WCPE in North Carolina consulted listeners following their inclination not to broadcast the Met’s six new operas this season.
What’s Up: WCPE “The Classical Station” in North Carolina announced its concerns about airing the new operas being produced by the Metropolitan Opera this season. In a letter to listeners, the station cited maintaining a relaxing, family-friendly listening experience as their principal concern. The station still plans to air the Met’s productions of “time-tested and great” operas Carmen, Le nozze di Figaro, Turandot, Madama Butterfly, Tannhaüser and others.
Going Deeper: WCPE described that airing “discordant music” or operas that feature adult themes in English would be upsetting to listeners.
The operas they suggest skipping include:
- Dead Man Walking, the true story of Sister Helen Prejean counselling a man on death row, which includes depictions of rape and murder
- Florencia en el Amazonas, the Met’s first Spanish-language opera in a century, which is reportedly outside the station’s listening bounds
- X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X, based on the life of the eponymous civil rights leader, which features offensive language and adult themes
- Fire Shut Up in My Bones, the Met’s first opera by a Black composer that premiered last season, for offensive language and themes
- the Virginia Woolf-centred The Hours for scenes of suicidal contemplation
- John Adams’ El Niño because it uses non-biblical sources.
Why It Matters: Those “time-tested” operas may be less tested than the WCPE believes. Many opera lovers to this day take issue with the domestic violence prevalent in Carmen, the blatant antisemitism in Wagner’s operas and Puccini’s problematic depictions of Asian cultures in Turandot and Butterfly. History buffs will have a chuckle remembering how the source material for Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro was originally banned in Vienna for its treatment of class conflict.
The controversy stirred up by WCPE’s letter to listeners suggests the Met may be onto something.
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