Opera is stuck in a racist, sexist past, while many in the audience have moved on

Seminar/Forum

Opera is stuck in a racist, sexist past, while many in the audience have moved on

Jim Potter Room- G16
Old Physics
The University of Melbourne

Map

More information

guy.morrow@unimelb.edu.au

In the first act of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s musical A Little Night Music, the long-suffering Countess Charlotte Malcolm mentions her younger sister, noting, “Dear Marta has renounced men and is teaching gymnastics in a school for retarded girls in Bettleheim”. When first written for the show’s Broadway premiere in 1973, this was intended as a laugh line that transitions into the famous duet, Every Day a Little Death. But nearly 50 years later, it stands out for all the wrong reasons. During Victorian Opera’s recent production of the musical in Melbourne, the use of the pejorative term “retarded” prompted an audible intake of breath from the audience, with many visibly shifting in their seats. When the performers began the duet, the audience’s discomfort was largely forgotten. Yet the moment highlights one of the most significant challenges facing opera companies in the 21st century: an ever-widening gap between a repertoire that is frozen in time and an audience that is continuing to evolve.

Presenters

  •  Brian Long
    Brian Long, PHD Candidate
  • Dr Caitlin Vincent
    Dr Caitlin Vincent , Lecturer in Creative Industries