Royal Opera jumps on Boris’s Brexit bandwaggon

Royal Opera jumps on Boris’s Brexit bandwaggon


norman lebrecht

January 03, 2020

This crass campaign is causing distress among metropolitan opera lovers.

What, only one Ball? How very singular…

Is that T May I see before me?

Response from a young UK singer:

And from a violinist-conductor:


  • Andy says:

    It’s an organisation that relies on stars from all over the world (look at the cast list for any opera/ballet), pushing advertising that looks nationalistic (union flags et al!) in the month of Brexit, when artists (UK and overseas) are fearing the effects of Brexit on their ability to travel, their ability to work and their careers. It’s maddeningly insensitive.

    • John Rook says:

      Why should Brexit affect anyone’s ability to travel? How did international artists cope prior to 1992?

      We’re dealing with a snivelling generation who has only known Schengen, yet the UK has never been a part of that agreement. I’ve yet to hear one convincing argument why the future should be so bleak.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Brexit isn’t scheduled to happen until late December (the British government has given itself a year to reach an agreement or leave without one).

      Who knows what arrangements there will be for foreign workers after that date; nothing has yet been agreed.

  • C Porumbescu says:

    This campaign has been running for years – long before Boris was anywhere near office – and has featured many other UK cultural organisations. Personally, I’d have said that the Royal Opera actually is quite a good example of what’s great about the UK’s cultural sector.

    But yes, it’s certainly interesting to hear the screeches of rage and hatred emitted, almost as a reflex, by certain figures in the UK arts community at the merest glimpse of a Union Flag. Interestingly, barely three weeks ago many of these same people were advocating the election of an anti-semitic Prime Minister.

    • Anon says:

      And they’re the same people who think ROH should receive north of £20m of the UK taxpayer’s hard-earned, too. Why shouldn’t ROH, and those who fund it, be proud of a ‘Great British’ success story?

    • Andy says:

      Yes the campaign has been running for years, but the problem is the ROH Tweeting it all now, in January, the month of Brexit, in a nationalistic form complete with Union Flags and everything, at a time when so many artists are apprehensive about their future. It’s extremely crass and insensitive, at best.

      • C Porumbescu says:

        1. The Union flag has been part of this campaign since its inception. And why wouldn’t it be?

        2. It’s been “the month of Brexit” three separate times in the past year alone. This campaign has been running since 2012. Life goes on.

        3. The ROH is unlikely to have had any input into when its images appeared – it’s merely proud to have been chosen to represent what is great in Britain, namely diversity, creativity and openness. Again, why wouldn’t it be?

    • Mike Schachter says:

      As ever, the intelligentsia swoon if anyone says anything positive about their country. Subsidies welcome of course.

      • Anon says:

        After working abroad for many months, it’s rather comforting to arrive at Heathrow with these “Welcome to Britain” signs, featuring Beefeaters, Theatre, Opera, Shopping, Countryside, Castles etc…advertising the UK! All other countries in the world do this on arrival at their airports! It’s not jingoistic nor Brexit led. If people feel like this, go away! Aren’t we permitted to celebrate our little island, Remainer or Brexiteer? Or does that risk being labelled xenophobic? It’s just a few signs advertising Britain which has been there forever.

    • Hilary says:

      ‘anti-Semitic prime-minister’
      You’re referring to Boris Johnson I assume. His debut novel contained a number of crass stereotypes towards Jews.
      An unpleasant man, but not lacking charm.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      ..and then some!!

    • John Rook says:

      Well said. the Remain camp might be dead and buried but Remainer ignorance lives on, at least on its great ally, social media.

    • George Porter says:

      many of these same people were advocating the election of an anti-semitic Prime Minister.
      Seems you can get away with any kind of slander now.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        Corbyn himself, I have no doubt, is not anti-semitic. But many on the left certainly are, and Corbyn seemed to tolerate it among many of his strongest supporters in the party.

    • will says:

      “an anti-semitic Prime Minister.” Fake news. Do you prefer/approve of the current Islamophobic, narcissistic sociopath, then?

    • Anton Fortebras says:

      You’re clearly not a luvvie. Well said.

    • Anton Fortebras says:

      Well said C.P.
      I would have thought that the ‘certain figures’ would have revelled in the opportunities offered by the UK’s through-flow of ideas from around the world rather than promote and celebrate the attempt to create a new ‘one size fits all’ superstate in the EU or indeed the establishment of a Marxist Government anywhere let alone in the UK.

  • Mark Pemberton says:

    This is not a story. The Great campaign has been running for years.

    • Geoff says:

      Maybe but has it always been so tendentious and illiterate? After all, there is much “creativity” and “culture” which is not “great” (pick your own counterexamples…)

  • Geoff says:

    The comment from the “young UK singer” hasn’t appeared, a technical slip up by NL I think (maybe easy to correct?)

    • Geoff says:

      Ok now, thanks!

      • Mike Schachter says:

        I saw her several times singing in the opera: in Frankfurt. Germany does have several dozen opera houses which provide vast opportunities for singers and other musicians. Good that she is back, perhaps she doesn’t think so.

  • Dominic Stafford says:

    I wish everyone would calm down. The British Council (whose campaign it is) has been running Britain is Great for about 8 years.

