• Turandot: A Racist Opera?

    March 29, 2024
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    It is my favorite opera. It never occurred to me that it could be seen as racist. I have always loved the Asian theme! From The City Journal:

    Turandot, Giacomo Puccini’s final opera, has a “problematic” reputation due to its being a white male European composer’s depiction of medieval China. It certainly proved problematic on the evening of March 20, when a jammed stage elevator at the Metropolitan Opera House reduced Franco Zeffirelli’s lavish 1987 production—recently refurbished by a generous donation—to what a visibly embarrassed general manager Peter Gelb described as a “semi-staged concert performance.” Gelb labored to spin this mishap at his troubled company as a “historic” event (i.e., “the first concert performance of Turandot at the Metropolitan Opera”), but offered refunds, exchanges, or credits to anyone who wished to leave in the few minutes between his announcement and the beginning of the performance. Hundreds of sullen spectators proceeded to the exit. According to the Met, about 150 people claimed refunds. Others exchanged their tickets, accepted credits, or walked out rather than wait in the long box-office line.

    Turandot is a popular opera that draws large and enthusiastic crowds. The Met claimed that the March 20 performance, a Wednesday evening show featuring no star-caliber performers, sold about 80 percent of capacity, considerably above average for the company these days and much better than sales for most of the contemporary operas Gelb is banking on to reverse the Met’s dismal financial fortunes.

    No matter how eagerly Met audiences attend Turandot, however, the company clearly does not want to risk its woke bona fides by offering the production without a political disclaimer. Visitors seeking to buy tickets on the Met’s website are greeted by a link inviting them to read a program note for “a discussion of the opera’s cultural insensitivities.” Authored by Met senior editor Christopher Browner, the note instructs us “to appreciate Turandot . . . in a way that both celebrates its achievements and acknowledges the problems inherent in it.” (Read more.)


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    Mary-Eileen Russell

    Mary-Eileen Russell grew up in the countryside outside of Frederick, Maryland, "fair as the garden of the Lord" as the poet Whittier said of it. She graduated in 1984 from Hood College in Frederick with a BA in Psychology, and in 1985 from the State University of New York at Albany with an MA in Modern European History. She is the author of six books under the pen name of "Elena Maria Vidal." She lives in Talbot County, MD with her family.
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