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the story behind the book

Opera Star Deborah Voigt’s ‘Call Me Debbie’

david wilson for the boston globe

Deborah Voigt is famous in the opera world for her signature role as Ariadne in the Richard Strauss opera, among other performances. Those who don’t know opera or classical music may remember hearing about the soprano who was fired by the Royal Opera House because she was too heavy to fit into her costume.

Voigt subsequently underwent weight-loss surgery and dropped more than 100 pounds. It was around then that she began thinking about writing her memoir. “I had conquered this one huge demon,” she said in a telephone interview, before describing the other demons she had yet to face, including alcoholism and turbulent personal relationships.


But that doesn’t mean her memoir, simply titled “Call Me Debbie,” is a downer.

“What I like about this book is her candor feels very natural,” said Boston novelist Daphne Kalotay (“Sight Reading”). “It’s like your best girlfriend talking to you and telling you her story. She has such a great sense of humor.”

“I always love hearing about what goes on behind the scenes of any artist’s life because I think it shows, first of all, what hard work it is,” said Kalotay, who will be interviewing Voigt on stage at the Berklee College of Music this week. “But also that simply finding your métier or having professional success doesn’t automatically solve what other problems you have.”

When an audience watches singers onstage, Voigt said, “we are larger than life, and the roles that we play, especially if you happen to be fortunate enough to be a dramatic soprano, you’re playing goddesses and mythical creatures.”

But, she added, “I have this feeling inside me that I want people to know who I am, not just as a role but as a person.”

Voigt will perform and talk about her book with Kalotay at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Berklee’s David Friend Recital Hall, 921 Boylston St. ($35 ticket includes book, at


Kate Tuttle, a writer and editor, can be reached at