla's style as well.
Now, here's the truly fascinating article, one in which Twyla discusses performing the Marschallin in Rosenkavalier:
Twyla's comments regarding the essence of her character are deeply affecting. Remember: the Marschallin is a gorgeous woman, an aristocrat, who is about to lose her young male lover to a girl his own age.
The essence of her character:
“It’s heartbreaking. And what’s especially heartbreaking is she doesn’t feel sorry for herself. She’s in the universal condition that women go through. I defy any woman over the age of 30 to come and see this opera and not be feeling like she’s looking in a mirror. (The Marschallin) is the universal female, facing the loss of beauty, the loss of youth...She says at one point: Time is a strange thing. In all of your days, you have no awareness of it at all, and then a day comes and boom, the curtain comes down and it’s the only thing you can feel. She reaches that day in this opera. So how do you play that?”
Richard Strauss and librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal's treatment of women in the opera:
“Never has a woman’s psyche been (more sensitively) depicted and realized musically than it is in this opera. They’ve realized it so perfectly, sometimes it makes me catch my breath.”
Very touching. I think what gives Twyla such insight into this character is that she herself is such a gorgeous woman, therefore she understands the power of beauty and the significance that feminine beauty plays in the opera, as it pertains to the Marschallin, more than a homelier singer might. She (the Marschallin) is a woman whose extraordinary beauty has entitled her to everything she has wanted in life -- wealth, privilege, an aristocratic husband, a young lover. She has always been the "fairest of them all." Now she faces the first loss of her life in the contest of beauty, up against a younger girl. This is indeed a quintessentially feminine theme, and profoundly moving.
However, in watching this particular performance, the audience will have to suspend disbelief, because, as Emily noted above, in this staging, the Marschallin (Twyla) is much curvier and more desirable than the performer singing her young rival. The San Diego Opera company is fortunate that Octavian (the role of the young male lover) is a breeches part; otherwise, there would be a real danger that Octavian would succumb to Twyla's charms, break script, and stay with the Marschallin, abandoning Sophie and defying Hofmannsthal's libretto!
1st April 2011, 20:01
I have two new treats to add to this thread.
First, the San Diego Opera released an image, yesterday, showing Twyla in her Marschallin finery from Act III of the opera. Alas, the bodice compresses her generous bust a little, but one can see the luscious fullness of her upper arms beneath the fabric. She looks opulent and regal, befitting her character. Also, she looks heartbroken, which is understandable given the plot of the opera, as described above. Twyla is an extremely expressive performer, which will surely make this performance deeply moving.
Also, the same San Diego newspaper that published the previous article about Twyla released a second story today. Best of all, it comes with another image from the production. Twyla is, of course, in the beautiful white gown with pink trim, here with a pretty, natural hairstyle in contrast to the white wig seen above, which was characteristic of the nobility of the period in which the opera is set. Observe that Twyla appears to be looking into a mirror on her dressing table. Who can blame her? If a goddess is blessed with as much beauty as she is, it must be very difficult for her ever to pull herself away from the agreeable reflection that she sees in the looking glass. The pose suggests the Marschallin's alluring vanity.
The article itself is as fascinating as the previous one. The title was perfectly chosen:
A Voice in Full Bloom
Naturally, one cannot help but muse upon how the full-blown beauty of Twyla's opulent figure, with her blossoming curves, matches the richness of her voice. Both her physical and her vocal beauty are indeed in "full bloom."
The article includes many wonderful personal details about Twyla, including her emotional reaction to American Idol. She is such a sensitive lady, such an archetypally feminine being. No wonder she embodies 19th-century roles like Eva from Die Meistersinger and the Marschallin so well. She herself possesses the quintessentially girlish qualities of those irresistible characters.
This will be a must-see Rosenkavalier, if ever there was one.
2nd April 2011, 11:24
Of the performance images that have been released so far, I love this one best. Although the gown is loose, this picture gives the finest impression yet of Twyla's curvaceous figure, the sense that she does have a full-bodied physique.
Also, I adore the voluptuous, "bedroom" hairstyle, and her cute, girlish expression.
4th April 2011, 00:15
The reviews are in, and Twyla is as stunning as the Marschallin as everyone expected she would be.
