Culture Buff

Opera Australia’s production of Otello

17 July 2021

9:00 AM

17 July 2021

9:00 AM

Lockdown must be making me irritable; an article during the week really got me going. It concerns two forthcoming productions of Othello: one of Shakespeare’s play by Queensland Theatre Company and the other, by Opera Australia, of Verdi’s opera Otello, and makes the absurd proposition that ‘it’s unthinkable (in the era of Black Lives Matter) that a white man would be cast as Othello’. Whatever happened to colour-blind casting or gender-neutral casting? They get thrown aside when confronted by this faddish fixation with race.

The QTC Shakespeare production has Jimi Bani, a self-described ‘blackfella’ in the title role; he may well be perfect in this demanding role. In the opera production, the Moor will be performed by Korean tenor, Yomghoon Lee who possibly thinks he was cast for his vocal ability not his colour. The soprano performing Desdemona, Karah Soo, is also Korean. Confused?

We are talking about theatre; it’s make-believe, for goodness sake. What matters for these masterpieces is that they be cast with the best available performers regardless of race. In 1983, we had Italian tenor Angelo Marenzi with black American soprano Leona Mitchell as Desdemona. Should she have been denied the opportunity to sing a role for which she was perfectly suited because she wasn’t white?

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