Paris Opéra appoints a diversity and inclusion officer

Paris Opéra appoints a diversity and inclusion officer


norman lebrecht

February 08, 2021

It’s the essential new accessory to every opera company.

The  Paris Opéra promised today to make its recruitment procedures more diverse, across ballet orchestra and opera, with a diversity officer to monitor its progress.

Alexander Neef, the director, said today: ‘The Opera’s engagement on diversity is necessary, more than ever.’

Perhaps an opera tour to the bainlieus would be more instructive.



  • RW2013 says:

    Neef has a master of arts from Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen where he studied Latin Philology and Modern History.
    And the orchestra will have GD for breakfast.

    • kh says:

      If the orchestra could tolerate Philippe Jordan for as long as they did, they will have no problem with Dudamel. And frankly they are hardly going to get anyone better.

  • Patricia says:

    What a lot of bilgewater. I’ll bet this useless person likes BLM/Antifa.Perhaps the Opera should recruit from them.

  • Cynical Bystander says:

    I would have thought that the survival of the Paris Opéra per se was a more pressing matter. But then, without a Diversity and Inclusion Officer the French Government and the Mayor of Paris might be tempted not to increase the subsidy to keep the whole thing afloat, whilst it all stands idle, poised to make its recruitment procedures more diverse, should the opportunity to actually perform ever arise. Still, a few more bureaucrats never does any real harm, even when they have nothing to monitor. And the taxpayers of the bainlieus are picking up part of the tab.

    • John Borstlap says:

      How vould they? There is no money in the banlieus, apart from illegal money and that is not taxed.

      • V.Lind says:

        That is ABOUT the most racist remark I have ever seen here — and that is saying a lot. It’s like saying nobody in Bradford — or Harlem — pays taxes because there is only illegal money.

        • John Borstlap says:

          It’s not racist, it’s geographic. And the banlieu untaxable money is forced upon certain groups because of racism.

  • Eb Clarinet says:


  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    Where are Gilbert and Sullivan when they’re so badly needed? (Oh, I forgot: satire is verboten in the brave new world.) “Yes, Minister” springs to mind. A hospital without patients, just clerical staff; a musical organization without an audience, just a diversity officer.

    It’s absolutely laughable!!!

  • John Borstlap says:

    My fly on the wall tells me that this is a second attempt. Two months ago, a comitee of 7 experts in inclusiveness, hired by the Opéra, had entered the Saint Denis quarter, notorious for its muslim riots, to recrute orchestral players, dancers male and female, ushers, opera singers and conductors. Unfortunately, nothing of the comitee was heard of again, and the members seem to have disappeared without a trace. Only one young muslim male introduced himself 4 days later at the porter with the demand to be appointed as a ballet dancer, but he was sent away with a couple of french terms which are quite inappropriate for repetition on a civilised website like SD.

  • Tiredofitall says:

    What is “woke” in French? Also, what is the French for “hoodwinked”?

    • Ben G. says:

      A simple Google search gives you:

      “Hoodwinked” = “se faire duper”, “se faire trompé, berner, leurré….

      “Woke” past tense of “réveiller” to wake up….

      But then, what point are you trying to make?

      • John Borstlap says:

        Indeed. In France there are no wokes, simply because the French are always awake, ready for any criticism.

  • Bruno Michel says:

    The spelling is, of course, “banlieues”, as any basic spellcheck would point out.
    And the Opéra has already been appearing in the banlieues, in various guises. Its Académie Lyrique (the local Jette Parker), regularly appears in such places, and I recall a Fledermaus, in 2019, for instance, in Bobigny (the theatre there is located on Lenin avenue!)

  • Greg Bottini says:

    “The Paris Opéra promised today to make its recruitment procedures more diverse, across ballet orchestra and opera, with a diversity officer to monitor its progress.”
    Cue all the old white reactionary farts who comment on this blog to bitch about diversity.
    As I have said before: diversity is a GOOD thing.

    • Anthony Sayer says:

      Provided it doesn’t happen in your neighbourhood, eh, Greg? As for something being a good thing, why don’t we talk about merit?

      • Greg Bottini says:

        Hey, “face-nappy guy”, I live in a diverse neighborhood, and I love it.
        I just don’t put up with morons and MAGAts like yourself.

