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Just in: State Opera cancels Carmen because ‘it promotes smoking’

October 8, 2014 by norman lebrecht

44 comments.


Even in an age of political correctness and mind control, this ban takes the breath away.

A planned production of Bizet’s Carmen at the State Opera of West Australia has been pulled by the management because it conflicts with a two-year $400,000 partnership with the State Government health promotion agency, Healthway. Carmen is set around a cigarette factory.

Carolyn Chard, West Australian Opera general manager said the decision was “not difficult”.

She added: ‘“We care about the health and wellbeing of our staff, stage performers and all the opera lovers throughout WA, which means promoting health messages and not portraying any activities that could be seen to promote unhealthy behaviour.”

eno carmen

What next – a soft-drinks Meistersinger? Condoms in Lulu?


Comments (44)

  1. Pirkko says:

    Obviously the Aki Kaurismäki movies will be censored soon in Australia. When you cut off all the smoking scenes, a silent Kati Outinen for a minute is all that there’s left…

  2. TR says:

    But stabbing a mezzo is healthy behavior? Wow. Just don’t smoke while you murder your sweetie; THAT would be bad….

  3. Nick says:

    Butts! – oops, I meant Nuts!

    Utterly idiotic! Let’s send a letter to the West Australian Opera and its state government listing all the operas which it will now have to ban because they do not accord with state policy! The Ring cycle with numerous examples of incest would be top of the list if it could afford to produce one. Tosca, Rigoletto, Lucia, Otello, Ballo, Lulu, Poppea, Jenufa, Wozzeck, Grimes will feature as all involve murder – no doubt contrary to State law. What about Samson – mass murder is acceptable? With precedent set, Ms. Chard will have to agree. What a joke!

  4. sdReader says:

    It does!

  5. Neil McGowan says:

    Tony Abbott continues to lead Australia along the path of politically correct insanity.

    1. Ks. Christopher Robson says:

      Tony Abbott continues to lead Australia down under. An idiot and a mysogenist who drove out one of the best prime Minister’s Australia had in recent history. He will destroy his country if he stays much longer!

      1. John says:

        To be fair to Tony Abbott (which is not a phrase I imagined I would ever use!) it was Kevin Rudd who drove Julia Gillard out of the prime ministerial chair…

  6. Stephen Pettitt says:

    Has someone remembered to tell Ms Chard that her company deals in theatrical matters? If she had been really clever she could have colluded with the director to give the production an anti-smoking spin. But then again, yet another Carmen…. ?

  7. John Borstlap says:

    It is unfortunate that opera houses all over the world promote inappropriate role models and behavioral messages regarding gender relations, animal rights issues, and tobacco consumption. But given the current fashion of ‘Regietheater’, a smoke-free Carmen is perfectly possible and fully in line with modern approaches to works of the past. Denis Dutton has proposed some alterations which would render this beautiful work acceptable to postmodern audiences:

    “The first scene takes place in a square in Seville. Young factory workers spill into the street for their morning break of fresh fruit. One of them, the dark Gypsy Carmen, sings a lovely habanera, reminding us that love occurs between all genders, races, and body types. Before returning to the factory, Carmen throws a rose to the Basque soldier, Don José. A fight breaks out between two of the young persons in the factory, and while trying to instruct them on the futility of violence, Carmen is arrested. Don José is ordered to guard her, but she convinces him to allow her to escape, explaining that they are all victims of patriarchal oppression.

    The second act opens in the smoke-free environment of a vegetarian restaurant. Carmen and ethnically-diverse friends are enjoying whole-meal buns and spring water when they are interrupted by the wicked Escamillo, a rich and famous bullfighter. Escamillo sings an aria in praise of wine, cigars, thick steaks, and women. This disgusts the young people, although Carmen is strangely attracted to the bullfighter. Don José arrives and, alone at last, he and Carmen vow to live together. They will respect the importance of protected sex and acknowledge each other’s unique cultural identity. Don José will do the ironing.

