‘Pale, male and stale’ – triple fear stalks the opera profession

June 19, 2018 by norman lebrecht


From a Telegraph interview with the soprano Danielle DeNiese:

De Niese said she had heard ‘even wonderful, esteemed’ colleagues and friends worry that they ‘might not get a chance at a job because ‘I’m pale, male and stale’’.

The singer added: ‘I had a conversation with an American artist who said: ‘If I was more ethnic I’d definitely be working more’. I was taken aback. They didn’t mean it to be judgemental at all. But it’s a natural thing for people to feel frightened that their opportunities will be taken away to afford opportunities for others.’

Read on here.


Comments (18)

  1. Artist says:

    Of course, if you read the rest of the article that is not quoted here, instead of the most clickbait and alt-right bait portion of it which is, DeNiese makes it quite clear how ridiculous a position that is. I recommend to all readers to read the entire article, as DeNiese makes great points about opportunity and giving more people seats at the table. As a pale, male, and hopefully not so stale artist myself, I welcome these voices because they have been silenced for far far too long.

    1. Mike Schachter says:

      Few would have thought that she would subscribe to that view, but many doe including those who make decisions about the arts..

    2. Sue says:

      If name-calling is all you’ve got, your cupboard is bare.

    3. Schwalde Hochküst says:

      Can you name, let’s say, five specific singers who have been silenced because of their sex/skin/race?

  2. kanhu charan says:

    The full Summerfest lineup and timetable can be found on the

  3. Derek says:

    Danielle De Niese seems to be a very positive minded person and in that, she sets a good example wouldn’t you say?

  4. Robert Holmén says:

    Hasn’t it always been this way?

    It was only that, in the past, white people could be “more ethnic” for classical music purposes just by having a strongly European-sounding name.

    Something with strangely-spelled with several syllables, a conspicuous middle name, or perhaps an accent in it.

    1. Sharon says:

      A principal ballet dancer told me that even in the seventies he billed himself as Italian and used an Italian stage name rather than as Argentinian, which he was, because even in the seventies Hispanic dancers could not get jobs in mainstream classical professional ballet companies

      1. John Borstlap says:

        An old tradition….. many of the members of the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo (twenties) had ‘Russian’ names but were English, or French, etc. Also members of the original Ballets Russes of Diaghilev (early 20C) were not Russian but assumed Russian names. They danced in Russian style, however, so nobody noticed.

  5. Bruce says:

    “For those people who may have always had access to opportunity, the idea that those slots may not automatically be theirs any more would, I guess, make them rather anxious.”

    She has a good point — I think that explains much of the current backlash against hiring women or minorities. If you only had to compete against other white males in the past — and goodness knows, that’s already quite competitive — how would it feel to know you also have to compete against non-whites and non-males? Suddenly, instead of having to be the best out of 5 candidates, you have to be the best out of 20. I can see how that would be anxiety-provoking.

  6. Bruce says:

    Another quote:

    “The great shame is not that we can name Schubert, Beethoven, Bach, but we will never know whether there was another one like that who happened to be female because there was not a place in society that allowed a woman to flourish in that way.

    “For me, that’s the sadness. If you don’t have those stories going down through the generations, it’s like you’ve got a door and there’s no key. In fact there’s no keyhole even.”

    1. Mike Schachter says:

      This is certainly true, also of artist and playwrights and slightly less of other writers. But we can’t replay history and all we hope for is a better future rewarding talent of any gender or race, and not obsessing about quotas.

      1. Phillip says:

        Complete and utter garbage.

        1. Phillip says:

          That was meant to be in reply to Bruce, not Mike.

  7. A Nonny Mouse says:

    How come the right-wing media is so very good at spinning what’s really an appeal for women’s equal opportunity into an attack on men?

    1. Rich Patina says:

      Perhaps it is because the current narrative seems to be largely, “Men bad. Women good.”

  8. David A. Boxwell says:

    As well as being members of the Ale & Quail Club.

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