UK director slams New York’s opera censors

UK director slams New York’s opera censors


norman lebrecht

September 24, 2015

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.



  • harold braun says:

    Bravo,Sir Jonathan!

  • V.Lind says:

    There is no chance that these people will have the vaguest notion who Jonathan Miller is. They clearly have no clue about Gilbert and Sullivan or The Mikado or they would never have started this nonsense.

    But the Asian-Americans have an agenda. The real idiots in this situation are the NY G&S Players, who caved.

  • Doug says:

    Sir Jonathan msy not realize that in public schools in San Fransisco, there are now lavatories for those who may “feel” another gender any particular day. So finding your way to the lavatory has indeed become complicated.

    • JR says:

      According to the Mayo Clinic, over 23,000 babies were born last year with ambiguous genitalia.

      Even more children grew up unambiguously ignorant.

      Doug, you seem to fit into at least one of those categories.

    • William Safford says:

      Ignorance and stupidity were the themes of yesterday’s thread about the Chicago TV station that put the image of a Nazi “Jude” badge on the screen as part of offering good wishes for the Jewish holiday.

      Your comment about gender dysphoria comes across at best as ignorant. The good news is that ignorance can be remedied, if there be a desire to do so.

      In addition to JR’s excellent point, there are many people who experience gender dysphoria, even if the genitalia are normal. They face discrimination, harassment, and even murder; ergo the “T” in “LGBT.”

      Separate bathrooms is a logical and painless way to address one logistical aspect of this valid issue.

      For those who would like to learn more, here is a short clip from a Charlie Rose show, a testimonial by one such person:

      “In the latest episode of the award winning Brain Series on CHARLIE ROSE, we take a look at the neuroscience of gender, with Nobel Prize winning scientist Eric Kandel and a host of experts. Here Ben Barres, a Stanford University neurobiolgist, talks about his own transition from female to male. The episode airs June 18, 2015 on PBS; visit for more.”

      Here is the episode from which it was excerpted:

  • Alasdair Munro says:

    So no more Japanese productions of Shakespeare, they did a good Macbeth without a single Scot.

  • RW2013 says:


  • Respect says:

    Ah, the good old days of the Empire, when no one had to care about the feelings of people with different colored skin. Clear the above posters on this that time.

    • V.Lind says:

      Do you mean that the sons and daughters of Imperial Japan have total rights to English satire about English institutions done in a uniquely English way? Here’s a how-de-do!

    • Loki says:

      So next time the people with a “different color skin” request color-blind casting in a play by Shakespeare, Goethe, Strindberg or Chekhov, the descendants of a nation depicted in the play (i.e. people of European origin) will have a right to protest, too ?

    • Gonout Backson says:

      You know, the problem with “feelings” is 1. no one can check them really, so I’m free to tell you I feel very strongly this is nonsense, and you have no way to know if I do or not, and therefore 2. they come handy when – just as an example, no relation to the matter at hand, God forbid – one wants to emotionally blackmail someone to give him the job and fire the other guy.

  • Gonout Backson says:

    Remember the war against Jonathan Pryce in Miss Saigon?

  • Robert says:

    If the politically correct brigade object why don’t they put on their own production? The the unpolitically correct can object to their before it is put on and they have to cancel as well. World has gone politically correct too far. Bonkers!

  • Greg Hlatky says:

    “When the finger points to the stars, the imbecile looks at the finger.” – Chinese proverb.

    The Grievance Cheka has been doing this for quite some time now. Question: is everyone upset by PC thuggery or just when an artistic endeavor is the target?

  • herrera says:

    The thing about losing your Empire is that you don’t get a say in anything any more. Not only that, no one really *cares* about what you have to say. What’s more, what was once yours is no longer, and that includes your music. So if Americans don’t want to hear the Mikado sung your way, it ain’t gonna be sung that way in America.

    • Gonout Backson says:

      And whose loss would that be? The Mikado’s?

    • Alexander says:

      But this really has nothing to do with the British Empire. I think the problem is that some people seem to think that The Mikado is a Japanese version of Porgy and Bess, i.e. that it is a realistic portrayal of the lives of ordinary Japanese people in the late nineteenth century. Now, if a bunch of white people wanted to put on a production of Porgy and Bess in blackface then I can see that there could be objections, since Porgy and Bess is supposed to be a story about the African American experience. The Mikado, on the other hand, does not really have anything to do with Japanese people, just as The Gondoliers has nothing to do with Venice and Iolanthe has nothing to do with fairies. Nobody is saying that the British own Gilbert and Sullivan’s operas, but in this instance it does seem that British directors have a better grasp of what they are about. Also, it’s far from all Americans who feel this way about the opera. This is a storm created by a small group of people who have spotted that the opera looks like it may be about Japanese people and haven’t bothered to find out that it really isn’t a naturalistic (but apparently racist) portrayal of the lives of Japanese people.

  • Janis says:

    I can see their concerns somewhat, but I just can’t see where this will end. People other than Italians have been playing Italians in opera forever, and a lot of those consist of irksome stereotypes as well — and I can imagine the complaints when the many excellent up and coming Asian opera singers are barred from singing any non-Asian roles. I don’t see why I should do without Shenyang’s voice; he was a wonderful Garibaldo in the Met’s “Rodelinda” a while back. He’ll be one hell of a Wotan some day.

    • Gonout Backson says:

      And after every performance of Voyage à Reims there should be at least half a dozen official protests from the respective embassies, especially, if the respective caracters weren’t sung by the respective nationals.

  • Novagerio says:

    Now, should all “exotic operatic art” besides the Mikado, like Madama Butterfly, Iris, Turandot, Das Land des Lächelns, Les Pêcheurs de Perles, Le Cheval de Bronze, Lakmé, Savitri, Le Roi de Lahore, Il Corsaro, Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Die Rose von Stambul, Tamerlano, Der Barbier von Bagdad, Hérodiade, (lets skip Otello for the moment), and an infinitely long etcera be reinforcelly sung by ethnically correct interpreters??? 😀 😀 😀

    • ollie says:

      …yes? that is exactly what the case should be.

      • Gonout Backson says:

        I have missed that one the first time, and it’s really too bad, because the discussion is certainly over and no one will react.

        And someone should because we’re sinking deeper and deeper in offensive nonsense here.

        You do know, Dear Ollie, what “theatre” is about? It’s about people pretending to be something they are not, saying things written by others, and doing things they would (frequentlee) never do in real life.

        So, apparently you would change some of that. The question is: do you stop at “ethnicity”, or would you push it ever further? What about male roles written for women, and vice versa? Gays playing straights, and vice versa? Balds using wigs, and hairy guys with fake bald heads? Animals?

        What’s next? The list I have in my head is getting funnier and scarier every second.

  • ollie says:

    except the issue wasn’t that it doesn’t feature ethnically japanese cast, was it? the issue was with the use of yellowface – and any idiot can tell you the history of yellowface, brownface and blackface. sorry, mate – but this has no credence.

    speaking as a g&s performer, there is nothing wrong with doing the mikado. in fact, the mikado is great! i love the mikado! but it should never be done in yellowface. never. that is what’s racist about this production of the mikado.

  • el says:

    Jonathon Miller is known for this he did the same thing in Othello while using Anthony Hopkins, he really said that the play was not about race. Sure.