    The third act opens in a wild place in the mountains. Carmen, Don José and other members of the Animal Liberation Collective are plotting to end the exploitation of bulls. Don José is enraged when Carmen nobly volunteers to seduce Escamillo, so exhausting him that he will be unable effectively to fight in the bullring. Carmen patiently explains that the lives of many bulls, and the contentedness of cows, is at stake. Escamillo enters and begins a duel with Don José, but the Collective intervenes, insisting that the two men find viable nonviolent means to settle their dispute. The jealous Don José must seek anger-management counselling.

    The final scene returns to Seville. Escamillo’s colorful procession enters the bullring. A dishevelled Don José confronts Carmen. He is suffering from low self-esteem. Counselling has only made his anger worse, recovering repressed childhood memories of satanic rituals, where he was forced to drink blood, eat babies, and smoke cheap, unfiltered cigarettes. Acknowledging his trauma, Carmen insists he begin the healing process by getting a bath and a shave. The two lovers embrace and sing a lovely aria, detailing plans to offer workshops in cultural identity and empowerment. The bull wins.”

    *******

    “The Smoke-Free Carmen” is part of a larger project to update and refresh classic operas for a sophisticated, postmodern audience. Other chapters include “Rigoletto, the Story of a Person with Disabilities” and “The Ring of the Nibelung: Breaking the Cycle of Abuse.”

    1. Kate Brown says:

      John Borstlap, that is pure genius. Can I pinch it (duly acknowledged, of course)?

      1. John Borstlap says:

        …. it’s by Denis Dutton:

        http://denisdutton.com/smoke.htm

    2. Ks. Christopher Robson says:

      Brilliant 🙂

    3. SVM says:

      If only the postmodernist directors that currently rule over the opera houses had as much imagination as Mr Dutton.

  8. RKBB says:

    I think you’ll find that Grimes wasn’t actually convicted of murder, but a verdict of ‘Accidental Circumstances’ was recorded….! That’s how gossip starts…!

  9. Abendroth says:

    Beware, West Australians, the next productions still promote dangerous activities as sedition and murder against legitimate authorities (Tosca), honor killing and war against the Turks (Otello), freemasonry (The Magic Flute), duels, and fratricides (Il trovatore).
    I suggest they try to avoid any opera on dangerous subjects as love, murder, war, politics, prostitution, greek mythology…

  10. RW2013 says:

    Miss Chard remains the most useless woman in any management anywhere.

  11. Peter Freeman says:

    A far simpler solution would have been to change the location, (period?) and libretto to a condom factory. It could still be done, with a little elasticity.

  12. Peter Freeman says:

    And one of them could provide sponsorship in return for the publicity.

  13. Theodore McGuiver says:

    Risible, were it not so pathetic.

  14. Peter Lovett says:

    The stupidity of certain sections of various public bodies continues to amaze me. Just when I thought they could not plumb any further depths they strike again.

  15. Diva says:

    Insanity! What’s next? Let’s ban Madama Butterfly due to poor morals;
    NOT due to Pinkerton’s appauling behaviour, but because Butterfly kills herself at the end! SO Ridiculous!!!

    1. Ellie says:

      I was going to say as much but you beat me to it

  16. Margaret says:

    Why not just change the end so she dies of lung cancer and make it an anti-smoking opera? I mean, if you’re going to bow to political correctness, there are no limits to your idiocy.

  17. 110 says:

    Thank you all for the comments, I don’t remember laughing like this in a very long time.
    Bravo Australia! No wonder is called down under!

  18. RW2013 says:

    I refer to it as the LOL (land of losers).

  19. 2nd violinist says:

    Easy solution, set the opera in the 21st century in an electric cigarette factory. Think of the sponsor opportunities: Carmen and her friends get their nicotine fix the safe way thanks to Acme Electric Ciggies..

    1. Nick says:

      Good idea, but Healthcare is also against safe cigarettes! Mind you, it is also against unhealthy drinking practices. So presumably the WA Opera has drawn up another long list of no-no operas featuring alcohol consumption.

      But it really is not just tobacco and alcohol. As Carolyn Chard told The Australian –

      “she would need to consult with Healthway if the company planned to stage any other productions that depicted unhealthy activities. ‘We’d have a conversation (with Healthway) if we thought it was something that could breach the contract,’ she said.”

