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Saturday, 25 October 2014

Perth opera company drops Bizet's "Carmen" for "smoking reasons"

Name an opera - a French one.

The chances are it'll be Georges Bizet's "Carmen" - famous among opera aficianados and those not so "in the know" if you like.

It's staged regularly worldwide and in fact - get this - is, according to Operabase, a company to which over 700 opera houses report their performances, only second (for the 2014-15 season) behind  Giuseppe Verdi's "La traviata".

It'll be performed at some of the most prestigious venues during the current season, including New York's Metropolitan opera, Dresden's Semperoper, La Scala in Milan,  and Prague, Hamburg, Madrid, Budapest, Saint Peterburg, London, Berlin...and so the list goes on.

Anna Caterina Antonacci (screenshot from "Carmen" at the Royal Opera House in London, 2013)

But, although it was also scheduled to be performed in Perth, Western Australia, the powers that be have decided to "cancel" it for the next two years.

And for, what on the face of it...and even when delving a little deeper...seems to be the most extraordinary - and not to say, ridiculous - of reasons.


The opera, which debuted in 1875 is partially set in and around a tobacco factory in the Spanish city of Seville with portrayals of smoking in the setting, action, libretto and least during the first act.

And that's apparently reason enough for the West Australia Opera Company to drop it from its schedules.

You see, from March 2015, the (state-owned) company has a two-year A$400,000 (around €270,000) partnership deal with the Western Australian government health agency  - Healthway.

West Australian Opera general manager Carolyn Chard said the company had voluntarily made the change to its schedule to accommodate Healthway's policies, describing it as "not difficult".

"We care about the health and wellbeing of our staff, stage performers and all the opera lovers throughout Western Australia," said Chard, adding that the decision had been a "voluntary" one to fit in with Heathway's policies.

Healthway chairwoman, Rosanna Capolingua, praised the decision, although she stressed that no pressure had been put on the opera company to drop "Carmen".

“The portrayal of smoking on stage, in film and on TV normalises smoking and presents it as being attractive, which could dissuade smokers from quitting and encourage young people to take it up.” she said.

What a lot of tosh - at least when it comes to an opera that has been so consistently performed down the decades.


Here's a clip of the most famous aria, "Habanera" from "Carmen", performed in 2013 at the Opéra Bastille in Paris and featuring Italian soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci in the title role.

Yes, she was blonde.

No, she didn't light up.

1 comment:

Udy Regan said...

This is really quite ridiculous. For a play that is such a classic like this to be tossed aside like old furniture into a self storage pod.. It's horrendous to hear about!

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