Last week the West Australian Opera briefly decided to drop a planned performance of Carmen for fear of losing the sponsorship of a state government health promotion agency called Healthway, whose policies prohibit supporting any arts organization that portrays people smoking on stage. Healthway currently subsidizes the opera company to the tune of over $350,000.
Australian politicians have since twisted Healthway’s arm to allow the performance, but it’s not clear whether they’re going to put Carmen back on the schedule.
The episode left me wondering (1) what other operas need to be cleansed of incorrect material, and (2) whether the folks at West Australian Opera have actually listened to the lyrics of any of the operas they perform, and what will be left after they cleanse their repertoire of potentially offensive operas. Given that most opera plots lean heavily on rape, incest, adultery, prostitutes with golden hearts, murder, suicide, and blackmail, the answer would seem to be, “Not much.”
This year’s lineup:
Otello – domestic abuse! Spouse murder! Besides, racism.
The Magic Flute – the child custody case from hell. Besides, anti-feminism.
Il Trovatore – witch hunts, attempted abduction, and throwing the baby into the bonfire… oh well, I suppose that could be written off as post-natal abortion. Pass.
Tosca – torture, blackmail and unassisted suicide. If only Tosca had asked a doctor to throw her off those battlements!
Oh, well. There must be other operas, right? Let’s see:
Don Giovanni – Serial fornication is probably OK, but did the Don obtain affirmative consent every time? Also, the last scene, where he descends into Hell, has to go. That’s forcing religion onto people!
La Fille du Regiment – Bad language alert, illegitimacy; pass.
Madame Butterfly – False marriage, suicide, but the fatal problem is Pinkerton’s failure to pay child support.
The Marriage of Figaro – classic case of workplace sexual harassment.
Pagliacci – The adultery is OK, but, hunchback abuse.
Rosenkavalier – One word: Cougar.
La Traviata – Prostitution is probably OK as long as it’s voluntary, but that song glorifying drinking must be cut.
I’m sure this list is far from complete; feel free to add your own favorites.