A soprano shames her xenophobic reviewer

A soprano shames her xenophobic reviewer


norman lebrecht

October 12, 2021

The soprano Julia Sitkovetsky took exception to a Telegraph review of her Elgar recording this weekend.

She wrote to the newspaper:

While I appreciate the very positive response to my singing and the album in general, it was not necessary to mention my ‘exotic heritage’. My first language is English. I was born and raised in London. It comes off as condescending and xenophobic.

The Telegraph has now issued an apology and amended the review online.

The original review stated: ‘Should anyone suspect that her exotic heritage influences her diction in singing this intensely English repertoire; it doesn’t.’

The writer is Simon Heffer.



  • Chicagorat says:

    Well done, Ms. Sitkovetski.

    Muti labeling Korean Maestro Myung-whun Chung “The Chinaman” (“Il Cinese”) came off condescending and xenophobic. And ignorant.


    Did he ever apologize? #stopthemutihate

    • anonymous says:

      In Italian, “cinese” is simply “Chinese”, it is NOT the derogatory term you are using.

      You have NO proof that Muti used an Italian derogatory term, however, YOUR repeated use of the word “Ch—n” in print is proof of YOUR repeated use of this derogatory term in English.

      You are not quoting Muti, you are just gratuitously using an English derogatory term.

      Please stop.

      NL, please do not allow Chicagorat to continue to use this racist term in English in the guise of “quoting” Muti.

      • Chicagorat says:

        I disagree with your first point. The Italian phrase is derogatory, without a doubt. Italian news outlets reported it widely and called it out precisely for that reason. Muti should apologize, especially before heading to his next Korean and Chinese tours.

        Your second point has definitely merit. There is no need to repeat an offensive term in print. Circumlocutions can serve the main purpose, which is to call out Muti’s offensive behaviors.

        If you have access to Muti, please point out to him that specific Italian words to designate gay peope are extraordinarily offensive. People hear them and he should stop.

        Your final appeal to censorship is exactly the reason why Muti has gotten away with unacceptable behaviors throughout his entire career, and still does to this day. We trust that SD is not the platform where censorship is welcome or taken lightly.

        • anonymous says:

          We are in total agreement that Muti’s use of “il cinese” is racist through and through, and frankly, I don’t see how the Asian players at the Chicago Symphony are reconciling themselves to this man who has felt this way towards a peer.

          To be fair to Muti, his racist intent and feelings did not translate to a specific racist term in Italian, or even in English for that matter, if he referred to the Asian players at the CSO as “Chinese”.

          SD censors the N word, even if quoting, so it is not censorship if SD also blanks out other ethnic or racial or gender or sexual orientation derogatory terms.

        • Nick says:

          Snowflakes of all colors and breeds should not read SD!!! It is a shame for Julia Sitkovetsky to play a victim. She has never been one! It is her luck her first language was English, it could have been Russian. And there is nothing, absolutely nothing xenophobic in mentioning that in a review. “Sitkovetsky” is NOT an English name, but Russian/Jewish.

          • MB says:

            Breeds? This isn’t the dog show. That is offensive on its face. Calling out the unnecessary mention of her “exotic heritage” is not being a snowflake, nor was she in any way playing the victim. Either the review was positive or it was not, but her heritage, and even her first language, is irrelevant. If fools would not listen to he performance because they presume someone named Sitkovetsky couldn’t do justice to the work, even after reading a good review, that speaks to their prejudices.

          • David A says:

            Who’s the one being triggered here using a bunch of exclamation points crying about how unfair this situation is? You should look in the mirror when you use the term snowflakes! 😀

        • Maria says:

          People do not have the right to rewrite the English language to suit themselves, or rewrite why some nationalities suddenly become derogatory yet people always eating their food. I come from an Irish backgrpund. As born, bred and educated in London too, I’d be more than happy if someone thought of my Irish background as a singer as having been ‘exotic’ rather than just the IRA association and the anti-Catholic slite one gets all the time with having an Irish name! Get on with it! Everyone getting offended by everything.

    • Paracelsus says:

      You mean racist.

  • John Borstlap says:

    That is what you get in these times: ethnicity, nationality, etc. etc. in the foreground instead of in the background. The result is a mindset where music is instrumentalized for something else.

    • Tom Phillips says:

      British classical music writers have regularly expressed this obsession with other people’s nationalities for many decades now. Nothing to do with just “these times”.

    • True North says:

      Wrong. The difference “in these times” (versus earlier times) is that now, we must no longer put up with such silly, ignorant, and offensive comments.

