WA Opera butts out Carmen over smoking themes after securing Healthway sponsorship
The West Australian Opera has announced it will not program the opera Carmen in the next two years, after it secured $400,000 in sponsorship from Healthway, because the story features smoking.
The 1875 work by Georges Bizet is one of the world's most popular operas and the heroine, Carmen, works in a Spanish cigarette factory.
Carolyn Chard, General Manager of the WA Opera, said the company made the decision not to program the opera after it secured the two-year deal with Healthway, the state government body that sponsors arts and community organisations to promote health messages.
"Carmen is an opera that is actually set in a tobacco factory, so that does present some difficulties if you're promoting non-smoking and healthy work environments," Ms Chard told 720 ABC Perth.
"I think we were very respectful of the partnership and forward-thinking about recognising it would be in direct conflict with the aims of the Heathway support.
My first question was "why is a government health agency spending large sums of taxpayers' money on opera productions?" That question is, I suppose, answered by the news story. They do it to suppress decadent art and ensure that Australia remains A GOOD, CLEAN COUNTRY. What's a little self-imposed censorship when your government sponsor wants to promote wholesome values?
The West Australian has more from the WA Opera's general manager:
"We care about the health and wellbeing of our staff, stage performers and all the opera lovers throughout WA, which means promoting health messages and not portraying any activities that could be seen to promote unhealthy behaviour," Ms Chard said.
Upcoming productions at the WA Opera include Otello, which begins with a violent drinking session and ends with a murder and suicide, and Tosca which "contains depictions of torture, murder and suicide".
Healthway chairwoman Rosanna Capolingua not only applauded the [cough] 'voluntary' agreement, but took the opportunity to extend her wowserism to e-cigarettes:
"The portrayal of smoking on stage, in film and on TV normalises smoking and presents it as being attractive, which could dissuade smokers from quitting and encourage young people to take it up," she said.
"In addition, new trends such as smoking electronic cigarettes may re-establish smoking behaviour in our community where the majority of people are non-smokers."
She said Healthway now banned electronic cigarettes as part of its minimum health policy requirements, which meant they could not be smoked at any event Healthway sponsored.
She's the boss. When the arts become so heavily dependent on government cash, they have to do what the government wants. In the free world, that doesn't normally mean censorship of classic operas in the name of health, purity and denormalisation, but that's, er, progress for you.