Opera North appoints diversity academic

Opera North appoints diversity academic


norman lebrecht

October 04, 2022

Press release:
Opera North has announced Professor Edward Venn of the School of Music, University of Leeds, as its new Academic in Residence. He will spend a year at the Company bringing together diverse voices from the performing arts and academia for a series of discussions, events and an exhibition focusing on race, ethics and representation in operatic storytelling.

Part of the innovative DARE collaboration between the opera company and the University, Professor Venn’s programme of activity begins this Thursday 6 October with a webinar, Telling Operatic Stories: Race, Ethics and Authenticity, as part of Leeds Arts and Humanities Research Institute’s Sadler Series.

Professor Venn’s publications are on the music of Hugh Wood and Thomas Ades, neither of them terribly diverse.




  • andrew says:

    Wood and Ades – both white, both male… their music is not similar though, so there’s some diversity if one considers their output.

  • Rob Keeley says:

    Shame – he used to be a serious academic. Obviously needs to follow the money

  • M2N2K says:

    Let us hope that we shall live to see a day when such appointments will be made in pursuit of diversity not of racial and/or sexual identities but that of intelligent ideas and informed opinions.

  • lamed says:

    Redheads are definitely a minority, representing only 4% of the population in England, well below Asians who make up 7.7% of Leeds.

    Alas, there are more redheads than Blacks (3.5% in Leeds) or Muslims (3%).

    Though there is still hope if Professor Venn is a redheaded Muslim … either by birth or if need be by conversion.

  • Robin Blick says:

    This obsession with race in matters cultural has a precedent…it began in 1933.

  • Margarida says:

    For crying out loud…
    Just let musicians do their job and let those in charge of casting choose the most appropriate voice for the role, as should be the case!
    What a waste of time for Opera North…

  • Player says:

    Ooh this will really help!

  • Wannaplayguitar says:

    ::::::::puts on reading glasses and reads article again, then in some confusion scrolls up to look at photo:::::::

  • msc says:

    I look forward to the diagrams.

  • SteveM says:

    “neither of them terribly diverse”
    Unless the G in LGBT now stands for Ginger, Prof Venn does not look very diverse! 😉

  • Pierem says:

    The last sentence is a complete misrepresentation of Prof. Venn’s role in this project which is NOT based on his research but where he acts as a facilitator and curator of events, discussions and activities about race, ethics and representations in Opera and particularly in the productions of Opera North. By the way nowhere in the press release does it say that Prof. Venn is appointed as “diversity academic”. Here is a link to Opera North’s press release for anyone interested in going beyond the laziness of the present news: https://www.operanorth.co.uk/news/other-voices-telling-other-stories-our-new-academic-in-residence/#

  • Paul Brownsey says:

    To those who blame Opera North: could it be that Opera North are doing this only because there is some sort of demand they do this as a condition of public funding?

    I remember staff at an art exhibition in Edinburgh some years ago apologetically asking me to fill in a form checking on the diversity of attendees and telling me they had to do this survey of visitors as a condition of funding.

    • Herbie G says:

      I am just off to my local Sainsbury’s supermarket to do some shopping. I’ll take a clipboard with me so that I can monitor the diversity of the customers.

      When will this arrant nonsense end?

  • Sam says:

    Why do people object to work that seeks to move the arts forward and make the industry more diverse? Those saying ‘just pick the best singers’ are oversimplifying. It starts with young people being able to see others that they can identify with (race, gender, sexuality) actually working in that industry – otherwise is becomes something that isn’t ‘for them’. There’s also a little thing called unconscious bias that comes into play.

    Also – for those commenting on Dr Venn’s ethnicity, why should the responsibility of diversity in the arts lie solely with those in the racial / ethnic / LGBT minorities? Is it not everybody’s responsibility? I might also point out that the ‘diversity academic’ title comes from this article alone – the press release states it as ‘Academic in Residence’.

    • Herbie G says:

      Making an orchestra, for example, diverse means having to hire players based on their colour, sexual proclivity, religion, race, political affiliation and nationality.

      I prefer hearing players based on their musical achievments and abilities.

      As has been pointed out elsewehere, the Chinieke! orchestra is not diverse because it was founded on the basis of selecting predominantly non-white players. Good for them.
      There’s also a Federation of Black Police Officers and a Women’s Institute. They are decidedly not diverse. Are all the proponents of diversity complaining about them? Is anyone complaining about the preponderance of black artists in Reggae and Rap?

      The majority of works in my record collection are by white catholics. Am I a racist?

      Chacun à son goût, I say.

  • Ned Roarem says:

    Another destructive waste. It could be done in a proper way, but no, more of this b.s.