    It’s how we sell the Royal Opera to Japan and China. It’s how we sell our orchestras’ European tours.

    The Royal Opera, it should be remembered, as has the World Stage campaign.

    • SVM says:

      The British Council is not an arbiter of good taste. The fact that it coined the slogan, presumably used for *overseas* advertising, is no mitigation for its inappropriateness in the context of the ROH premises in *London*.

      Many British citizens are ashamed of the atrocities committed by recent governments (of various political parties) in their name, and despise the Union Jack as symbolic of such atrocities. It is for that reason that this particular campaign is perceived as offensive, in that it situates the ROH as legitimising the political establishment (irrespective of which political party is ostensibly in charge) rather than serving as an apolitical refuge from it.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        SVM writes: “Many British citizens … despise the Union Jack as symbolic of atrocities”

        Huh? You view is held by almost nobody else in Britain. Most people in Britain are ambivalent about the union jack since it is often waved by right-wing nationalists. And most British people do not particularly enjoy overt displays of nationalism.

  • Bloom says:

    An exxxtremely nauseating campaign, indeed. And some very profitable Realpolitik behind it, of course.

    • C Porumbescu says:

      Paging George Orwell…

      “England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality. In left-wing circles it is always felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution… It is a strange fact, but it is unquestionably true that almost any English intellectual would feel more ashamed of standing to attention during ‘God save the King’ than of stealing from a poor box…”

  • V.Lind says:

    Where did that extra “g” in “bandwagon” come from? I don’t think even the Americans use it!

  • Goffredo says:

    The French have an opera house named after an act of revolutionary violence. The Russians fly opera orchestras to play victory concerts when they crush a smaller state; we hail the conductor as a genius and keep buying his records. The Germans and Austrians send senior politicians to operatic openings, almost as if they’re state occasions, and we coo with envy and admiration for their taste and culture. But an organisation charged with promoting a peaceful and positive impression of the UK couples a picture of the (state-funded) opera house to the national flag on a couple of airport posters – and the entire national arts elite breaks out in the screaming ab-dabs.

    Orwell was all over this decades ago. But the left never learns, never remembers…

    “If you were an intellectual you sniggered at the Union Jack and regarded physical courage as barbarous. It is obvious that this preposterous convention cannot continue. The Bloomsbury highbrow, with his mechanical snigger, is as out-of-date as the cavalry colonel. A modern nation cannot afford either of them. Patriotism and intelligence will have to come together again.”

    If UK classical music wants to understand (not much hope of that, I know, but…) why it’s been on the losing side of every great national debate in the last few years, the reaction to these images would be an excellent place to start.

  • Gustavo says:

    OK, but how much of the repertoire at ROH or Glyndebourne is actually British?

    How much of the MET’s repertoire is American?

    The melting pot creating cultural diversity will always be the World and not a single nation.

  • GB says:

    God forbid a british organisation flies a british flag. Usual crowd screeching the usual rhetoric about british culture being a bad thing to celebrate. Just admit it, you hate this country.

  • M McAlpine says:

    We know that any company that seeks to promote Britain will fall foul of the PC anti-British feeling. For goodness sake, there are worse things than being proud of the country you belong to.

  • Dennis says:

    I fail to see the major problem with these ads. Typical of the genre. A lot of unhinged ranting by critics on social media for whom apparently any mention of the UK or display of the UK flag is treated as an assault (and, of course, only minorities these days are allowed to have “pride” in their origins, sex, race, etc.). To call that little vertical, half-sized Union Jack in those ads “jingoistic” or “screaming” or “insensitive” is absolutely loony.

  • Brian says:

    I guess the ROH knows where its bread is buttered. For all of the flaws with private arts funding here in the U.S., generally our opera houses don’t have to kowtow to the government in order to assure that funding won’t dry up.

  • Adrie van der Luijt says:

    When this tedious and jingoistic campaign previously “borrowed” the ROH’s excellent international reputation, it always emphasised the global persoective and that #CultureIsGREAT. This lazy output now is ill-timed, tone-deaf and clearly panders to Brexit bores who won’t be around in 10 years to support the ROH. Very poor judgement indeed.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    I completely agree with Anthony Marwood’s tweet.
    I’m getting fed up with all the jingoism in my own country (the USA) too.

  • James says:

    Nothing about being British to be prpud of at the moment!

    • M McAlpine says:

      Just visit some of the countries I’ve visited in my time and you might find a reason. At least we can still change the government at the ballot box!

  • christopher storey says:

    Looks like you’ve trodden on too many toes there, NL. Perhaps it’s the title that is crass?

  • Brian says:

    I guess the ROH knows where its bread is buttered. For all of the flaws with private arts funding here in the U.S., generally our opera houses don’t have to kowtow to the government in order to assure that funding won’t dry up.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Really…arts funding does not work like that in Britain. The ROH are happy to support the British Council campaign whichever party has been elected.

  • Mike Schachter says:

    A minor aside. Two scientists in the department next to mine went home to Germany and Italy a year and more ago , respectively. Be amazed, they are back today, long term

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Good for them. The facts show that in-migration from the EU has dried up, and that many EU citizens are returning to their home countries.