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Home » Turandot: Royal Opera House Accused of Whitewashing

Turandot: Royal Opera House Accused of Whitewashing

by Keegan Ross
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The Royal Opera House (ROH) is “whitewashing” its production of a Puccini opera, a group representing British Asian performers has said.

Advocacy group Beats said only two of the nine lead roles in Turandot were being performed by British East and South East Asian singers.

The group said it was also concerned at “problematical misogyny and orientalism” in the original work.

The ROH said it was “opposed to pigeonholing” based on ethnicity.

Whitewashing is the practice of casting white actors in non-white roles.

Beats, which represents British East and South East Asians working in the screen and stage industries, issued a statement saying it was “very concerned” at the “highly limited representation” among the production’s cast at the Royal Opera House, in Covent Garden, central London.

‘Simply unacceptable’

“We fail to see why there are only two British East and South East Asians singers in a production that is set in China,” a statement from the group said.

Beats said the situation was “simply unacceptable” and urged the ROH to “undertake a thorough review of its casting processes to ensure that its productions have much better and more appropriate representation on and off stage”.

The organisation continued by saying the ROH’s casting approach was “regressive” and “limits the ability of artists of colour to participate in the telling of their own stories on stage”.

File image showing exterior of the Royal Opera House.
Image caption, The ROH says it is “opposed to pigeonholing singers into certain roles based on ethnicity”

Beats said it was also concerned the upcoming production would revive “orientalist tropes and stereotypes” it argued were present in ROH’s 1984 performances.

It went on to suggest the choice not to hire a director of East or South East Asian heritage meant a chance was missed to “reinterpret and re-contextualise” Turandot.

In response, a spokesperson for the ROH said: “We are opposed to pigeonholing singers into certain roles based on ethnicity, recognising that to do so would be limiting and reductive.

“At the same time, we do not ignore ethnicity entirely. Instead, we are committed to colour-conscious casting, an approach which considers the nuance required to authentically and respectfully portray each and every story.

“We are proud that this revival presents an outstanding and diverse cast, and we will continue to work with others across the industry to ensure that broader representation is achieved on our stages and across the performing arts.”

Source: British Broadcasting Corporation

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