        • Nigel says:

          No you don’t Greg. Your immediate neighbors are white and you lock both your doors when you get in and leave just as you do with your auto. You’re a capitalist babe.

    • John Borstlap says:

      I would say that awareness of the irrelevance of differences that are irrelevant is more effective than an ideology which treats people only as representing a group.

    • Ferme la bouche! says:

      You’re a white male Greg so you are not wanted.

      You too will soon be canceled no matter the fact you don’t have a job and receive government benefits.

      • Greg Bottini says:

        I can’t help being a white male any more than you can’t help being stupid.

        • John Borstlap says:

          It is becoming very difficult to be a white male nowadays, we are increasingly stared at in the streets. Where will it end?

        • Justin Daggston says:

          Heay Greg!
          Just do what Michelle Obama did. Have a tan and a sex change.

          Also, the more you denigrate others it only shows how insecure you are in every cumbersome post. You’re one of Norman’s bots anyway; soon to be canceled if readership remains low without Trump.

          You need to start reporting what Biden and Harris are DOING for the arts. That should keep you silent over the next 4 years if not sooner with Biden’s senility and her cognitive decline along with both of their lack of self-awareness.

          There’s always Biden’s pick for Secretary for the Arts to count on using facts, data and science who is??????????????

    • Anon9 says:

      Diversity is a GOOD thing: the motto of the viola section. (But not under the giants of the past, the Karajans or Kleibers.)

    • Stephen Diviani says:

      I’m afraid your very un-woke. Did you really mean to use ‘bitch’? Shame on you!

      • Greg Bottini says:

        It’s spelled “you’re”, Stephen, and I certainly DID mean to use the word “bitch”.
        Per the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 6th ed.:

        bitch /bɪtʃ/ verb. L17.
        [ORIGIN from the noun.]
        †1. verb intrans. Frequent the company of prostitutes; call someone ‘bitch’. L17–E18.
        2. verb trans. Spoil, botch. Freq. foll. by up. colloq. E19.
        3. verb trans. & intrans. Behave bitchily (towards); be spiteful, malicious, or unfair (to). colloq. M20.
        Rosemary Harris “I’m sorry I bitched you.”
        4. verb intrans. Complain, grumble. colloq. M20.
        Sunday Telegraph “They gossip and bitch about other colleagues.”
        H. N. Schwarzkopf “The officers and enlisted men bitched nonstop about the cold.”

        You might want to check out definition no. 4.
        And Stephen: you can take your “un-woke” and put it where the sun doesn’t shine.

  • E Rand says:

    Pathetic, and insane.

  • marcus says:


  • caranome says:

    When did Senegal become hotbed of classical music talent?

    • John Borstlap says:

      When did China become a hotbed of Western classical music? And why?

      • E Rand says:

        Examining this question seriously might make Mr. Borstlap uncomfortable.

        • John Borstlap says:

          There is much comfort to draw from the fact that in China there are more lovers of Western classical music than in the West, or so it appears. If or when in the West this noble art form (yes!) has been entirely locked-up in the margines of a populist society, it can survive for a better future in the Far East where younger generations discover riches that have become the outworn bore of a spoiled and decadent West.

  • Y says:

    Ridiculous. You might as well hire a Grand Inquisitor to demoralize your staff and undermine your organization from within, because that’s what you’ll be getting with a “Diversity Officer.”

    • John Borstlap says:

      It makes me think of Dostoyevski’s Grand Inquisitor who explains that Christ was wrong in his demand for humanity.

  • Stereo says:

    What happened to the best applicant getting the job?

    • Pianofortissimo says:

      Of course the Paris Opera will choose the most radical activist available for the position of Diversity and Inclusion Officer.

    • E Rand says:

      Leftism destroyed that.

    • Alexander says:

      something like arranging gilded tyres somewhere in Saint-Denis , apparently 😉

    • BruceB says:

      Because the best applicant couldn’t possibly be non-white?

      In fact, it’s possible (not that you would believe this) that the best dancer’s application was thrown in the trash once they saw from the photo that s/he was black.

      There are documented studies, in the US at least, where they had people send in identical résumés twice for the same job, once with a “white” name at the top and once with a “black” name (Justin vs. Kwame, or Sarah vs. Lakeisha). The “white” applicants got a response and/or an interview at something like twice the rate of the “black” ones, with the same qualifications.

