Dress code: Woman in niqab ‘is asked to leave the Opera’

Dress code: Woman in niqab ‘is asked to leave the Opera’


norman lebrecht

October 19, 2014

Reports from Paris say that a couple from the Gulf were asked to leave the Bastille in the middle of a performance of La Traviata after the woman refused to remove her face covering.

The pair were seated in the most expensive seats, costing 231 Euros each.

Jean-Philippe Thiellay, deputy director of the Opéra, said the woman had entered the auditorium unnoticed. He was obliged to take action because a French law, enacted in 2011, forbids full facial covering in public. Offenders can be fined 150 Euros and forced to attend a course in citizenship.

Thiellay said he sent an official to speak to the lady, whose husband spoke on her behalf. The husband agreed that they should leave and did not ask for a refund.

He was prompted to act, apparently, after a complaint from chorus members who did not like performing for a faceless audience member.

You wonder how they get through Ballo in Maschera.



  • “…a complaint from chorus members who did not like performing for a faceless audience member…”

    That’s getting very mean-spirited.

    How about if she covered her face with a fan?

  • newyorker says:

    I speak as a devoted liberal when I say: I mourn for the imminent death of Liberalism.

    • Walter Flood says:

      And I speak as a mourning European when I say: This has nothing do to with Europe as I knew it, and how the h*ll did we end up here.

      And I’m of course talking about the women in the niqab – not the chorus members who did what any sensible person would do when they see a slave, as this women is.

      • Neil McGowan says:

        I hope you’re going to be just brave and liberal when it comes to slinging Orthodox Jewish women out of the Opèra for wearing wigs? You’re not? Why’s that, then?

        • Walter Flood says:

          1) It’s a difference between a wig and a balaclava. A notable one, I would say.

          2) Niqab is forbidden in France. Of course this couple knew this very well – I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the last word of the story – the professional anti-racists are already gearing up I can imagine, can’t wait calling the staff at the Bastille racist for simply obeying the law.

          • Neil McGowan says:

            No, it has nothing to do with balaclavas.

            You specifically called her a ‘slave’. What makes her a ‘slave’, that differs from a Jewish Orthodox woman wearing a wig.

            I call you out on that.

          • Dave T says:

            @Neil McGowan Why would you consider the wearing of a wig by an Orthodox Jewish woman slavery? How would that even enter your mind and a riposte to the previous assertion? And why do you have to drag the Jews into it?
            It seams to me, having read many of your posts, that you don’t particularly like Jews. Could you explain why that is?

        • Susan Trexel says:

          There is no law against wearing wigs in public in France. Even if there were a law against wearing wigs in general, almost certainly an exception would be made for wigs worn for the purpose of tzniut, which is a religious expression. (According to the Talmud tzniut is a biblical requirement.)

          The niqāb is not generally regarded as a form of religious expression. The wearing of the niqāb may be usually done by women of the Islamic faith, but it is not an expression of religious practice. This garment, and the practice of completely covering the face of women, is generally understood as a remnant of ancient tribal practices, i.e., social rather than religious.

          • Walter Flood says:

            @Neil McGowan: It is very difficult – indeed impossible – to discuss aspects of Islam with a person who has never even held a copy of the Quran in his hands.

            In this case, chapter 33, verses 53 and 54 will give you the answers, also to she absurd fact that the man “spoke on behalf of his wife”.

            This women can’t talk to men because they can be tempted. She must be fully covered so men can’t be tempted.

            “Freedom” doesn’t apply in this case. “Freedom” for women is long gone in the Muslim part of the world, and can not be rescued by suicidal tolerance in Western European countries.

            Slavery is the right word. A slave of the religion, a slave of the husband. The only freedom they have is to limit their own rights, not to expand them. That is not freedom.

          • Neil McGowan says:

            @ ‘Walter Flood’

            It is almost very difficult – if not impossible – to discuss this question with someone who has never held in his hands a copy of the score of La Traviata

            To hear Violetta Valérie described among these comments as variously a ‘whore’, and a ‘prostitute’ shows the utmost ignorance of Verdi’s work – and of the novel by Dumas on which the opera is based. [In fact, the heroine of the novel is named Marguerite, and is based on a real personality known closely to Dumas.]

            The novel is plea for tolerance, understanding and forgiveness. Verdi himself had experienced vicious bigotry and intolerance regarding his own personal life (causing him to have to flee his attackers), and his choice of this story (which he specifically set ‘in the present day’) was no accident. The opera presents an object lesson in the disasters which lay in wait for haters and bigots – which are revisited upon them. Germont’s father not only destroys the life of his son’s lover – but ruins his own son’s life too… for the sake of some mysterious code of ‘honour’.

