#TheStories, part 2

#TheStories, part 2

Jenna Simeonov
This is part two in a series of personal accounts of harassment, abuse, and assault in the opera and classical music industries. These stories are published as told to me, with some names and details withheld at the author’s request.

I was taking a lesson from a well-known, boisterous baritone during a summer opera program at a Canadian university. During the lesson he spoke to me about my posture, and said, “you should stick your chest out more. It’s good for your singing, but you’ll also attract more men in the halls of this school! You’ve got a great chest…use it!”

He also went into detail about he vindictively grabbed a colleague’s breasts during a performance of Don Giovanni after she had said she was uncomfortable with it in the rehearsal process. I remember feeling so incredibly uncomfortable that he had so clearly noticed my breasts and that he would speak about them when I was alone in a room with him. Prior to this, I’d never really spoken to him, and this conversation made me horribly uncomfortable.

After the incident, I was cold and distant toward him for the rest of the program, and I believe that affected my chances of getting cast in any of the school’s opera productions. I also decided to avoid summer programs for almost 10 years after this, and only really felt comfortable with female teachers.

At the time, I remember not thinking any of this was worth complaining about. These kinds of comments happened so often that it didn’t seem like a big deal, and I felt stupid for being so uncomfortable. I’m so glad for the #metoo movement. I really hope that times are changing and a younger generation of singers won’t have to go through this kind of thing silently.

If you have a true story of abuse or assault from within the opera and classical music industries and you want to tell someone, send it to me at [email protected].

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