Royal Opera House, Black Lives Matter

Royal Opera House, Black Lives Matter

Royal Opera House to review classic works as it makes overture to Black Lives Matter

Operas will be assessed for ‘cultural sensitivities’ to ensure they are ‘suitable’ for modern audiences

10/20/2021 1:22:00 AM

The Royal Opera House has pledged to reexamine classic works to make sure future performances account for 'cultural sensitivities'

Operas will be assessed for ‘cultural sensitivities’ to ensure they are ‘suitable’ for modern audiences

But the Royal Opera House has now pledged to reexamine classic works to make sure future performances account for “cultural sensitivities”.Operas in the repertoire will be assessed to ensure that they are “suitable” for modern audiences as part of a raft of reforms drafted in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests.

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The staging, casting, and costumes of classic works will all be reviewed as the Royal Opera House (ROH) seeks to address what it has branded its own “flawed” history.The home to both The Royal Opera and The Royal Ballet is now “taking a fresh look at much of our repertory, including productions which engage with different cultures historically”.

The ROH said: “Our repertory contains a raft of work both contemporary and historical.“To ensure we present these stories in a way that is suitable and enjoyable for modern audiences, both our artistic companies consult widely to ensure that the Royal Opera House takes account of all cultural sensitivities in its staging, casting and presentation of much-loved historic works.”

Productions of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly and Verdi’s Aida by companies around the world have been criticized in the past for casting white performers in the roles of the Japanese geisha and Ethiopian princess respectively.At present, the ROH does not require performers to share the ethnicity of the character they play, but the organisation has said in an “anti-racism pledge” that it will “further debate this approach with staff, artists and experts in the field”.

Currently, the ROH does “not use make-up to suggest or to mask ethnicity”.The ROH has also pledged to ensure “culturally sensitive costuming, wigs, and make-up” by providing costumes and make-up suitable for performers from a range of backgrounds.Black ballet dancers have long pointed out that traditional pink ballet shoes are made to match the skin of white dancers.

The visual staging of classic operas is also set to be reviewed, with the ROH pledging to extend diversity to production design.The work is part of an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy first announced in May 2021, one year after the organisation pledged to take action in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests.

Introducing its plans, the ROH said: “It is important to recognise that our history is flawed and our record on diversity has been inconsistent.”It is stated in the plan that the ROH, which has this week announced a programme to celebrate Black History Month, will work to “ensure our future artistic programming and other activities are rooted in cultural authenticity”.

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For those behind the scenes, the ROH has also confirmed that it has now successfully rolled out compulsory anti-racism training for managers.A spokesman for the ROH said that: “Since we implemented our new strategy in May 2021, equality, diversity and inclusion is now firmly prioritised as a leading pillar of work across all parts of the organisation.

“Compulsory anti-racism training has been rolled out for all managers.“The anti-racism training… is focused on individuals’ experiences, resulting in practical actions.”Other policies outlined in its strategy include “a target of at least 30 roles per season being taken by ethnically diverse singers and at least three to four of these lead or title roles,” in a bid to improve diversity in opera and ballet.

A spokesman for the ROH said: “While we don’t have a quota system at the Royal Opera House, we have stretch targets for employing ethnically diverse people as creative practitioners and performers.” Read more: The Telegraph »

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