Another day, another twitterstorm- this time around the unlikely epicentre of one of our most forward-looking opera companies, caught in a row which pits prejudice against pragmatism.
I have a lot of sympathy for Opera North's near-impossible position. Lee Hall's article in the Guardian about the circumstances surrounding the cancellation of 'Beached', the community opera for which he had written the libretto (pulled because a local school was unhappy that its protagonist was gay), was so eloquent, so passionate and so palpably right that there wasn't a lot they could say in response. And, there's no doubt that once the local school had withdrawn its pupils from the production, it was pretty much dead in the water.
But neither of the company's public pronouncements is, I'm afraid, good enough. The first attempted to be anodyne- to paraphrase, it was essentially 'Lee's work is wonderful but in order to avoid offending people...' etc. The second was feistier, placing the blame more or less where it belongs, on the school and the LEA. But here's what a lot of people, gay and (like Lee Hall, or the friend I was discussing the issue with earlier, who pointed out much of what follows) straight, might have wanted them to say.
'Opera North is very disappointed in the decision made by the school to withdraw its pupils from our production, which has come so late as to make the scheduled run impossible. While respecting the concerns of parents and teachers, the company cannot agree with their decision.
We remain committed to producing this opera, and will not allow a dated narrative of shame around homosexuality to prevent us from presenting works of art which feature gay characters. It is not harmful to children for them to be informed that homosexuality exists; it is a simple fact of life. We would welcome the chance to collaborate with any community and school in our catchment area who would like to work with us on mounting a production of 'Beached' as it is currently scripted, and greatly regret that it cannot be in Bridlington.'
Just that. Standing by their librettist, rather than washing their hands of him. Criticising those whose prejudice had forced them to cancel the production, rather than trying to appease them. Would that have been so difficult?