STARRED REVIEW
January 27, 2015

Behind the stage, a singer’s private battles

By Deborah Voigt
From the time she was 5 years old, Deborah Voigt was singing with all her heart, joyously belting out hymns like "His Eye is on the Sparrow" in church. In this sanctuary of spiritual sweetness, she discovered her tremendous vocal gift, as well as her love of performing for an attentive crowd. By the time she was a teenager, music possessed Voigt; she was immersed in piano lessons, singing Broadway tunes and eventually discovering and tuning into the pop music of Bobby Sherman and Donny Osmond. It was the voice of Karen Carpenter, however, who helped her realize she could have a career in music, and the voice of God, who told her, "you are here to sing" one morning and propelled her on the path to becoming an acclaimed operatic soprano.
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From the time she was 5 years old, Deborah Voigt was singing with all her heart, joyously belting out hymns like "His Eye is on the Sparrow" in church. In this sanctuary of spiritual sweetness, she discovered her tremendous vocal gift, as well as her love of performing for an attentive crowd. By the time she was a teenager, music possessed Voigt; she was immersed in piano lessons, singing Broadway tunes and eventually discovering and tuning into the pop music of Bobby Sherman and Donny Osmond. It was the voice of Karen Carpenter, however, who helped her realize she could have a career in music, and the voice of God, who told her, "you are here to sing" one morning and propelled her on the path to becoming an acclaimed operatic soprano.

Voight’s career became international news in 2004, when she was fired from a lead role in a London opera because her plus-size body was too large to fit into the preferred costume for the role. In the frank and often poignant Call Me Debbie: True Confessions of a Down-to-Earth Diva, Voigt reveals how that incident led her to undergo gastric bypass surgery. She also details the often desperate and gut-wrenching struggles between her musical spirit and her palpable physical desires for love, perfection and peace.

At the same time that she was discovering her musical gifts and creating her own identity, Voigt writes, her family life was falling apart. Not only did she hear the querulous voices of her mother and father every night, her parents, especially her father, diminished her gifts and offered little moral support for her budding interest in music.

She wandered off into her own uncertainties and anxieties, searching for love through a series of lustful and often destructive relationships, consoling herself through binging on unhealthy food and drinking so greedily that she sometimes couldn’t remember the previous day.

Fiercely honest, Voigt reveals the depths to which she sunk in search of love, reassurance and comfort, even as she performed on stage with some of the world’s greatest opera singers, including Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti. In the end, she finally embraced the earliest lesson she learned as a singer—that music is a journey and that when you’re singing, you’re exposing yourself. In this touching memoir, Voigt reveals her heart and soul to readers as she sings the tale of her ups and downs.

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Call Me Debbie

Call Me Debbie

By Deborah Voigt
Harper
ISBN 9780062118271

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