University of Bristol Cancels Performance of Aida After Protests That Verdi Was A Cultural Appropriator

270px-aida_poster_colors_fixedIt appears that the movement against “micro aggressions” and “cultural appropriation” has now targeted opera. In an act of artistic cowardice, the theater at the University of Bristol has cancelled the performance of Aida after students declared that the entire production was a cultural appropriation. It turns out that Giuseppe Verdi was culturally (and operatically) appropriating in 1871 and continues to do so with every performance of this classic opera.

The depiction of ancient Egyptians in costume was apparently enough. However, most of us would have expected the Music Theatre Bristol (MTB) to issue an instructive statement about respect of classic works and artistic expression. Instead it caved to the mob and silenced the performers and artists. The theater explained that “This show that was voted in by our members has since caused controversy in terms of racial diversity. It is a great shame that we have had to cancel this show as, of course, we would not want to cause offence in any way, and that was certainly never our intention. Our intention was to tell this story, one which surely is better heard than not performed at all.”

I have written columns and blogs through the years about the disturbing trend on U.S. campuses toward free speech regulation and controls. In the name of diversities and tolerance, college administrators and professors are enforcing greater and greater controls on speech –declaring certain views or terms to be forms of racism or more commonly “microaggressions.” Now protesters are seeking to declare classics as microaggressions and a university has again folded in the face of the mob.

We have seen students rise in protest over what they believe is “cultural appropriation” in schools offering yoga or students wearing dreadlocks or serving Mexican food. Recently students at Oberlin even fought to stop the school from offering students sushi as “cultural appropriation.”  We have even seen the mispronouncing of names deemed microaggressions. We are losing the important lesson that in a pluralistic society you need to be prepared to hear opposing views and overcome slights that come your way. Ideally you develop an appreciation that some insults are not intended and to develop a thicker skin in dealing with people from different cultures or perspectives. Instead, we seem to be plunging our educational institutions into the dangerous waters of speech regulation and sanctions.

80 thoughts on “University of Bristol Cancels Performance of Aida After Protests That Verdi Was A Cultural Appropriator

  1. I’d say if there is no way to collect royalties then no appropriation.
    Is the claim an infringement?
    What law has been broken?
    How can the university be sued? On what grounds?
    Being insensitive to ubiquitous content?
    Then sue them for using algebra too.
    Show me the money.
    Sanction This. . .

  2. The social ideology adhered to as a matter of course by those employed by academic institutions disarms them in the face of petty malevolence. Higher education every day demonstrates it’s grossly overvalued.

    • Of course, higher education is “grossly overvalued.” Keeping stupid people who cannot afford a private education so that an elite class can govern them at will is much more efficient and so, so . . . Hamiltonian, darling.

  3. Not that I am against drawing the line somewhere, but just for my own understanding, how do you reconcile the apathy against what may be just a “microaggressions” with this:

    Wasn’t the outrage against Aunt Jemima merely a microaggression to those manufacturing that product?

    In other words, where is the bright line of tolerance short of which one should accept humiliation in a civilized society?

    An enquiring mind wants to know.

  4. I’m not sure I see much difference between the offense taken over (ethnically European) actors dressing as ancient Egyptians and white actors dressing in blackface. Whether or not you agree with it, our society has long accepted the taboo against white actors assuming physical characteristics of Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans and Asians. Is extension of that social construct to white actors dressing/acting Egyptian that much more of a stretch?

    And yeah, I get the double standard at work when actors-of-color demand and are placed in roles that depicted white people.

    • our society has long accepted the taboo against white actors assuming physical characteristics of Blacks,

      Not really. The NAACP had a campaign ca. 1950 to persuade radio networks to cancel Amos & Andy, I don’t think these sort of campaigns had much currency prior to that.

    • Wonderer – there was a tradition in the English theatre of men play women’s parts. So, any woman who plays a woman’s part in Shakespeare is culturally appropriating the role. Shame, shame, shame. And what about these writers who write about the future? Isn’t that future cultural appropriation?

      • Good point Paul. Also in Greek theatre – all parts played by men. Hmm, “future cultural appropriation” – please don’t them any ideas =)

    • Blackface emphasizes the contrast of races in an unflattering light (white people playing black people portrayed as “buffoons” is definitely not okay).

      Playing Cleopatra is a part. Good grief, Shakespeare wrote The Tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra. At the time it was originally performed a GUY played Cleopatra.

      “Is extension of that social construct to white actors dressing/acting Egyptian that much more of a stretch?”

      Yes. Many of these stories are not struggles between races, so therefore, an actor’s race should have no bearing. If it is a production of The Color Purple or Uncle Tom’s Cabin, then, yes, an actor’s race does matter. Yet, even then, it may not matter. There was a kerfluffle over Angelina Jolie playing Daniel Pearl’s wife in a movie about him. The widow was thrilled, if I recall, that it was Angelina Jolie who was depicting her, even though she is mixed race and Jolie is not. Here is what Mariane Pearl has to say:

      “Mariane went on to add, “I have heard some criticism about her casting, but it is not about the color of your skin. It is about who you are. I asked her to play the role – even though she is way more beautiful than I am – because I felt a real kinship to her. She put her whole heart into it, and I think she understood why we should do this movie.””

