Critic to Covent Garden: Stop saying sorry

Critic to Covent Garden: Stop saying sorry


norman lebrecht

March 16, 2016

The Royal Opera House has broken out on blushes after its apology for sex in Lucia has been met with derision.

The latest howl comes from the normally restrained Fiona Maddocks:

Never apologise for art. Art entertains and delights. It also shocks us into awareness. It shows us aspects of life we may prefer to turn away from. If you are seriously sensitive, enquire ahead. Admittedly, that is not so easy: usually when you ring a theatre, you get an automated phone system or a “Sorry mate, haven’t the faintest”. But maybe live theatre is not for you. Test yourself with Sarah Kane’s Cleansed at the National.

The world of “If you have been affected by any of these issues … ” has gone mad. We’ve all been affected by some, most or all of them. A friend took an opera novice to Puccini’s Il Trittico. Halfway through, it struck her that two of the operas involve the loss of a child. Her companion had suffered that fate. My friend felt upset and appalled. Her friend took it in her stride. Life is made all the more bearable and comprehensible by art. It unites us. That’s why opera, or any art form, speaks to us so directly.

Read on here.

What next – a public petition for the ROH to withdraw its apology?

lucia image


  • SC says:

    Actually after the (not entirely unspontaneous) fuss over Tell, I am neither surprised nor disappointed by the letter from Kasper Holten. Many people think of night’s out at ROH as safe treats, for kids or whoever. Cleansed at the National (same director) is certainly not that.

  • Eddie Mars says:

    As though these aggrieved suits had actually bought their own seats anyhow? Hordes of them will be ligging it in Corporate Horsepitality seats, waiting for the To-re-a-dor aria, and the Can-Finale. After all, Britain’s Got Opera, ain’t it?

    Whaddya mean, Susan Boyle’s not innit?

      • John says:

        Edward has a few problems and an unfortunate habit of ranting about nonsense. We have learnt to ignore him here.

    • DESR says:

      I am a suit. Most of the time I pay for my own seats, whether in the stars or up top.

      I like art. I like to be challenged.

      I don’t like banality, or directorial tropes which interfere with or cut across the text or the music.

      I am not a prude (or at least, I don’t think so).

      Likes: the Jones Meistersinger at ENO; the Herheim Parsifal in Bayreuth

      Dislikes: Michieletto’s Tell… But loved his Cav & Pag

  • Emil Archambault says:

    What kind of apology is that? That is called information, not apology. It is not a trigger warning for people who have suffered of sexual violence – or whatever the ROH are going to show – it is merely letting people know that they should expect sex on stage. Just a reminder that people may want to bring kids, and may not be the greatest experts on opera…

    Calling it an “apology” is clearly wrong.

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    Publicity trick. How about a real water-boarding scene in the next Fidelio production?

  • Don Fatale says:

    Essentially, it’s no longer about the singing and the music. I’m dreading the inevitable hyper-realistic Cavadorossi torture scene. It’s all in the script you know! I’m sure these non-opera-loving shock theatre directors can’t wait to get the call from Covent Garden, so they can show the audience what real torture is all about.

    • Olassus says:

      Cavaradossi is tortured offstage in the “script.”

      • SC says:

        And as the Lucia director carefully explained last week at the ROH Insight evening (still available to view on YouTube) this production will repeatedly be bringing onstage what is normally offstage. Such as the murder, which she added will take a long time.

  • rita says:

    “But maybe live theatre is not for you”….oh, really, what a parlous state people have got themselves into. Who really owns the word “art” and gets to define it? Critics? Directors? The poor bastards pushed around on stage? The audience?

  • Kat says:

    If there warning are going to become a standard, then I think ENO should release an apology before every production: please note that we completely raped the opera by performing it in English.