“De la question raciale à l’Opera national de Paris” is the title of the manifesto by which, in the wake of Black Lives Matter, four hundred employees of the Paris Opera ask for “diversity” in the three hundred year old institution. The George Floyd case motivated them. The arrival of a new director provided the opportunity.
Alexander Neef comes from Toronto, where he directed the Canadian Opera Company, and across North America, multiculty is pervasive in the arts. Thus in the “Bayadère,” the “Dance of the Negroes” became the “Dance of the Children”. Enough “practices of colonial or slave heritage,”. they said.
An investigation by Le Monde says that Neef foreshadows the disappearance of “certain works” included in the repertoire by Rudolf Nureyev, director of dance at the Paris Opera from 1983 to 1989. Neef names “Swan Lake” and “Nutcracker”.
“Some works will undoubtedly disappear from the repertoire,” says Neef. The director asked a group of experts to reflect on “white ballet, the archetype of classical ballet that requires a homogeneous dance troupe”. These are the tutu ballets that abound in the works set to music by Pëtr Ilicč CČajkovskij (Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in the West).
France, Europe in general, is “Americanizing” at top speed. After the decolonization of films, museums and universities, it is time to “decolonize the arts”. Including classical music. The New York Times accuses symphony orchestras of being “the least diverse institutions” and of hiding “a problem of racism”, while New Music USA claims that “classical music is inherently racist”.
Major works are already under review. A clean version of Mozart’s “Magic Flute” was staged at the Compagnietheater in Amsterdam, after director Lotte de Beer discovered racist expressions there. The Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona has rewritten Rossini’s “Il viaggio a Reims”, replacing the word “cross” with “love”, while in the Maggio Fiorentino it is Bizet’s “Carmen” that kills Don José.
At the Sorbonne, the staging of Aeschylus’ “The suppliants” was prevented by indigenous activists, who had protested against the masks worn by white actors. Laurent Dubreuil, a French literary critic who teaches at Cornell University, in the US, has published for the prestiious Gallimard Publishing house an essay as short as it is powerful, “La Dictature des identités”, where he explains that having an identity now means having the identity of a victim, suffering, oppressed, traumatized, dominated.
Hence the idea of revising the repertoire of the Paris Opera. “The ideological revisionism that claims to ‘decolonize culture’ is a hatred of culture in a broad sense: of classical, humanist and modern culture”, Isabelle Barbéris, author of “L’art du politiquement correct” (Presses Universitaires de France), told me. It is a desire to “transform art into social engineering”.
Do you remember the Soviet Union? That is just what they did there. And it is from there that Rudolf Nureyev himself fled.
Antiracism is the new word for Communism and tyrannic repression.