Breaking: Another London opera house issues sex warning

April 28, 2016 by norman lebrecht


Following the Covent Garden fuss over blood and sex in Lucia di Lammermoor, it appears that Sadler’s Wells has also caught a cold.

Here’s what ticket-buyers are being told:
Thank you for booking for Natalia Osipova at Sadler’s Wells Theatre. We are writing to you to let you know about some developments with the production.

As you may be aware, all of the work shown in the evening is brand new. It has been brought to our attention that one of the works, Arthur Pita’s piece entitled Run Mary Run, will contain scenes of an adult nature, including brief scenes of simulated drug use.

Since when did ballet require an X certificate?

Why are opera houses treating us like children?
natalia osipova

Comments (19)

  1. Emil Archambault says:

    “Why are opera houses treating us like children?”
    Because bloggers like you criticise them when they don’t issue warnings, as in the case of William Tell? Because people like you claim to be offended by sex on stage?

    1. norman lebrecht says:

      No… we never did. But don’t let me disrupt your fantasy.

        1. norman lebrecht says:

          It was the gratuitous rape we criticised, not the lack of warning.

          1. Daphne Badger says:

            But one man’s ‘gratuitous’ is another man’s ‘valid response to the context of the libretto’, no? So Mr Archimbault’s point stands. You cannot damn them when they do and damn them when they don’t. Not that that premise stops any other self-proclaimed ‘cultural commentator’, I suppose…

          2. Una says:

            And I saw Lucia in the cinema on Monday, and I thought it was just dreadful, totally distracting, and gratuitous, and little to do with what Donizetti intended – and I speak as a singer who has been in many a whacky production and not as a prude. Using one’s imagination is by far more powerful, not having it all thrown in your face on a split stage. And poeople will disgree with me, and say I am naive just because I don’t conform. So be it …

            Again I think some of you have misunderstood Norman’s turn of phrase, sex warning, and also missed his wry British humour – well, it made me laugh when I read it for I knew exactly what Norman was saying, even if it didn’t involve simulate sex in pyjama-type clothes in time with the musical beat!

            Also more cynically, the fact that there warnings that come out just fill up the opera seats by many who wouldn’t normally go – remember the play in London many years ago – The Romans!

            Roll on Part 2 of Opera North’s Ring tomorrow night, and no one hanging off the ceiling, and we can hear what WAGNER had to say, not a producer cashing in to make his or her mark at the expense of the composer.

    2. flipthefrog says:

      Because some of us might want to bring our children?

      1. pooroperaman says:

        To serious, grown-up art. Why?

        1. Frederick West says:

          I’m with Una regarding the Opera North cycle, it’s a terrific performance indeed and I got just as much out of the plot in its stripped-down production. I shall be champing at the bit for Walküre tonight.
          And for £12.50 per opera, it must be the bargain of all time (OK, I did pay for more expensive seats…. But there were a good number available at the bargain price).

        2. Pablo Romero says:

          Because that’s the best way to prepare children to appreciate serious, grown-up art.

  2. John Borstlap says:

    The silliness of such productions is that opera houses try to compete with late-night ‘explicit’ TV movies who also try to get some of the attention of the comatose couch potatoes with as much simulated ‘adult content’ as possible, the worst of which is the simulated violence. If stage directors cannot invent something better than this, where will it end? And how could future audiences see the difference between a real attack upon them (as happened in Paris) and sensationalist opera staging?

    1. Holly Golightly says:

      It’s generally referred to in some circles as “konzept” – a very negative term relating to OTT productions which are all about the director and not so much about the music, and which generally originate in Europe (mostly Germany).

      1. MDS says:

        Yes, I’m quite sure we’re aware of that.

  3. Robert Holmén says:

    Those “warnings” are promotion.

    It gets media attention in places they would never get noticed otherwise.

    1. Cale Wiggins says:

      Spot on.

    2. Marg says:

      Agree. But it’s also insulting to adults, as Norman suggests

    3. Matt says:


      When alcohol was outlawed in the US under Prohibition, vintners sold concentrated grape juice bricks with labels “warning” customers:

      “After dissolving the brick in a gallon of water, do not place the liquid in a jug away in the cupboard for twenty days, because then it would turn into wine.”

      See, e.g.,

  4. Antony says:

    I feel the title is a quite misleading: “ANOTHER LONDON OPERA HOUSE ISSUES SEX WARNING” Firstly, Sadler’s Wells is billed as “London’s dance house” on its own website link, and is not an opera house, but a venue of renown for dance (yes, with the occasional opera being performed there). Secondly, the warning was not even over an opera production, but a ballet, starring Natalia Osipova, as is clearly stated. It may be a similar warning as Tell or Lucia, but it’s in relation to a dance work, not an opera. Thirdly, it is not a “SEX WARNING” as it mentions “scenes of an adult nature, including brief scenes of simulated drug use”. I don’t read any reference to sex in Mr Lebrecht’s story. As there is no link in the piece, I will take at face value what is written, and there is no sex mentioned in the quote from Sadler’s Wells, and the venue is not an opera house, by its own admission.

    1. Paul says:

      Not the first time that Mr. Lebrecht has misled his readers with a sensational, but inaccurate headline. I enjoy reading your articles sir, but respectfully ask you to hold yourself to a higher standard.

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