The English Touring Opera (ETO) has fired half of its troupe to better meet the modern demands of a diverse ensemble. 14 white opera performers were immediately denied participation in the new season of 2022, which is more than half of the entire troupe. Moreover, many of them have participated in the work of the team for over 20 years. ETO officials have announced that they will not contract with white performers due to new recommendations from the Arts Council of England, which purportedly contain a clear call for increasing the racial diversity of artists.
Those who will no longer be able to tour with ETO received a letter of consolation from the director of the organization, James Conway. The text of the letter quickly leaked to the media and became the target of harsh criticism from both the public and representatives of the British music community. In the letter, Conway writes that ETO is “committed to increasing diversity in its team.” “This is in line with the strong recommendations of the Arts Council, the main sponsor of our touring activities, as well as most of the trust funds that support us,” the letter says.
Such a shocking “mirror racism” did not go unnoticed by the European press. For example, the French newspaper Le Figaro published an interview in which the first violinist of the Monaco Philharmonic Orchestra Zhang Zhang criticized the approach of the ETO leadership, calling it truly discriminatory. “This decision has nothing to do with music, it is purely ideological. It is all the more shocking and cruel that the performing arts world is only coming back to life after a year-long lockdown due to a pandemic. This also means that their careers will be ruined, and their families, are likely to find themselves in a quandary. Where do we see justice and progress in all of this? ” Zhang said.
She also called it extremely strange that musicians of European descent at some point in time became unacceptable to play in European orchestras. “In other parts of the world there are orchestras composed entirely of Asian, African or Hispanic musicians. Are they also criticized for not including minorities?” – the first violin of Monaco is surprised.
Classical music portal Slipped Disc has reported that the Arts Council of England has denied giving ETO such instructions or recommendations. “We have not instructed the English Touring Opera to send such letters. We are currently negotiating with ETO to make sure that the funding criteria have not been violated,” – the portal is quoted by a representative of the organization. The fact is that the Council annually allocates about 1.78 million pounds for the activities of this team (almost 180 million rubles – approx. “RG”) and it is quite possible that due to its zeal to establish total diversity by such methods, the ETO leadership may subsequently lose parts of this money.