Just listen to this enthusiastic write-up:
As the Marschallin, soprano Twyla Robinson, filling in on several weeks notice for Anja Harteros, was magnificent. This is a role that requires a fine balance between the regalness of her station and an open, vulnerable nature.
Robinson carefully calibrated her approach, shifting the balance as the opera progressed. When she made her entrance in the third act, she was every bit the princess, even if it soon became clear that her heart was breaking.
The role Robinson refused to play was that of a singer. She effortlessly soared above the large orchestra, but it all seemed a natural outgrowth of her character, at times as if she were thinking out loud. She was so immersed in the drama that is wasn’t until that final trio that you were suddenly aware of the easy grace and beauty of her voice.
What I find fascinating about this description of Twyla's performance is that it seems to have been a natural outgrowth of her own personality, based on the articles and interviews that she has done.
Also, the qualities that the reviewer notes -- balancing "regalness" and an "open, vulnerable nature" while looking "every bit the princess" -- are precisely the characteristics that distinguish the finest images of the top plus-size models, from Shannon Marie to Kelsey Olson to Katherine Roll to Kailee O'Sullivan.
Twyla truly is the operatic equivalent of our most beloved goddesses. As the writer of the recent Elizabeth Taylor article that was posted on this forum noted, it's a case where her physical self, her soft feminine beauty, is a window into her soul.
Three more Rosenkavalier performances are coming up this week. If I were anywhere near the West Coast, I'd certainly attend. I just hope that the San Diego Opera films this staging...
4th April 2011, 18:54
I have a couple of exciting items to add to this thread.
First, another photograph of Twyla as the Marschallin:
Second - this is what we've all been waiting for. The following half-hour video features several clips showing Twyla's performance, in costume, in San Diego's Der Rosenkavalier, as well as interview segments with her.
Twyla's comments are intercut with her responses to the interview questions, and they appear in three segments of the video:
04:40 - 07:00
12:24 - 14:08
25:23 - 26:26
The second passage is especially interesting, as it has Twyla discussing what her character might have been like as a young girl. Fascinatingly, she likens herself to her rival in the opera, Sophie. She even makes the case on musical grounds.
In the third segment, Twyla expresses, in very moving terms, how the opera's composer and librettist laid bare the female human condition in Der Rosenkavalier.
Oh, and Twyla also appears in performance, but not voice-over, in two other sections of the video:
07:25 - 07:56
16:25 - 17:07
The video clips give a sense of her curvaceous figure in a way that the still images do not. The physical contrast between her opulent physique and the meagre frame of her rival, Sophie, is very symbolically appropriate for the opera. She looks gorgeous.
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And I agree with others who say that the natural conclusion of a performance with Twyla as the Marschallin would be for her character to triumph, and to keep the young man's affections, and for her lesser rival to lose!
6th April 2011, 13:28
One more, brief review worth noting:
It comes with a lovely quote,
Seeing Twyla Robinson’s role debut as the Marschallin convinces me that this she wil become a major presence in the elite sorority of world class Marschallins.and two beautiful photos from the production. I love the innocent expression on Twyla in this picture. She looks ravishing in her gown.
And here's a pretty photograph with the caption, "the Marschallin (Twyla Robinson) reflects on the passage of time." Notice the mirror. This is a lovely thematic study of timeless beauty, even outside the context of the opera.
I do hope that the complete performance is being filmed. These images, and the excerpts from the video that Graham posted, make it look like a splendid experience.
20th April 2011, 04:07
<br>At last, the San Francisco Opera has released a full group of images of Twyla Robinson as the Marschallin in its recent production of Richard Strauss's most famous work for the stage. Aficionados can obtain full-size versions of these photographs by clicking on the <i>Der Rosenkavalier</I> tab at the company's press-kit <a href="http://www.sdopera.com/Company/News/PressKits" target="_blank">page</a>.
(All of the images featured here, as well as the majority seen earlier in this thread, are copyright Ken Howard.)