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    The French built urinals on the sidewalks in central Paris. One just has to come forward, pull down the zipper or something so, and pink. Why? Self-hatred?

  • Stephen Diviani says:

    Perhaps the Opera de Paris should have invested in a couple of banners to run across the fronts of Opera Bastille & Palais Garnier: ‘Vote Le Pen!’.

  • M McAlpine says:

    And who makes sure that the choice of diversity officer is sufficiently diverse?

  • MacroV says:

    These Diversity Officers make a useful whipping boy for the denizens of SD (and good clickbait for the proprietor, who has bills to pay), but people seem to forget that opera companies are large organizations with the same workplace issues as any other. That includes various forms of bias, discrimination, misbehavior, toxic work cultures, etc.. Failure to have someone on staff who can deal with such problems can both harm morale and expose the organization to all sorts of liability or damage to its reputation. A little mockery from the good people of SD is probably a small price to pay.

  • sam says:

    It is illegal in France to collect and keep data on ethnicity, religion, race, etc.

    So, to begin with, you can’t even mathematically ascertain that there is a diversity problem, because officially, you are not allowed to count how many whites and non-whites you see.

    You can observe, you can look, but you can’t count, you can’t report numerically what you observed.

    And if next year, after the diversity officer has done his or her job, and upon looking again, your impression (remember, no counting!) is that the color white is less dominant than the previous year, you cannot officially quantify that in a press release touting your success, because once again, it’s illegal to keep quantitative data on race…

    Racial diversity in France is like an impressionist painting. We can tell you that too much pastel is not good, but we can’t tell you how many tubes of white and black paint to use.

    • Frankster says:

      Hi. I live in France. When I want to see how diverse France is, I just open my eyes. It’s easy.

    • John Borstlap says:

      The problem is a result of a very good policy idea: everybody is equal for the law, for the state. So, it is citizenship that is fundamental. Discrimination is illegal. But when the government wants to organize something to fight discrimination, they cannot categorize citizens in terms of ethnicity. It is a paradox, and one cannot force populations to think better through specifying the very thing that is illegal to be specified.

      In other words: the theory is excellent but its practice impossible.

  • Frankster says:

    Many here are of a certain age that might have missed changes going on in the under-50 population. The general failure to properly integrate the new multi-ethnic society we live in is something that concerns a large part of society these days. Women conductors, black singers, directors and composers, etc. are making, finally, some appearances on stage but are still under-represented. White upper class talent still have better access to conservatories, etc. and while most here are comfortable with that, things are changing.

    • John Borstlap says:

      It’s an educational problem: and access to the best education. Only at the beginning of the trajectory can the problem of systemic discrimination be solved, not at the end, then it is too late and will only cause disruption and polarisation.

    • Anthony Sayer says:

      No-one’s challenging that. The point is well-made, above. As long as it’s illegal to collect race-based data in France (at least among French citizens), a diversity officer is officially redundant. Also: try getting a job at the ONP if you don’t have French ID.

    • Concerned Opera Buff says:

      The Met Opera has featured many singers of color, mainly because maestro Levine championed them. No one, not domestically nor in Europe, has done as much for singers of color. He judged singers on their merits and wanted voice and artistry. He has never received any acknowledgement of this fact. Luckily, there were many wonderful singers of color during his tenure, who received plenty of perks when he conducted, including opening nights, tv appearances, concerts and recitals. Levine’s “girls” were all there to honor him at the Met luncheon, all except Kathy Battle, who should have been there, as she was treated like a queen by Levine.
      However, I don’t expect the same under Gelb, who is obsessed with Russian singers. The recent Russian Escamillo was third rate. I bet it was a package plan—you get Netrebko, but have to take mediocre singers on the roster.

  • Brian says:

    COVID isn’t the only disease spreading like wildfire around the world.

  • Frankster says:

    The major report on diversity at the Paris Opera is the first thing on their page. From the sound of it, most everyone here is happy and secure with their reactionary racism and are not ashamed to put it in print. Donald Trump has taken over even here.

