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Posted October 2014

Australian opera company drops Carmen over smoking scenes

It’s a big worry. What is to be done if Political Correctness (“PC”) goes over the top like in Australia? International media reported on 9 October 2014 that the West Australian Opera company has dropped its production of the opera Carmen from its repertoire because it features smoking.

Reportedly, the opera company did so freely as it receives an AUD 400,000 (EUR 275,000) grant from Healthway, the state government health promotion agency. Carolyn Chard, West Australian Opera’s General Manager, was quoted as saying that the company had voluntarily made the decision in line with Healthway’s policies, and the agency said it did not make the request.

Carmen, for your info, is set partly in and around a cigarette factory where Carmen works and features smoking in the setting, action, direction and the libretto.

While the opera company argues that its choice was influenced by the recent glamorisation of smoking in popular culture, which it felt necessary to combat, others say that the real reason for the company to ditch Carmen was that its preferred lead singer had defected to Opera Australia in Sydney to perform Aida.

Be it as it may, the whole affair proves to show that the PC police these days expect dangers to lurk in every corner – even in a corner as mildewed as the opera’s.

Since its inception at the end of the 16th century, opera has been an un-PC art form. It was definitely never expected to serve as a moral institution of the Nanny State. That’s why if we were to censor all operas which feature non-politically correct activities, like enjoying excessive drinking, we’d be left with very few in our repertoire.

In case the PC police have no clues about operas, here’s a list of scary works that should be dropped immediately. All have very rousing sing-along drinking songs.

  1. Johann Strauss’ Die Fledermaus

  2. Jacques Offenbach’s La Périchole

  3. Hector Berlioz’s La Damnation de Faust

  4. Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata

  5. Bedrich Smetana’s The Bartered Bride

  6. Giuseppe Verdi’s Otello

  7. Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana

  8. Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana

  9. Otto Nicolai's Merry Wives of Windsor

  10. Georg Friedrich Handel’s Belshazzar

  11. W.A. Mozart’s Don Giovanni

Not all of these operas are put on regularly, so they would not really be missed if ditched. However, I am fairly sure all opera lovers would be peeved if Mozart’s Don Giovanni was taken off the repertoire. The Don unashamedly underlines that at least in opera the rascals (Don Giovanni is a womaniser, a rapist, and a murderer) get all the best tunes. But I would be hard pressed to remember reading about a young offender who got high on champagne before raping a woman and murdering her father and later blamed it all on having sat through a production of Don Giovanni the night before.

I was pleased to see that Tony Abbott, Australia’s Prime Minister, has publicly ridiculed the opera company’s self-censoring as “political correctness gone crazy”. Mr Abbott is right on. No one would have thought that the posh wrinklies who can afford an opera ticket today are in danger of falling for the allure of dangerous substances. Thanks to cuts in public subsidies, the opera in most countries has become a thoroughly elitist art form. Doubtlessly, those going to the opera can read and write and know full well what the Surgeon General has to say about the potential harms of excessive consumption of various substances.

For centuries audiences were believed capable of knowing that all the extravagant plots and actions they saw on stage carried the invisible warning “Do not repeat this at home”. This begs the questions: when did opera goers regress to gullible masses so that the PC police had to intervene in order to save them from themselves?

Actually, there’s an album out, called Opera's Greatest Drinking Songs and you can – still - buy it on amazon. I recommend readers most strongly to get it. Because who knows for how much longer it will be available if the PC brigades have their way?

 

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