Sir Jonathan Miller has lashed out at the US political correctness brigade who forced the cancellation of a Mikado production because it did not employ ethnic Japanese singers.

Sir JM tells Nick Clark in tomorrow’s Indy: 


jonathan miller

‘It is amazing that anyone who could think the operetta was Japanese could find their way to the bus stop.’

He adds: ‘Anyone who can find their own way to the lavatory without advice will know perfectly well it has no connection whatever with the Japanese; there’s nothing Japanese about it from start to finish. It’s not racist.’

Read more on the subject here.


The city of  Chongqing now has the largest piano museum in China. It opened on Tuesday with 200 historic pianos of various periods, including one that was owned by Camille Saint-Saens.

Yundi Li is the museum’s honorary director.

yundi li piano museum

Speight Jenkins, the former Seattle Opera director, is worried that the most experienced character actors in opera are being replaced by cheaper, younger substitutes. He has written a thoughtful, detailed essay on the risks:

The other day one of the excellent character artists in opera wrote me that he was going into another business: he likes to perform in the United States, but many companies, both large and small, have stopped engaging mature performers and were using young artists instead. This could be much more a disaster to opera than it might seem.


strauss salome five jews

[..] Some character roles demand mature voices and could easily harm young and still settling voices. Take the five Jews in Salome, four of whom are tenors. Strauss created some of the most difficult small roles in opera for only a few minutes for each because he believed opera would always take place in repertory opera companies where there were plenty of singers who could ideally fill the roles during an eleven-month season. That was the case, certainly in Europe, in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Our current American system in which everyone in the cast is assembled from scratch in almost all of our opera houses never occurred to him. The fact remains: if any one of the Jews can’t handle the difficult vocal line, it harms the whole, and these are parts that should not be sung by developing voices.

Read Speight’s full article here and share your thoughts below.


Slipped Disc editorial

A production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado has been withdrawn in New York after activists demanded it should be played and sung by Asian performers, rather than non-Asians pretending to be Japanese.

The New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players (NYGASP) appear to have caved in at the first hint of protest, fearing to provoke a substantial minority group.

Both sides, it seems, have lost the plot.


Mikado is pure parody. It is a send-up of the British ruling classes in the late 19th century and has much to say about their successors today. Its Japanese setting is a theatrical gimmick, no more racially defining than the Cornish village in the Pirates of Penzance. Victorian audiences, for whom it as written, understood that it was aimed at their system of governance and their own acquiescence to it.  No UK production that we have seen – most durably Jonathan Miller’s at ENO – raised a scintilla of suspicion that the absence of Asian actors was discriminatory or distortive.

Yet this is the mind-warping nonsense we read from those in New York who would forcibly recast it: White privilege is telling the stories of people of color and crowding out their actual, lived narratives. Even when those stories come from a place of prejudice, as with Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado, they can be told in ways that highlight the legacy of white supremacy and give voices to people of color.

There is no earthly reason for Mikado to be sung by ethnic Japanese any more than Cio-cio san, Suzuki and half the cast of Madam Butterfly should be restricted to singers of the same ethnicity. The New York cancellation of Mikado has nothing do to with the work itself. It is never a good sign when a company cancels a production under pressure. Both the outcry and the outcome reflect racial confusions in that city, at this time.

It may be that New York needs a new Mikado now more than ever before.


UPDATE: More reaction here.


A Hong Kong university student faced a long investigation and the threat of a huge fine for carrying his cello on the East Rail Line. Ho Ka-yeung says plain-clothes officials measured the cello case and declared it 4cm too long.

This is, alarmingly, the third such incident on Hong Kong’s public transportation system this week.

Read a full account here, and please be careful where you take your cello.


piano cello house


The Chinese conductor Yu Long  will share the Global Citizen Award in New York on October 1 with the former secretary of state Henry Kissinger.

Kissinger, you won’t need to be reminded, took President Nixon to China.

Yu Long is being recognised ‘for his contributions to bridging the East-West gap through classical music’.


The most influential conductor in China, Yu Long, 51 is simultaneously artistic director of Beijing Music Festival  and the China Philharmonic Orchestra, music director of the Shanghai and Guangzhou symphony orchestras, and co-director of the MISA Shanghai Summer Festival.

Sending a message of good wishes to Jewish viewers for the fast of Yom Kippur this week, Chicago station WGNNews posted this image behind the newsreader.

jude badge

It’s the badge that Jews were forced to wear in Nazi Germany and German-occupied countries, prior to their deportation to the death camps.

The station said later it ‘failed to recognize that the image was an offensive Nazi symbol.’

Do be careful where you get your news.

Here’s an apology from the station’s general manager and news director. They don’t seem much the wiser.

When Lothar Koengs finishes his term at the end of this season, his successor as music director of Welsh National Opera will be Tomáš Hanus.

The Czech, 45, has guest-conducted widely in Europe but he has only ever been music director of a company for two years, in Brno, and he has conducted the WNO orchestra just once – in a cathedral concert. Could be interesting.

Tomáš Hanus

(The agent is IMG Artists.)

UPDATE: IMG breakout agent Libby Abrahams reports Hanus is now with her boutique agency, Keynote.

Some business-class quotes from opening night:

Jacques Brand, Deutsche Bank CEO (North America) and a Met Opera advisory board member:

‘Tonight we enjoyed an opera composed by an Italian, based on a British play, brought to life by an American director, conducted by a French Canadian, and performed by a cast of Serbians, Bulgarians, Latvians and others. I can tell you, working for a global organization, this is the kind of collaboration on a global scale that we all strive for.’ (Deutsche Bank has been lead sponsor of the Met’s opening night for 15 years.)

Julie Macklowe, former hedge-fund manager: ‘We just care that they have enough money that we can still come.’

Daisy Soros, Met advisory director, on plans to give Sunday performances: ‘If (finance people) come during the week, they fall asleep; on Sundays, they’re alive.’

met seats

Full business-class report from Amanda Gordon on Bloomberg, here.


alexander malofeev

His name’s Alexander Malofeev and he’s supposed to be 13 years old, though he doesn’t look it.

Uncannily mature, he’s a pupil of Larissa Gergeieva and he has worked several times with her brother. He’s now taking time off school to appear at Larissa’s current festival in the Gergievs’ home province, north Ossetia. Watch.

Paul Lewis, who damaged his hand in falling after an attack by seagulls outside Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall, is in renewed distress.

Paul was due to play three dates with the Boston Symphony next month, in Boston and at Carnegie Hall. But here’s a message from his management, Ingpen & Williams, released by the BSO:

Due to undergoing emergency surgery last week, it is with enormous regret that Paul Lewis has announced his withdrawal from his performances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Andris Nelsons, both in Boston and on tour to New York. The medical procedure was a success, and Mr. Lewis is recovering well, but his doctors have advised him not to travel for at least 6 weeks. Mr. Lewis is so disappointed to lose what for him was one of the highlights of his current season but hopes to return to Boston again as soon as is possible.

There is no indication whether the surgery was in any way connected to his Liverpool fall. We wish Paul a speedy recovery. He will be replaced at the BSO by Lars Vogt.

paul lewis

The Belgian government has confirmed plans to merge the orchestra of La Monnaie with the Belgian National Orchestra. The memo setting out the plans will require an army of bureaucrats to administer.

Bottom line: Musicians will lose jobs.

Read the memo here (in French).

la monnaie