      • But I feel constrained to point out that way too many black people really are buffoons. Blacks in America are pretty much a joke. Not necessarily a funny joke, but one of those dark, sarcastic cosmic jokes. They behave like a group of idiots. What else would you call this:

        I know this is a sad and uncomfortable thing to deal with. I can’t help that.

        Squeeky Fromm
        Girl Reporter

          • You’re entitled to your opinion. I believe I calling buffoons exactly that, regardless of race, creed, or national origin! My goodness, the idiots run around hollering “Black Lives Matter” when they are killing each other left and right, and don’t even care enough about the black baby’s black life to get married. They can’t even have a protest in Charlotte with shooting each other. It’s laughable! If saying that makes you uncomfortable, maybe that is because you just fear what I say is true.

            Squeeky Fromm
            Girl Reporter

            • Squeeky,
              It is unfair to characterize a whole group of people based on a portion of them. None of the black people I know personally are buffoons. They are all good, kind, decent people. They don’t tolerate lousy behavior in their children anymore than I do in mine.

              Black people rioting and looting to “protest” is just as stupid as a bunch of predominantly white college students rioting over a football game. Yet, those college students are not treated as representative of whites.

              Do not dwell on bad behavior; it does not help people to be better. It actually makes people focus on their failings in an unhealthy way, hampering their ability to be better.

        • Squeek,

          re: “Blacks in America are pretty much a joke.” Really??? I often post videos from my “brothers from another mother” – Tim Black and Will & Mike of LTMB. ALL of these guys are intelligent folks offering their commentary on politics, etc.

          To dismiss all blacks because of the insanity in Charlotte is absurd – especially given that most of them were shipped in from other states (Soros I would think).

          After the Mother Emmanuel church shooting here in Charleston many people descended on our city – some of whom wanted to incite riots, burning down stuff, etc. Our local BLM, NAACP people told them to take a hike. That’s not how we handle things here they told them. Shove off.

          So we had a Unity March instead – 20,000 people – black, white, brown, old, young etc walked up and met on the bridge and had a moment of silence to honour the victims.

          Although I have medical issues with heat/humidity I told my husband we had to take part in this event. So we loaded up on water bottles and went. I will NEVER forget it. I was searching for a video to send to you and started crying because it all came back.

          Squeek: We have to stop the hatred. I don’t know what experiences you have had, but PLEASE stop demonizing black folk. You are such a very talented, multi-faceted person why not use your aptitude for unity rather than division?

    • What about Robin Williams playing the genie of the Arabian Knights? Or, frankly, pick any 5 minutes of his dialogue. Or Robert Downey, Jr playing a dude, playing a dude, playing another dude.

      The issue with white people playing African Americans decades ago was:
      1. the minorities were being mocked
      2. minorities were denied acting jobs in Hollywood in whitewashing

      On the one hand, I admired that the producers of Twilight demanded proof of Native American tribal membership for the actors playing Native Americans. Good for them. The white guys playing Native Americans in most Westerns were cringeworthy.

      On the other hand, I have no problem with actors plying their craft at whatever role suits them. (Such as the African American review of the Founding Fathers. Casting Angelina Jolie in Salt, which was originally a man’s role. And Denzel Washington and Tyson Beckford would work in pretty much any male role they want.)

      I would rather have a good actor play a role rather than give it to a bad actor of the “right” color, unless race was intrinsic to the role. Then it would be distracting.

      We can avoid giving away movie roles from minorities without getting into zero-tolerance land, which typically lacks common sense.

  5. These kids are brainwashed for life I fear – this identity PC nonsense is like an infectious disease affecting all facets of life – discourse, the arts, freedom of speech — the Liberals are trying to reshape the world

    Gloria Steinem and her ilk were as bad as Phyllis Shafely

    even SCOTUS is jumping in as The Slants – an all Asian punk band – were denied a trademark for their name as it was deemed “offensive” – wasting time on non issues

    http://www.kgw.com/news/scotus-to-hear-the-slants-trademark-case-rejects-redskins/329001361

  6. Changing culture: Dave Chappelle says he would have gone to jail for his pranks in school. Looking back I think I would have as well =) Or at the very least been force fed Ritalin. And my parents would have been arrested as I was free range.

  7. This is so stupid that I find it hard to believe, and it is even more instructive that some fools defend this. White actors in blackface as in the minstrel shows were acting to demean black Americans as fools. Aida is one of the best operas and is an exemplar of Italian culture of a fictional story. Banning this is prejudice and an offense against Italian culture, not to mention an offense to those of us who love opera. I am a lot more offended at this censorship of Italian culture than any offense to the few if ANY Egyptian students enrolled at the university. Even if there were a student from Egypt, they are NOT the descendant of the ancient Egyptians since the people of Egypt are such a mix of Greek, Turk, Ethiopian, and lots of others. I guess that we will have to get rid of Madam Butterfly next. Though I can see that some would take offense at the depiction of a US Navy officer. Maybe the student at Annapolis will stage a protest against this opera, but I don’t think that such fools who protest Aida will object to the slander of Naval officers.