            Perhaps you know the tunes from La Traviata, or have even twiddled them on the piano a little? But sadly, you’ve learned nothing from the experience, and the opera and its plangent message means nothing to you at all.


            I don’t single you out, here, ‘Walter’. This posting is addressed similarly to the rest here who have cheered on the public humiliation of a woman at a grand event in Paris…. claiming that she ‘deserved’ everything that happened to her.


            Watch this opera. It’s about you.

        • Walter Flood says:

          @Nick McGowan:

          So you think radical Islam need more tolerance and understanding in Europe. I’m glad most people think you’re an absolute n*tter.

          • Neil McGowan says:

            I understand that you’re annoyed about my comprehensive take-down of your hate-fuelled screed, Walter. It must be disappointing when someone holds the ragged holes in your ideas up to the light of scrutiny.

            But don’t take it to heart, eh? Let me give you a tip.

            Calling people who don’t agree with you “nutters” doesn’t advance your cause. Nor does deliberately misspelling their names. Doing that only serves to present yourself in a very poor light. It’s a light that also taints the vile cause you represent (if it were possible for it to be even further discredited).

            BTW, Walter – I have entirely trashed your arguments on the other thread too, by using reference to the actual opera these actual people actually went to see… rather than empty garbage about aftershave?? Go and have a read? I know you’ll love it, Walter, baby!!

        • Walter Flood says:

          Dear Neil McGowan,

          the “trashing” of my arguments remains as much an illusion as your belief in the freedom of this women. I wish you all the best in your defense for radical Islam in Europe. They really need all the help they can get these days. My tip is to cover up your wife and daughters before somebody else do it.

          As a liberal person you must be proud to be the only in this thread one standing up for the most misogynist ideology the world has ever seen. Must make you feel something special, eh?

          • Neil McGowan says:

            A bad loser to the end, eh, Walter?

            I see you’re still determined to trash your own cause by holding a shouting-match, instead of advancing arguments. It’s clearly pointless continuing any kind of ‘debate’ with a racist of your kind, so I’ll leave the last word to you.

            By the way, I’m bald. Maybe you’d like to make use of that in your final ad hominem screed?! Since you are clearly flailing for lack of material!! Bwaaaahahahahaha!!!!

        • Walter Flood says:

          @Neil McG Bad loser? You know, Neil, the old saying is that “arguing on the internet is like competing in the Special Olympics. Even though you win, you’re still a retard.”

          So enjoy the victory! Congrats!

  • harold braun says:

    Totally appropiate reaction by Opera bastille.People should respect the laws and traditions of the countries they visit!

  • Rémi says:

    This is the law in our coutry, whether you, she, or any body else likes it or not. In her country, no one would dare to break the law for fear of losing a hand or one’s head.

    • Neil McGowan says:

      Looks like you’ve got a shameful ‘law’ in your country.

      • Edgar Brenninkmeyer says:

        Don’t jump to rash judgment, even if you do not like the law. Maybe opera houses need to reserve loges so that audience members practicing particular religious dress codes can see and hear opera without being seen? The person in question here should know what she was getting into by traveling to France. She’d better travel to Venice.

        • Anonymus says:

          Tell me you are ironic, right?
          Why the hell should someone provide for religious nutters who like to subjugate women?
          Reading through some comments here one wonders if some people got stuck 200 years ago, when religion in fact superseded law. Thankfully today religion is a private matter and does not supersede public law in any form. Who are these people her who’s minds are still in the middle ages?

      • Max Grimm says:

        If there is something as certain as death and taxes, it’s that every single country on the face of this planet has a plethora of comical/strange/ridiculous/shameful/incomprehensible laws. Whether one agrees with them or not is of no relevance, as one will invariably be expected to abide by them…that’s life and as the Americans say, “Life’s a b*tch”.

  • Susan Trexel says:

    The masks worn in Un ballo in maschera generally do not cover the entire face, because the singers need their mouths exposed so they can be heard. Further, a performer on stage is not “in public” in the sense that an audience member is. For example, a stage production might include nudity, which would be legal (and protected expression) on stage, but an audience member could hardly expect to be allowed into the dress circle totally starkers.

    The niqāb is not generally regarded as being prescribed by Islam; in other words, the wearing of this garment is cultural, rather than a religious expression. The law against the wearing of face-concealing garments in public has been upheld in French courts, and of course there are exceptions to the law based on practical considerations. For example, motorcycle riders and welders are allowed to wear in public helmets that completely conceal the face, and wearing of masks (including those that conceal the entire face) is permitted at certain types of public carnival events.

