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Subject: Re: RE : Re: Madama Butterfly
From: Jon Goldberg <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Jon Goldberg <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sun, 11 Jun 2017 19:01:18 -0400

text/plain (91 lines)

I was going to comment on this earlier, but George, I'm glad you chimed in with a 
wonderfully ridiculous answer. ;-)

It amazes me how some people (e.g. the one who made the original comment about the 
superheroes) are so entirely tone deaf on the serious issues involving race and casting, 
which are truly very complicated, very touchy, and very personal. And very important to 

But to totally misinterpret the debate by questioning if an actor always has to have the 
traits of the role - such as not being able to play a superhero unless you ARE one - that's a 
ridiculous argument that entirely misses the point, and is IMO insulting to the actual 
seriousness of the debate. 

No one is jumping up and down for dwarves' rights that Alberich wrongly gets played by a 
singer of average height or taller. No one expects Gioconda's mother to be blind in real life. 
Having an able-bodied man crouching to play the round-shouldered Rigoletto is not making 
fun of, or replacing, a man with a disability. And yes, I think it would indeed be hard to cast 
a role like Medea, or any murderer or villain, if they had to have those traits on their 
resume. Similarly, we can handle a production of Fanciulla where none of the singers are of 
American descent and much as we can enjoy a production of Tosca with an international 
cast of superb singers who have never been near Rome. 

But - noticeable differences in racial casting CAN bother people - especially in terms of 
what is often considered one of the last big casting taboos - caucasians playing other 
races. The term "yellowface" - a term that is a back-formation from the long-lamented 
"blackface" - has recently been used more and more to decry caucasian actors playing 
asian roles, especially if stereotype is involved. But opera, somehow, has managed to 
sidestep this kind of casting issue for decades, primarily because it's still very much a 
"singers first" medium. Most of us don't bat an eye at the idea of a white soprano singing 
Butterfly or Turandot or Liu, etc. Last year a number of black singers came out on record to 
say that they had no problem with ANY able-voiced tenor singing Otello, *without* black 
makeup, in response to the Met's decision to do away with the "blacking up" tradition - and 
the world has not fallen apart. But the real issue is that none of us will all agree on any of 
this kind of decision - some people will find caucasian appropriation of minority roles to be 
offensive and problematic, some people will call up the tradition of opera companies having 
done this for years and say that it shouldn't be any different now, and some people will try 
to say that such cross-casting is equal in effect to the other way around (say, an Asian 
soprano singing Tosca, etc), though many people will feel that's a different kind of 
situation. It's all very confusing and it's almost impossible for it not to be a tinder box 
issue, no matter how it's broached. 

As to the source of this thread - the woman who was fueled with vitriol over the AUDIENCE 
member with the chopsticks in her hair - well, I really don't know what to say, other than 
again, race is a very touchy issue, especially for those in minority groups who have felt 
shut out and stereotyped for many years. And as a caucasian male, and even as a Jewish 
man, maybe I just can't quite feel the deep-seated anger than she clearly does. I can't 
really applaud or defend her, though I can agree with many of you that her ideas do seem 
so extreme as to DIScourage dialogue with her than to ENcourage it. I'd much rather 
ENcourage such dialogue and try to build bridges. 

But how one compares the ethnicity of the singer playing Cio-Cio-San to the qualifications 
for playing a superhero - THAT is essentially as off-putting and bridge-burning as the 
woman's argument that Eric cited. 

On Sun, 11 Jun 2017 16:42:37 -0400, George Rios <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>>Should Marvel movies be played by real super heroes ?!?<
>YES!!  And if you play Medea, you should have murdered at least one child, preferably 
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