Israeli orchestra drops singer because she's female

Israeli orchestra drops singer because she's female


norman lebrecht

October 05, 2011

An extraordinary story from Ashdod in Israel, where the Andalusian Orchestra has cancelled a soloist, Francoise Atlan (below), under pressure from Orthodox religious groups, who refuse to listen to the female voice.

According to rabbinic sources, the female singing voice is an erotic indulgence. Religious men are forbidden to listen.

The orchestra, which plays traditional sephardic music, will, in future, only offer a female singer as an alternate, non-subscription option.

Here’s the story in Haaretz.

Francoise Atlan - 05102011


  • Rosana Martins says:

    If some rabbis in Israel forbid women to sing in public, there’s nothing one can do, besides writing about it. It seems absurd as a law, but it’s their choice.

    In Rio de Janeiro, my great grandfather forbade his daughter from becoming an opera singer, because he considered indecent all women who went on stage!!!

  • Mati Braun says:

    I am not surprised- the religion always manipulate the life of the Israelis.
    Is it OK to use a female singer as alternate?
    They always had more demands then obligations to the country.
    I am an Israeli and always resented their behavior.

  • Matthew says:

    This is a collective clinical psychosis. There’s no other way to see it. There’s simply no way to say, “This is a valid alternate way of viewing reality.”

    Allowing them to raise their own kids is child abuse, but there’s nothing to be done about it. There are too many of them now.

    You know, Norman, between these people and the evangelicals, I really don’t want to be in this world any more. They’ve spoiled it all for me. I mean, how can reality possibly be this way? How can human beings with functioning nervous systems behave like this? How are they even walking around, getting through life day-to-day? Why aren’t they in psychiatric facilities? It’s all just too much..

  • David Snyder says:

    Religion is both the opiate and the millstone of the people. Art and the life of the mind is its salvation, but it seems the people push it away. The real tragedy is to see things like this connected with Israel, a modern nation founded in response to cultural and religious bigotry. Shame! Shame!

  • At least they have a religious reason. The Vienna Phil forbade women until 1997 because they felt being all-male made them a better ensemble. In the following 14 years they’ve only hired four women. They also discriminate against Asian musicians because they feel they would destroy the orchestra’s image of Austrian authenticity. Thousands of Asians have obtained degrees from Vienna’s University of Music.

  • Oh, please! “At least they have a religious reason” is not an excuse in my books. What if Vienna Phil had a religious reason for discrimination? How on earth would it make it any better?!?!? Come on! Religion seems to give everyone an excuse to be stupid or hold their stone-age beliefs. People you have brain so please use it and don’t shift the responsibility to a religious authority or a book. At least when we are talking about Vienna Phil we are talking about living people and their opinion that we can influence and eventually change. Divine decrees cannot be changed. Which one now looks more stupid to you?

    • Actually, I couldn’t agree with you more, Sasha. Religious sexism (and racism) is no better than any other. All the same, to split hairs, the religious stance is presumably based on the belief that women distract men with dirty thoughts, while the VPO’s belief is that women are inherently musically inferior. I find the latter more disturbing.

      Since you are a conductor, perhaps you can answer a question for me. Given the VPO’s overt sexsim, why do all of the famous conductors fall over themselves to conduct the orchestra? Can you name one that has refused?

  • David says:

    Not so simple.

    This orchestra’s subscription base is a traditional audience.
    They consider listening to a live performance by a female singer unacceptable.

    The orchestra said that they will instead present this program to an audience that does not feel compromised by it.

    Why call this coercion?

    No one forced them to do anything and no one is objecting to their presenting this program to any other audience.