    • David A says:

      You are clearly insinuating that the leftist focus on ethnicity caused the reviewer’s offensive remarks, which is a textbook case of misunderstanding the direction of causality.

      These racist comments always existed, HENCE the movement to address them. It is the same as saying “because there are more prisons now, there are more criminals!” Please……….

  • Aleph says:

    1) Simon “Heffer” sounds pretty exotic, is there bovine blood in your heritage?

    2) A Russian sounding surname is “exotic”? considering Russians own half of London? and your PM is named “Boris”?

    3) Her bio lists her as “British/American”. Damn those exotic Yankees.

  • Jonathon says:

    On her twitter feed she describes herself as a British/American/Russian soprano.

    • Nick says:

      Of course she is Russian, the daughter of a violinist and conductor/arranger Dmitry Sitkovetsky, son of pianist Bella Davidovich and violinist Julian Sitkovetsky. It is a Jewish family from Russia.

  • Tom Phillips says:

    I have never seen the level of nationalistic xenophobia (and colonialist sensibilities) regularly displayed by British classical music critics in the writers from any other nation.

  • BRUCEB says:

    Surely no comparison to be made with this post:


    None whatever. None. Move along.

  • David K. Nelson says:

    Sitkovetsky is an exotic heritage?? It’s musical royalty. Her father is Dmitry Sitkovetsky and he had famous musician parents, including Julian Sitkovetsky one of the greatest violinists ever, and on his mother’s (pianist Bella Davidovich) side musician grandparents, and I believe great grandparents). Her father’s nephew (so her cousin) is Alexander Sitkovetsky and HE had great musician parents.

    Mr. Heffer could have praised her diction without resorting to this odd dig about her “heritage” as if it were some handicap she needed to overcome. It is after all not given to all singers to have good diction even in their native language.

  • Peter says:

    How is this “xenophobic”. It’s a compliment, for Christ’s sake.

    Miss Sitkovetsky probably wants a little extra PR for an album that will sell the normal <500 copies worldwide. Throwing Mr. Heffer under the bus.

    Shame on Ms. Sitkovetsky

  • Alan says:

    It is perfectly reasonable that Simon Heffer points this out.
    Many potential purchasers might not have heard of the singer and might have a concern that her diction might not be up to par.
    Calm down dears. This is normal.
    And now we don’t know what normal is due to critical race theory.
    Now run along and get on with life. This is a non story.

  • Miko says:

    In a country now being openly encouraged to mainsteam racism and “war on woke”, this expression of xenophobic exceptionalism shouldn’t surprise anyone.
    Welcome to brexit England.

    • Nick says:

      Welcome to Brexit!! A nation of smart and free-spirited people!

    • Ellingtonia says:

      My goodness you are STILL banging on about Brexit. Just a quick question “were you born with limited intelligence or did you do a special academic course e.g. gender studies to qualify as one. And yes, we do welcome people to Brexit England as long as they have legitimate reasons for coming here (like most reasonable countries), possibly not economic migrants and so called asylum seekers who cross several countries to get to the UK (UN requires them to stay in the first country of sanctuary)…………now why do you think that is? Oh, but I forgot, we are a bunch of racist, xenophobic English people. Or perhaps, we just like a little self determination from that corrupt mob that masquerades as the EU! And I am first to sign up for the “war on woke”…………….but to allow you some leeway (and in line with your wokish desire) I have decided that I will be called Sir from now on, so please respect my wishes and address any further comments to Sir Ellingtonia. Thank you.
      PS We still voted OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Rob Keeley says:

    I’m sure no insult was intended. A somewhat over-sensitive response, all-too-common in today’s offence-hungry climate.

    • MB says:

      I agree no insult was intended, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t insulting. Mentioning one’s heritage, or race, or religion, when it does not have direct bearing on the discussion is unnecessary, and is generally a sign of some underlying bias. If you wouldn’t mention it if the person were a member of the majority group, there is no need to mention it if they are not.

    • Adrienne says:

      Exactly. What is pejorative about the word?

      And the usual puerile, bitter and twisted individuals manage to drag Brexit into it.

      “Europe is France and Germany; the rest are just the trimmings” – an attitude which persists to this day. Brexit won’t be the last “exit”.

  • Bernard Jacobson says:

    Why is a word like “Chinaman” derogatory when “Englishman” surely isn’t?

  • horbus rohebian says:

    Does ‘exotic’ carry pejorative overtones? Not to my ear.

  • Jan Kaznowski says:

    It’s more a case of poor editing than Xenophobia. Same about the perceived slight on these pages about the anti-semitic Dreyfus comment. That had been just poor research.

    Come people, let’s not look for an enemy at every door !