      Unhealthy activities? Well does Ms Chard and Healthway consider prostitution as healthy or not? If not, stand by Australian opera lovers! For presumably you will be saying goodbye to productions of operas like Traviata, Thais and The Merry Widow (unless the grisettes are replaced by respectable high-society virgins)?

  20. Fourth Norn says:

    Tony Abbott has nothing to do with it. Australia is a federation, Healthway is a West Australian State government body, and West Australia Opera is a private company.

  21. Martin Cooke says:

    KS. Chris, you have all your facts wrong, Tony Abbott drove out no one and he is happily married to a wife who loves him and he has 3 daughters all who also ove their father. The Federal Govt of Australia has nothing to do with Healthway. I am amazed at your remarks….Martin Cooke BSO Munich

  22. Barbara says:

    Meanwhile across the ditch NZ Opera is performing Don Giovanni. Glad we don’t have Australian Rules

  23. William Safford says:

    I guess then that Il segreto di Susanna won’t be programmed anytime soon….

    1. RW2013 says:

      They wouldn’t even know what that was at the WA opera.

    2. Nick says:

      OMG! The mother-lode! Smoking infidelity resulting in both ending up smoking – and all for love! Enough to see the WA Opera and its patrons splutter in a puff of Götterdämmerung-like conflagration! What corruption!

  24. Karen Pottruff says:

    I forgot what my comment was after going through the signing-in process. Oh yes, I remember, I don’t think an opera should be cancelled because one might get the idea that it promotes smoking. A poor reason, in my humble opinion.

  25. Novagerio says:

    Jeez, the stupidity, illiteracy or even hypocrisy of people in power nowadays doesn’t cease to amaze me. If Carmen propagates smoking, then how about all the drinking in Joh.Strauss’ Fledermaus? Or Verdi’s Falstaff? How about the “propagating” anti-semitism in Nabucco, Samson et Dalila, la Juive? or about propagating incest in Wagner’s Walküre? What’s going to be next when the management in the West Australian Opera discover those operas?….

  26. Alasdair Munro says:

    Siegfried would have to forge a pair of knitting needles to make a blanket(big enough to wrap a dragon in, so it would take quite a while) , and what about the Tarnbonnet?

  27. Novagerio says:

    The “immorality of opera” in general versus the hypocrisy and double-morality of todays annoyingly overdone “political correctness” will never go hand in hand… I certainly hope the moronic people from West Australian Opera read this thread! 3D

    1. RW2013 says:

      To call them moronic is being too kind.
      This is the company that, in their 2011 season brochure, advertised (for 2012) a production of Elektra by Johann Straus (sic)!

      1. Peter Freeman says:

        That is almost as hilarious, RW, as the record company which recently put out a CD of the Verdi Requiem in which the tenor soloist was named as one Jonas Haufmann (sic).

        1. Nick says:

          I assume you refer to the recent Barenboim version on Decca. Unless they have reprinted the cover, Kaufmann’s name is correctly spelled. On first glance it may look like it could be Haufmann, but that is only the font they use. If you check the ‘H’ in “HATERAS” and “ORCHESTRA” it becomes clear they use a ‘K’ for Kaufmann.

  28. Brian says:

    Since smoking pot is a sacred cow among these yahoos, can’t they just depict them smoking joints?
    In Seattle, Gilbert and Sullivan’s MIKADO is now on the index for alleged “yellowface” and uncomplimentary portrayals of Japanese. Won’t be long before the entire corpus of Western Art is unacceptable. Those damn dead white European males!

    1. James Walley says:

      Indeed…this past summer’s (excellent) Mikado from the Seattle G&S Society drew picketers demanding that a) Japanese actors be cast in all the relevant (i.e. all) parts, and b) the libretto be re-written to give all the characters respectable Japanese names. The mind boggles…

  29. Peter Freeman says:

    G&S were clearly attempting to portray insanity on stage to provoke laughter. They were not intending it to be enacted in reality.


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