Composers lead disruption of Covent Garden opera

Two protestors, who named themselves as composers Kate Honey and Dr Chris Garrard, held up a banner and chanted slogans on Wednesday night at the end of the first interval of La Bohème. Others continued the protest outside.

The banners read ‘End Oil Sponsorship’ and were aimed at BP, a major sponsor of the ROH and the British Museum.

Honey said: ‘By accepting BP’s money, the Royal Opera House is giving BP a legitimacy that it does not deserve. With this ‘social license’, BP is able to keep drilling for new sources of oil that will push us into runaway climate change, putting my generation’s future at risk. As composers and musicians, I feel it is our responsibility to defend classical music from appropriation by corporate criminals like BP.’

Garrard added: ‘The conductor Claudio Abbado once said, ‘Everything that is not for freedom, I protest’. By supporting repressive regimes in West Papua and Azerbaijan, BP has made it clear that it is not on the side of freedom. BP should have no place in our cultural institutions when these are spaces where freedom of expression is celebrated. This is why I felt called to protest BP’s presence at the Royal Opera House.’

 

BP-banner-in-opera-house (1)

Photo by @yanniknaud

The FT reports: The Royal Opera House, which said BP had been with it “through thick and thin” with a partnership beginning in 1988, said it had begun the staff consultation process on sponsorship renewal.

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  • Interesting that they protest BP’s role in climate change. In 2010, BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill ran for 87 days with a total discharge of 4.9 million barrels or 780,000 cubic meters – the largest accidental oil spill in history.

    In November 2012, BP settled federal criminal charges pleading guilty to 11 counts of manslaughter, and a felony count of lying to Congress. As of February 2013, criminal and civil settlements and payments to a trust fund had cost the company $42.2 billion.

    In September 2014, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that BP was primarily responsible for the oil spill because of its gross negligence and reckless conduct. The ruling could result in additional penalties as high as $18 billion, reportedly with grave implications for BP’s future.

  • The protesters are right in principle, however it is a theoretical principle. As we know, repressive regimes may be, in certain circumstances in underdeveloped countries, be better, or rather: less awful, than the freedom we have witnessed in Egypt, Lybia, and Irak. Freedom has become a slogan without meaning if the context is absent. And then, to disrupt a Puccini opera is completely besides the point: neither the performers, nor Mr Puccini, have anything to do with complex political situations that their sponsors are or are not dealing with. They should have restricted their idealism to the outside of the building, or write an opera themselves about the subject and try to get it performed.

    The last time an opera performance was heckled, was in the eighties, when a group of young composers disrupted an opera by Birtwistle. THAT was a far better cause for such action.

  • I agree in ways with all above, but isn’t it a sorry state of affairs that our art institutions have become so reliant on corporate largesse? It must be almost impossible to weed out the bad actors-though BP should have been an obvious red flag.
    And why shouldn’t artists (even Puccini tenors) concern themselves with the basic integrity of their presenters? This idea that musicians exist in a rarified bubble, apart from the real world, is limiting and somewhat depressing.

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