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cultural-appropriation“The antagonistic themes of Aida seem to have spilled into the wings after a student production of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera was cancelled amid a row over suggestions of ‘cultural appropriation’.” [Telegraph]

  • Porgy Amor

    Ha ha! I had exactly the same experience with young friends and a Domingo Otello video some years back. But, you know. It led to a lively discussion between acts, about performing traditions in and out of opera, about the realities of casting in opera (in other words, that this role is not a case of just any tenor being able to sing it and “they” can’t just plug anyone into it who naturally looks the part), and what would be better or worse than what the Met had done with Signor Domingo here in 1995 (?), and so on.

    Matters of skin tone aside, Ms. Millio’s Dynasty-era styling in that DVD of the Frisell production provides some time-capsule amusement, almost 30 years later.

  • Luvtennis

    This reads like an Onion story to me. There is no actual reporting and the use of the word “suggestion” makes no sense in the context despite its repeated use.

  • Cicciabella

    Since these “students” (of what exactly? blockheaded literalism?) seem so interested in skin-tone minutiae, Lucan tells us that Cleopatra had “white breasts”, as did Liz Taylor. This incident shows yet again how intellectual discussion has degenerated into misinformed all-or-nothing militancy in campuses across the world. University lecturers seem incapable of guiding discussions about racism and cultural appropriation into fruitful and nuanced dialogue. These students don’t know how opera casting works, don’t know that blackface has been abandoned in leading theatres and, most tragically, think the only way to deal with racism, patriarchy and other prejudices rife in practically all of Western art is to reject art works instead of putting them into context in order to explore the very questions they raise. Philistinism pretending to be socially engaged intellectualism is much worse than white people acting as slaves. Oh, by the way, the Israelites in Egypt probably wouldn’t have had the right skin colour for these irate students either. “How dare they pretend to be slaves, looking like that? Oh, wait, they were slaves…” That’s the level of ridiculousness this protest over Aida is scraping.

    • Luvtennis


      I agree that “banning” a work is a terrible response under almost any conditions (not sure that happened here). BUT attacking people for being sensitive to cultural issues seems likely to inflame passions rather than to channel them positively. And the myth that all these concerns are just over-reactions is belied to some extent by the behaviors of far too many here in the US (see videos of Trump rallies) and Britain (some of the rhetoric of the Brexit supporters). Among other places.

      I agree that the best reaction is to open a dialogue. But that will only work if people can talk TO each other and not at or past each other.

      • Cicciabella

        Luvtennis, I totally agree with the essence of what you’re saying. My first reaction was perhaps not clear. I don’t blame students for protesting the way they did in this case (although the details have not been made known). Young people should be idealistic and critical of the status quo. But I really thing that our places of higher learning are failing because they seem unable to create a space for productive dialogue about these important issues. And when someone, especially students, uses arguments based on ignorance, like the Cleopatra quote (and who knows everything? no-one), they should be challenged, especially by the people who are there to give them an education. If they still disagree, they can protest and show their disapproval peacefully. Instead a show is cancelled before it even opens. There was no dialogue here, just one side expressing anger and the other party giving in. You can boycott a show in many non-threatening ways: distribute flyers, organise a debate, demonstrate with posters outside the theatre, use the media to persuade people not to attend the show. Instead there was outrage and a cancellation. Such student protests are not new, they’ve been part of student life for generations. What seems to be different now (and I’m not comparing today to the violent student protests of the sixties, but to later generations) is the degree of hostility and the inability to protest and engage in a meaningful way. Institutions such as this theatre buckling under the pressure make everything worse.

        • Luvtennis

          Agree completely.

  • Cicciabella

    So they cancelled Aida the musical not the opera? And Rupert was asked to defend Verdi in vain? The article changed drastically between La Cieca’s posting the link above and Mrs JC reposting it below. I’ve never seen Aida the Musical (a redundant endeavour if ever there was one), but I’m all for a production of it opening first before it is routed out of town. Is the book offensive?

    • It’s a really stupid musical with music by Elton John (if there was a best of Elton this wasn’t it). I remember the women being of color but Radames being white (at least when I saw it on b’way). It’s a spin on the characters but different in some ways from the story of the opera. It has a “mystical” framework implying time travel and it starts with contemporary Radames in a museum looking at and dreaming on Egyptian artifacts.

      • Cicciabella

        Like the Netrebko Trovatore then, where Leonora the art museum employee dreams of being Leonora the noblewoman in distress, but without Verdi’s sublime music.

  • aulus agerius

    In San Francisco Jose Sarria (RIP) used to do a hilarious version entitled Iada -- pronounced “I ate a …” She lived in Memphis Tenn and her daddy was a moonshine runner. Southern chaos ensued with Hazel at the piano. Largely improv on Verdi with Jose singing all the parts as usual.