Published on 22/01/18

By Music Theatre Wales


The Golden Dragon – BBC Radio 3 Broadcast: Hear and Now

Published on 22/01/18

By Music Theatre Wales

BBC Radio 3 Saturday 27th January 2018: Hear and Now at 22.00

We are pleased to announce that a live recording of our performance of The Golden Dragon by Peter Eötvös will be broadcast on Radio 3 on Saturday 27th January at 22.00.

We welcome the fact that audiences who missed the production in the autumn will now have the opportunity to experience the opera through this broadcast, but we also feel it is important to remind listeners of the background to the sincere and powerful protest the production provoked and the issues it raised. We want to share the learning that Music Theatre Wales has begun and will continue to undertake as we develop our understanding and practice regarding diversity in the performing arts.

The protest was centred on our casting of entirely white singers to play a variety of roles including named Asian characters. We fully understand that this caused offence and we are sorry for this.

We do not in any way wish to denigrate the extraordinary cast who performed the opera with us. Their musical and theatrical performances were outstanding in this highly physical production. It is a complex work which truly challenges the expectations of what opera can be, not least in the range of vocal delivery required – influenced by Peter Sellers and The Goons as much as Monteverdi and 19th century opera!

We freely admit that the protest took us by surprise and we had not anticipated it. We are grateful to everyone from the British East Asian community who contacted us directly to raise their concerns and who have since offered us advice and support. The production sparked a vigorous debate about the representation of Asian characters and themes in opera, issues that perhaps the art form as a whole has been slow to address in the wake of wider cultural conversation. With this emerging understanding, we have consulted with members of the British East Asian Artists Group and colleagues from the wider arts community, and will be working with an external Diversity advisor to explore ways to integrate thinking about diversity in everything we do and across all areas of the company.

We were able to use the production as a catalyst to open up conversations around the issue of diversity by participating in the major exhibition OPERA: Passion, Power and Politics at the V&A in November. We performed the final aria from the production, The Homecoming Aria, preceded by a discussion panel that explored the issues the production had raised. We hope this will help stimulate a wider discussion about the encouragement, recruitment and training of singers from a much wider range of backgrounds than has traditionally been the case in the UK. .

As an exhibition that looked at the premieres of seven major operas in their respective times and specific cities, OPERA: Passion, Power and Politics was essentially about how opera engages with and impacts contemporary society. It could not have been more appropriate therefore to bring The Golden Dragon into this context – an opera that sets out to raise contemporary societal issues around the exploitation of those who find themselves in Western society with no status, such as asylum seekers, undocumented immigrants and those who have been trafficked here. The opera ends in a poignant and deeply affecting way, as the central character, The Little One, disappears without trace – a life that has been made invisible. It is ironic that in choosing to stage a piece that strives to expose this injustice, we inadvertently perpetrated another.

The conversations that have arisen in the wake of the protests have been bracing, but always illuminating. The key learning from them can perhaps be best summarised as: ‘Nothing about us without us is for us.’

This whole experience has taken MTW on a new trajectory and we are now actively embarking upon change both internally and artistically – moving from something that was negative and potentially damaging to a place where positive change is under way.