The scandale over the little black dress that got her fired from London’s Royal Opera, Covent Garden. Gastric-bypass surgery. That startlingly frank autobiography Call Me Debbie: True Confessions of a Down-to-Earth Diva. The media ate it all up, etching the American soprano Deborah Voigt into the consciousness of her compatriots to a degree perhaps unmatched by any other classical musician of her generation. But first, there was her voice, a bona fide force of nature, as audiences at the Boston Lyric Opera discovered exactly 30 years ago when she starred in Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos.
“It is wise to counsel caution,” the critic John Rockwell advised in The New York Times, “but foolish to stifle enthusiasm.” Caveat in place, he then hailed Voigt as “one of the most important American singers to come along in years,” the successor of the phenomenal Eileen Farrell (whose Metropolitan Opera debut in 1956 was greeted with 22 curtain calls). “If Miss Voigt does not soon become an important Wagnerian soprano,” Rockwell concluded, “she will have taken a wrong career turn.”