In this, the most gorgeous image of Twyla in her role, the singer's voluptuous curves are admirably displayed by her gown. The attire is stunningly beautiful, as if it had come straight from a museum, and shows how feminine fashions in a more pro-curvy era were designed to accentuate a lady's well-fed figure. The pretty pink ribbons add a delicate touch that plays off against the robustness of the singer's physique.<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/tr/tnew04.jpg"></center><p>The next picture, which was posted earlier but featured distracting advertising copy, is the most adorable image of Twyla, and shows--as all of these photos do--her remarkable acting talent. She appears almost kittenish here, a young girl in a woman's body. The gesture of playing with her brunette tresses is an enchanting touch. As Twyla herself noted in her interviews, the Marschallin (her character) is in fact very similar to the young girl, Sophie, who is her rival for Octavian's love; indeed, the Marschallin veritably <i>was</I> Sophie in her teen years, and still has much of that delightful girlishness about her.<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/tr/tnew05.jpg"></center><p>One aspect of her character's persona that Twyla isn't afraid of showing, as some singers are, is the Marschallin's frankly voluptuous nature. It is evident in the singer's luscious physique and in her performance, as seen in this image showing Twyla enjoying the caresses of her young male teen lover. (Yes, the character is meant to be a male teen--this being a "breeches" role, a part that, for vocal necessity, is performed by a female singer.) The photograph showcases Twyla's romantic hairstyle and suggests the fullness of her arms beneath her diaphanous gown.<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/tr/tnew02.jpg"></center><p>Indeed, the opening scene of the opera finds the Marschallin and her lover together in bed, with the music illustrating their physical amour.<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/tr/tnew01.jpg"></center><p>Like the hairstyles, the costumes for this San Diego Production were perfectly chosen. The dressing gown that Twyla wears later in the performance, with its rose trim and pink bows, further emphasizes her girlishness, while still displaying her buxom curves.<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/tr/tnew07.jpg"></center><p>This image shows Twyla with the famous silver rose, the central motif in the opera, the object that indicates the transfer of Octavian's affections from the Marschallin to Sophie when he bestows it upon the latter. Seeing the lovely Twyla with the rose in her hand, however, prompts one to wish for the opera to deviate from its script and follow the natural course that the sight of a goddess as beautiful as Twyla would engender--i.e., that Octavian would abandon Sophie and devote himself completely to the more opulently proportioned Marschallin.<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/tr/tnew06.jpg"></center><p>A profile view offers a fine impression of the magnificence of Twyla's sumptuous figure. Her rich, lavish beauty harmonizes perfectly with the opulence of her surroundings. She veritably embodies the luxury of the Habsburg empire in past ages, with Austria being the point of origin of many of the most decadent desserts that the world has ever known, from apple strudel to linzer torte--delicacies that may have enriched the Marschallin's alluring, regal proportions.<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/tr/tnew08.jpg"></center><p>The most touching image in the set is surely this photograph of Twyla as the Marschallin gazing upon her reflection, troubled by the possibility that, as a maturing woman, she might soon lose her greatest power--her incomparable beauty. Observe that she has not one but <i>two</i> mirrors in her boudoir--the one in her hand, and the larger one on her dressing table, as if she derives such satisfaction from her own beauty that she cannot get enough of her own reflection, but continually takes pleasure in admiring herself.
It is a moment such as this that demonstrates the benefit of casting such an attractive soprano in the role. In seeing the Marschallin thus contemplating the finitude of her own beauty, one can imagine Twyla herself entertaining the same thoughts. A woman as gorgeous as Miss Robinson has surely, like the Marschallin, enjoyed great acclaim for her loveliness and reaped many benefits from being so attractive. The thought of losing this divine quality would be as troubling to her as Beethoven agonizing over the loss of his hearing. But in truth, neither Twyla nor the Marschallin need concern themselves on this score, for, as these images show, her beauty is still blazingly apparent and undimmed, especially thanks to the fact that the singer has not starved herself into a waifish size, but has remained naturally full-figured--this being the secret to perpetual youth.<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/tr/tnew09.jpg"></center><p>Whether or not a complete video of the San Diego performance will ever be released, these images provide a vital record of Twyla's stunning beauty in <i>Der Rosenkavalier.</I> We still consider her role as Eva in <i>Die Meistersinger</I> to be the summit of her career to date, and earnestly hope that she will take on more Wagnerian parts in the future. But clearly the aristocratic Marschallin, part dreamy romantic girl and part sensual voluptuary, is also a perfect fit for Miss Robinson.
If she were a plus-size model, Twyla would be one of the finest. As it is, we look forward to her future performances and eagerly await further photographic testaments to her stunning beauty.
- <a href="http://www.sdopera.com/Company/News/PressKits" target="_blank">San Diego Opera press kits</a>
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