Los Angeles opera scraps Cosi over racism claims

Los Angeles opera scraps Cosi over racism claims


norman lebrecht

February 18, 2020

The Pacific Opera Project of LA has issued the following equivocation about its next production:

In unanimous agreement between board and staff, Pacific Opera Project has elected to change the setting of our March production of Cosi fan tutte. We recognize that some view a Gone with the Wind setting as offensive and we apologize for that offense. Appearing insensitive to these concerns is against everything POP stands for and damages our reputation as an inclusive and diverse company, something we have carefully cultivated over the past nine seasons with productions such as our Japanese/English Madama Butterfly and our Star Trek inspired Abduction from the Seraglio.

POP’s strongest quality has always been creativity — the ability to adapt and innovate to any location, circumstance, or constraint. We look forward to the challenge of reinventing a production, now only six weeks away. We’re confident that a POP Cosi — whether set traditionally, in the Civil War, or in outer space — will be one of the most accessible, affordable, and entertaining you have ever seen.

We thank our unwavering fans for your support during this time of transition and we look forward to seeing you at the show.


  • Anon says:

    The US is a really broken place…..

    • Araragi says:

      I understand the sentiment but please don’t judge the entire US by what Los Angeles does. The rest of the country finds it a “broken place” too.

      • Marlin says:

        lol It freaks out me that even classical music has the wingnuts always ready at the keyboard to bash the “libs”. Your act is tiresome and oh so predictable, almost like it has been mimeographed and sent in a plain brown wrapper to your basement dwellings. Carry on. Oh god.

    • Nathaniel Perez says:

      It’s just the Libs compensating for their small private parts..

      As usual they will be ignored while everyone else enjoys themselves!

  • Mike Schachter says:

    I suppose they could take the extreme step of setting it in the period for which it was written? I was recently shocked to see a performance of Don Carlos set in 16th century Spain. Who would have thought of that?

    • Adam Stern says:

      I’ve posted this before, but thought it deserved a reiteration here:

      “…the trend with which we are still living today – the “producer’s (or “stage director’s” or “régisseur’s”) opera”…[has] led to other excesses, principal of which was the restless search for novel dramatic interpretation. This all too often deprives our present-day productions of the sense and meaning intended by the composer, and leaves the producer open to the suspicion of being insufficiently prepared, insufficiently familiar with the material with which he is working, and – most important of all – insufficiently sensitive to the one essential component of music drama, namely the music. Artificial originality smells worse than stinking fish.”
      – Antal Doráti

  • Terence says:

    “ some view a Gone with the Wind setting as offensive and we apologize for that offense. “


    The same “some” perhaps who find offence in … well, anything “they” choose?

    How about if I find offence in their finding offence? Does that count?

  • C Porumbescu says:

    The weird thing is, the production first appeared in 2012 and seems to have received only positive reviews.

    • Karl says:

      That just shows you how fast our culture has gone downhill. The Washington and Jefferson monuments are in danger too.

  • Charles Clark-Maxwell says:

    It’s not ‘scapping’ it as in the header but (less dramatically) adjusting it. Where would Slipped Disc be without melodrama ?

  • V.Lind says:

    The “Gone With the Wind setting”: isn’t that the American South? pre-, during and post-Civil War? I do not find that innately offensive. Nor the specific elements of it. It’s a time and place, and they existed.

    I have read two reviews of the production from its 2012 presentation and found nothing remotely racist about it. There were no black characters, and no suggestions of racial themes in it. The setting was essentially based on the picnic at the beginning of that story — hoop skirts and ditzy, flirting young debutantes. There were none of the attitudes toward slavery that offended African-Americans in the film.

    So the production is being condemned for its costumes, essentially — Pacific Opera Project runs on a shoestring and does not have elaborate, rather implied and imaginative, sets. I wonder where the criticism has come from, and what precisely it was. It must have been damaging to cause the company to backtrack from a successful production.

    Meanwhile, not even that release above suggests that Cosi is going to be scrapped. It is going to be re-set. Do those of us who occasionally complain here about headlines use a different English language than you do?

    • Willymh says:

      Hey it’s a way to get those clicks and pay the bills. Bordering on the dishonest but then “journalism” has always relied on that.

  • Carlos Solare says:

    Those in charge of the actual “Los Angeles Opera” must be moblizing their lawyers as we speak.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Why? What Norman wrote is technically correct. And the text makes it clear he is talking about the Pacific Opera.

  • M. Arnold says:

    Anything that puts an end to all the destructive idiotic updates is welcome.Why isn’t the libretto as respected as the music?

  • Olassus says:

    Awful mixing of 1st and 3rd voice in opening sentence!

  • brian says:

    At its very best it’s a questionable story from a modern perspective. But when a good soprano sings Per Pieta (with a good horn player), everything is forgotten and there’s just that moment, one of the most sublime in the history of opera.

  • DeepSouthSenior says:

    As an American Southerner of advanced years, I am thankful to have reached this moment in my life. I no longer react as an “angry young man”; I generally just smile at the silliness of it all.

  • Dennis says:

    “Star Trek inspired Abduction from the Seraglio” Face, meet palm.

    This encapsulates why nearly ALL modern Opera are just abominations that should be scrapped. Better to just listen to recordings and imagine your own staging, or to watch classic stagings that don’t do violence to the story and remain true to the composer’s and librettist’s intent.

    A truly radical Seraglio these days would be one that actually sets it in…wait for it…a Turkish Seraglio! Same for Parsifal. Instead of Parsifal and various supposedly Medieval knights and ladies mincing about open-plan office cubicles wearing khakis and polo shirts, imagine if one actually set it in the Middle Ages with appropriate attire and decor? Perish the thought.

  • JKW says:

    Misleading article title!!!!! Pacific Opera Project is based in Los Angeles, but it is NOT “Los Angeles Opera” – that is another company that had it’s fair share of turmoil this past summer so can we please give them a break and not accuse them of racism too? Thanks.

  • Mark says:

    Some people just love to feel offended and protest. It’s literally their raison d’être. Well, this offends me. Let’s get these pesky SJWs. How ‘bout them apples ?

  • jack says:

    God forbid that an opera or any musical composition (or, for that matter, any artistic endeavor) should offend someone. Is there anyone here who seriously believes that “Cosi” when it was first composed and presented offended no one, and that it was designed to make sure that it didn’t give offense?

    • V.Lind says:

      Cosi was created in the Olden Days. A time that lasted up until even my parents’ lifetimes, when people had a sense of humour. I am old enough that I remember this human tendency, but it appears to have gone with the wind.

  • M McAlpine says:

    I would have thought that to anyone with a brain a ‘Gone with the Wind’ setting to Cosi fan Tutte was about the least offensive thing about it. Incredible how these so-called, (mis-named) ‘liberals’ wrack their brains for things to be offended about then end up being offended about the least offensive thing! And the idiotic opera company goes along with it!

  • Dave T says:

    “inclusive and diverse company… our Star Trek inspired Abduction from the Seraglio”
    It’s about time that Klingons and Romulans are finally being represented in that most anthropocentric of art forms.
    End speciesism!