M4Arts Artist and Soprano Tracy Cox debuts in her leading role in the new chamber opera titled Fat Pig by Matt Boehler.
We caught up with Tracy to find out more about this exciting project and the recent workshop that took place in November.
Hi Tracy, congratulations on your new role.
Firstly, tell us more about this new chamber opera.
Sure. Fat Pig is a new project by Matt Boehler and Miriam Gordon-Stewart based on a play by Neil LaBute. It has been commissioned by Victory Hall Opera with the support of the Virginia Commission for the Arts, The Amphion Foundation, and a UVA Arts Enhancement Grant.
The opera tells the story of Helen, a confident plus-sized woman and her lover Tom, who eventually succumbs to the fatphobic judgment of his peers. It presents a new type of operatic character written specifically for a fat performer.
What made you accept the leading role in an opera with such a quite startling?
Well, I was truly impressed that Victory Hall Opera had seen the value in telling such a story. This project is quite revolutionary as it highlights a subject that has never been approached in opera before.
I felt connected to the character of Helen, a fat woman who falls in love with a man in a normative body, and the tragedy that follows when the misogyny of the man’s friends prove too much for them to overcome. This is a common experience for fat people — having partners who won’t take the relationship public because they are unwilling or unable to deal with the realities of fatphobia in our society.
You are not new to tackling this issue.
Indeed. I have been working for many years as an artist and activist in the fat politics space. I co-created the popular web series “Angry Fat People” with colleague and friend Matthew Anchel, which tackles serious issues faced by fat performers in a light-hearted way. I’ve been interviewed by the New York Times on fat politics and restaurant accessibility, and I currently have over 14,000 followers on Instagram where I regularly unpack fat performance, fashion, and politics.
Last November Victory Hall Opera conducted a workshop. How did that go?
It was great — and so very meaningful. Matt Boehler’s music is exceptional, and the way Victory Hall Opera approached the project made me feel empowered and centered in the room. They are doing the work to make sure this story is told in an authentic way, and they are holding the space for me to figure out my process.
As a fat artist facing the potentially triggering fatphobic language used in the piece, I am still learning how to balance that process. You can see the full video of excerpts from the workshop on YouTube. Check it out. The singing of my colleagues Keith Phares (Tom), Sarah Wolfson (Jeannie) and Will Ferguson (Carter), will absolutely blow you away.
When is the official debut of the opera and will it be live streamed?
The opera is about half-way written, with a goal of April 2021 for completion.
VHO hopes to bring Fat Pig to the stage in a full production for their 21/22 season.
Thank you Tracy and best of luck for the debut.
About Tracy Cox
Hailed by LA Weekly as a “force of nature”, soprano and Fat Politics activist Tracy Cox is a performer and artist whose talent has been recognized by those in the highest echelons of the industry, garnering her a Sullivan Foundation Award, the Birgit Nilsson Prize at Operalia and the Kirsten Flagstad Award from the George London Foundation.
Tracy holds a BA and MM from UCLA, and completed fellowships with LA Opera’s Domingo-Thornton Young Artist Program, Caramoor, Ravinia-Steans, Wolf Trap Opera, the Miami Music Festival Wagner Institute, and Music Academy of the West.
A new chamber opera by Matt Boehler, commissioned by Victory Hall Opera
Based on a play by Neil LaBute
Libretto and direction by Miriam Gordon-Stewart
Starring Tracy Cox (Helen), Keith Phares (Tom), Sarah Wolfson (Jeannie) and Will Ferguson (Carter).
For more information about 'Fat Pig' visit the VHO official website here.
To view the full video of the November Workshop on YouTube click here.