After my musings on the pleasure of wearing Alina Garanča’s shoes, I remembered the killer heels worn by Anna Netrebko when she created the role of Manon at the Royal Opera. Ever the professional, she allegedly arrived at her costume fitting with the vertiginous platform stilettos in hand and announced that she would be wearing them in the show, so this needed to be allowed for in the length of her dresses. If you’ve seen the poster for Manon (currently on Tube platforms across London), you will know that the set for Act IV is all diagonals and stairs – hardly ideal terrain to negotiate in high heels, without the additional effort of a huge aria.
So Netrebko’s choice of shoe is interesting because it flies in the face of information we often receive, particularly as student singers, about the importance of being physically grounded as a pre-requisite for vocal stability and health. As we develop as singers and learn to find safety in even the most uncomfortable physical shapes and environments, the issue of shoes might be expected to become less important. But clearly not – many female singers still insist on the flattest shoes they can reasonably get away with in order to feel vocally balanced as well as physically comfortable. On the other hand, ‘lifts’ are popular among more diminutive tenors and there have been no shoe-related accidents that I know of on-stage. Clearly it’s a very personal thing, and perhaps being taller as well as looking fabulous is an irresistible way to own the stage in addition to singing like a god(dess). It certainly makes a difference if you get a chance to make friends with your shoes before attempting any high-risk manoeuvres and, ideally, they should be Louboutins, which are beautifully enough made to withstand any amount of stagework. Alas, the budget didn’t quite stretch to these for the Royal Opera’s production of The Beggar’s Opera (see photo) but, to our surprise, those of us wearing heels like those shown got used to them remarkably quickly.
We were still glad to take them off at the end, though. Honestly, I don’t know how Netrebko does it.