  • Tim Walton says:

    It should be the law in the UK as well.

    A male wouldn’t be allowed to walk into a bank with his crash helmet still on.

  • albert landa says:

    What an utterly stupid remark.A wig does not conceal the face.That is the nub of the matter.
    Don’t you get it? Stupid.

    • Neil McGowan says:

      I challenged his description of this lady as a ‘slave’.

      If you cannot advance an argument – and just fall back on personal insults – it shows that your case has failed.

  • Herrera says:

    A woman in a niqab at an opera about a prostitute.

  • CDH says:

    As the couple were tourists, it appears they may not have been familiar with the law — their uncomplaining compliance suggests the will to go along with a law. To them it may not have been that ridiculous, even if antipathetic — they would be aware that in some parts of their region, western women are required to follow their dress codes while visiting. I wonder if an unsuitably attired woman in all the Gulf States would simply be asked to cover appropriately and then allowed to carry on if she complied without argument. This woman could have removed her face covering to comply with French law, but opted not to, and preferred to withdraw.

    Not the place to debate the law, the opera house. The choristers’ motives are not stated. They had law on their side, and it sounds as if the visitors behaved in a very civilised fashion.

    I can’t see why France has any less right to set public dress codes than the Gulf States and other countries. Not saying “if you can be illiberal, so can we” is necessarily a thought to live by. But societies have always set some store by dress. For much of my lifetime a woman could not enter a Catholic church without head covering. That has changed, at least in the west. Perhaps some other codes will, in time.

  • Disproportionate Response says:

    Vive la France!

    To call this woman a “lady” is rather generous. She’s nothing but a poor, brainwashed minion. Every self-respecting democratic nation should deport this ilk to any Islamic country of their choice.

    • Neil McGowan says:

      la France! To call this woman a “lady” is rather generous. She’s nothing but a poor, brainwashed minion

      Let me see – you are the same faction as Anonymus, Milker (“an ignorant stupid woman”), Albert, Herrera and the rest, who claim to be speaking up for this lady’s downtrodden rights… while simultaneously trashing her with viciously female-denigrating vocabulary that has no place on a public internet forum?

      Thanks!!! With you and Milker here, you’re going my job for me!!

  • rémi says:

    And what Exactly is your argument in this case?

  • albert landa says:

    The niqab does not make a woman a “slave” per se.The perception of “slave” arises out of the degree of oppression that muslim women suffer in many islamic countries.The image of a completely covered eoman walking several paces behind her husband (or father, or brother, or male child) her eyes downcast feeds into this impression.This is not to mention other aspects of female oppression and maltreatment which contribute to this perception of treatment which amounts to emotional, material, physical,and psychological enslavement.It is these things which many a Westerner reflects on when he sees a woman wearing these absurd garments.

  • milka says:

    The whole game of wearing this ridiculous outfit one can only suspect
    is to start up controversy –first the
    most expensive seats where one would be seen immediately and start a
    commotion..notice they weren’t
    lost in the cheap seats crowd secondly
    how this so called music lover with
    all this material draped over her head
    was going to hear the music as it is meant to be heard– two ears without
    drapery distorting the sound would
    raise suspicion as to why she was there in the first place .
    Whether she is a slave or not is another question -that she is an ignorant stupid woman to allow
    herself to be subjected so is a given .
    For those outraged by the couple being evicted take a blanket drape it over your head and try to accept the sound .Give you less than 5 minutes .
    And why this opera ???In polite hypocritical circles the leading character is “a fallen woman ” in street terms a high priced whore . And this
    couple coming from a society where
    “fallen women ” are stoned to death
    are at a performance of Traviata ????
    You will notice the husband spoke
    on her behalf …smells of a set up …….

  • Disproportionate Response says:

    These garments, clearly designed for nothing but the denigration and subjugation of women ought to be outlawed in every democratic country.

  • erika says:

    My comment doesn’t concern the law or the implications of it. My wonder is, as an experienced chorister myself, how the heck would someone SEE this?? Presumably in a darkened house, you really can’t see beyond the 1st 5 rows or so…so how would someone slip in “unnoticed”? And why the heck would you take the time to complain about it??? Either someone is the scapegoat or someone needs to worry more about their job on stage & less about the house! (IMO)

  • Anonymus says:

    How does anybody know it was a woman under that niqab? It could have been a man or a well behaved chimpanze.
    I always wondered how much of the prevalence of this full body cover in certain parts of the world has to do with it being convenient for meeting homosexuals under circumstances where discovery would be fatal…