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Oct. 08 2014

Should corporate sponsors butt out of opera?

By Dyana Neal | Posted in Host Blogs | 3 Comments

It seems a conflict of interest is keeping one of the most beloved works in the operatic repertoire off the stage at West Australia Opera, at least for the next couple of seasons. Before you click on the following link from Limelight, please note that I have my own biases in this case:  I’m a mezzo (and thus, naturally, a wanna-be Carmen) with years of opera chorus experience. I also work for a classical radio station that broadcasts opera every Saturday afternoon and has some corporate underwriters. To my knowledge, none of them have ever pressured WBJC to change its programming, but apparently West Australia Opera hasn’t been so lucky.


Celestine Galli-Marie as CarmenHealthway’s Chairwoman Rosanna Capolingua outlined her organisations reservations about staging Carmen, saying “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.”  Okay, Ms. Capolingua, but there are more than a few unhealthy behaviors depicted in operas, including drinking, gambling, and oh, yes, murder. If Healthway has the power to influence which works West Australia Opera stages, what’s to stop future sponsors from doing the same? Will a chain of exercise clubs demand that all the company’s singers be “ripped” (and perhaps work out at their gyms?) Perhaps a fast-food franchise will request less healthy singers. The possibilities are endless.

Australian Bizet fans needn’t despair for too long, however. West Australian Opera’s General Manager Carolyn Chard confirmed the company’s decision to omit Carmen from its upcoming seasons saying “Carmen is one of those operas that is always on the table, and we have a wonderful production by Lindy Hulme which we’ve staged many times, but for the next two years we’re not planning to program Carmen to show we share the same anti-smoking values as Healthway.”  Apparently West Australia Opera’s commitment to its patrons’ health is so sincere that, once Healthway’s money is off the table, it will dissipate as quickly as la fumee.


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Dyana is WBJC's midday host. Her full bio can be read here.

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