  • Madeleine Richardson says:

    It takes two to tango and I have yet to attend an opera, concert or even classical ballet and see a non-white face in the audience. I asked friends if they had noticed the same thing in other countries and they confirmed my suspicions.
    Even when the directors, producers and actors are from minority communities, they just don’t bring in their compatriots.
    Take Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui for instance, the director of the Flanders ballet and renowned for his ground-breaking works. He is half Belgian and half Moroccan yet in all the years I have attended one of his ballets I have never seen a Moroccan in the audience. Dance is universal and seats for young people are routinely cheap, so why don’t they come?
    We seem to be living along parallel tracks.

    • John Borstlap says:

      If immigrant communities keep to their own culture, which is perfectly legitimate within the law, it should not be a problem if there is no interest in European art forms. Why should they go to the Nutcracker? or to Tristan? or to a Beethoven series? There are many local Europeans who share such indifference. It is an educational problem.

      • Ellingtonia says:

        It is not an educational problem, it is a cultural issue (not a problem).

      • Madeleine Richardson says:

        They cannot claim discrimination if they don’t even go to see their own. Ballet is not all about tutus; modern dance is exciting and ground-breaking and not expensive for younger people who get good deals. It is not just ballet, straightforward theatre, even that directed and acted by members of immigrant communities, fails to bring their own in.
        At the moment artists of colour and of immigrant communities are performing to white audiences. This is probably also true in theatres in the US.

        • V.Lind says:

          I know the Alvin Ailey company did not draw a significant black audience in my town, where there are many blacks. I never even thought anything about it — as far as I am concerned the people there were the dance community. But given the predominantly white audiences I am used to at ballet and concerts, I would have noticed an uptick in black attendees as I did Chinese audience members when Lang Lang played, and when I heard a lot of Spanish in the lobby during Dudamel’s intermission.

        • John Borstlap says:

          A touching documentary was made about two teenagers from Brazilian slums who made it into the dance world:

    • Le Křenek du jour says:

      >”Dance is universal”

      Alas, it is not.
      As the scion of a classical ballerina, I have absorbed lessons learned the hard way by my mom: what passes for exquisitely classical and sublimely tasteful in one culture can be viewed as lewd if not outright obscene in another.

      Moreover, whenever the Savonarolas of any creed or persuasion take over, dance and dancing seem among their choice targets. Current exhibit: dance is illegal, banned, severely curtailed or brutally reprimanded in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iran. See a pattern? Lest we grow too proud of our own presumed savoir-vivre, let us remember the draconian curtailments of dance, music, even theatre in the heyday of Protestant fervour.
      (Hell, I even have Dutch and Scandinavian relatives— mercifully fairly distant relatives — of a fundamentalist evangelical streak, who frown upon any footwork-to-a-tune as sulphurous.)

    • Anthony Sayer says:

      Also try the Franco-Algerian dancer and choreographer Kader Belarbi in Toulouse. Who cares who comes as long as those who do are interested? You can lead a horse to water etc etc

      • Madeleine Richardson says:

        I care because it is indicative of large sections of society failing to integrate despite generations of residence.
        I can compare this to when the Opera of Beijing came to town for a performance of The White Serpent. The audience was full of Chinese and non-Chinese (i.e. white audience). Despite us having to get used to the unusual tonal quality of Chinese opera it was a huge success and the company brought out the Chinese community en masse. A great evening.

        • Larry D says:

          Madeleine seems to spend an inordinate time parsing the audience for their inadequacies. “I don’t see any Moroccan faces, and believe me, I know one when I see it!”

          • John Borstlap says:

            The difficulty is that when people from Maroccan background fully integrate, they disappear as Maroccans, and filtering them out becomes impossible.

  • JussiB says:

    According to NYT, the new director is German but had worked in Toronto and “soaked up American woke culture for 10 years.” In France and throughout Europe, the American woke leftism and cancel culture are wreaking havoc and undermining their society.

    • V.Lind says:

      Excuse me: if Alexander Neef soaked up any woke culture in Toronto, it was CANADIAN woke culture!

      If he soaked up any American ideas it was due to watching the US TV all too available in Canada. But there are huge differences in attitude to everything between our country and the US.

      • Ashu says:

        [But there are huge differences in attitude to everything between our country and the US.] Broadly true, but for the difference between the Canadian and American wokes, I doubt if “huge” is the right word.

        • V.Lind says:

          Yes — the woke lexicon is fairly limited and the rules are pretty strict. I suppose wokery is pretty much standardised, at least in the English-speaking nations.