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Magic Flute/Glyndebourne & related PC issues

Yesterday I did something I rarely if ever do, namely to cancel my trip to Glyndebourne to see The Magic Flute.

The driver who takes me – normally most reliable – called at midday to report he was unwell. This meant I had to find alternative transport. Other factors in my decision were the gusty cold weather, the poor reviews and the cost of the meal and transport.

The two critics I read – David Mellor in the Mail on Sunday and Rupert Christiansen of the Telegraph – hated the production.

It was set in the Hotel Sacher Vienna in 1900 with overtones of feminism with its staff suffragettes and as Christiansen put it under this mish-mash somewhere lay Mozart’s opera which is chiefly about freemasonry.

It raises an interesting question which we discussed in Verona namely, should every production reinvent itself or be true to its original form? I’m in the latter camp. Opera tickets are expensive. My hunch is that the audience – mainly elderly at Glyndebourne – want it traditional and a younger audience won’t go anyway.

A similar type of issue arose on the Radio 4 arts programme Front Row on Monday.

A black soprano appearing in Aida was shocked that they suggested she should be asked to wear black make up for her role as Aida.

Needless to say the presenter Samira Ahmed cooed sympathetically and did not ask the obvious question that given Aida is the daughter of an Ethiopian King, what‘s the problem?

Aida was the first opera staged in Verona and repeated every year.

The production is traditional. That is what the audience expects not a white or light-coloured Aida.

No one hopefully wants to see the Black and White Minstrels on our Saturday TV screens, or golliwogs on jam, but this soprano who incidentally had a gorgeous voice is being too sensitive.

I also booked yesterday a ticket for the matinee for Oklahoma at Chichester Festival Theatre. The lady in the box office informed it was a relaxed performance.

I had no idea what that was and she enlightened me that a section of the audience was mentally challenged and could be wandering around and making noises to which I could not object. I felt I was committing some heinous non-PC crime for requesting a seat as far away from them as possible.

It seems to me that if you are going to a musical you would want to hear the cast without distraction.

About Michael Stuart

After university, Michael spent twelve years working for MELODY MAKER before going freelance. He claims to keep doing it because it is all he knows. More Posts