    • Welcome to the legacy of the Liberal Democrats! This is just the normal result of stunted thinking. These idiots can not comprehend the idiocy and bad results of their position for the same reason that more main stream Democrats can not comprehend the idiocy and bad results of their welfare policies or “families come in all shapes and sizes” lunacy.

      These young ones are just following in the footsteps of their non-thinking elders. They are just putting into action all the silly empathy stuff they have listened to for years.

      Squeeky Fromm
      Girl Reporter

  8. Ummm… Prof. Turley made a key error in his summary of the Telegraph article. The cancelled performance was of Tim Rice and Elton John’s musical adaptation of the Aida story, not Verdi’s opera. That puts a very different slant on the issue of cultural appropriation.

  9. I’m sorry. I don’t speak extremist Liberal.

    Does that mean that every movie depicting people in the garb of ancient cultures, from Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra to Outlander, must now be cancelled because it is culture appropriation? Is it OK for me to learn Gaelic because I have Scottish ancestry, but not an African American? Am I prohibited from eating in any restaurant, or cooking any food, that is not in my ethnocultural heritage? Must African American women abstain from straightening their hair, or from buying the hair harvested from Indian religious devotees, because that is cultural appropriation? What about my dress that has Native American symbols on it? My lovely wool Pendleton blanket with Native American designs? The dreamcatcher of my son’s bed? The African zebra carving?

    And, my God, what are adopted people to do?

    This is utter madness. We all collect what we admire and find beautiful, whether it’s speech idioms, manners of dress, design, or other aspects of culture. A lot of our language was appropriated from other languages, which is why there are so many damned sight words in elementary school.

    • As a radical leftist, I suppose that I am included in the epithet about extremist liberal too. Though if you can slander ALL liberals as being responsible for this, then you can have NO objection to calling ALL Trump supporters as KKK members since the KKK has endorsed and supports Trump. In fact, many of his advisers are of that ilk and white power types, not to mention his ideas about how his white genes are superior to those of color. In fact, that is the whole basis of his support despite all of his gaffes. As Trump himself stated, he could commit murder on 5th Avenue and would not lose a vote from his supporters. I have to agree with Trump on this one point.

      I am also amused that so many right wingers love to quote George Orwell who was a radical communist to the end of his life. At least they have good taste in literature if not much sense in their politics.

      • RandyJet – you are a Liberal Hilbot. Thumpin’ on Trump to promote Crooked Hillary. A true “radical Leftist” would not support that woman.

        • Autumn, Don’t waste too much time w/ the grounded pilot. He just stops in, stinks up the place w/ Hillary talking points, and then leaves. He’s best ignored.

        • Autumn, Orwell almost gave his life supporting the Republican government against Franco, even though he had grave reservations about it. With Trump in the election, I have no doubt that Orwell would be voting for Clinton against Trump,even though he would not much like her limited program. He even broadcast messages to India supporting Britain in the war and against the Indian National Congress which was against any aid to Britain in the war. He was bitterly opposed to British colonialism in India, but he was enough of a realist to know that all progressives in India and Britain MUST support the imperialist Churchill as a FAR lesser evil. He was RIGHT in this as later events showed.

          • randyjet: Orwell would be outraged at Clinton’s corruption and nationalism at the expense of the people.

            This just in from Guccifer 2.0 on the Clinton Foundation’s use of donations from Tarp Fund recipient banks:

            • Inforwars says it is an alleged hack. They don’t seem to think it is authentic. Maybe they are a bit gun shy after Assange snookered them

          • Nope, disagree. I have read most of Orwell’s novels as well as some of his essays. He was ALL about the insanity of corrupt institutions and power. I have no doubt in my mind that he would want to vote for Jill Stein, but being a realist would vote for Trump.

            • Now I can understand why you support Trump. It takes some delusional thinking that since Orwell hated British imperialism, he would love Trump’s imperialism. That is embodied in his idea that the US should go to Iraq and steal their oil. Then since he hated racism in all its forms, he would endorse a guy who gets the support of the KKK and denigrates women, foreigners, and thinks that whites are superior genetically to those of color. Maybe you could show me just where Orwell would approve of all this. Then to talk of corruption to think that Trump is not more corrupt than any previous candidate is beyond belief. He created a fake university to scam people out of their money, made a fake non-profit charity that he uses as his personal piggy bank to buy portraits of himself etc.. Just what do you think Orwell would make of that? Orwell was about bringing the ordinary working folks to power and disinheriting TRUMP! He wanted workers to take over his properties and stop paying rent. He wanted workers to take over their factories, and run them for themselves and their government of workers. THAT is not what even Stein would advocate. He would be a realist and recognize the same kind of threat that Trump’s FATHER posed to America, when he was supporting Franco along with most wealthy US folks. If Trump wins, Orwell would be the first to get his guns and start shooting at Trump.

  10. I suggest some folks here read a good bio of Orwell, and read one of his best books, Homage to Catalonia. Get educated for a change instead of being so ignorant.

  11. Since we are all talking about Orwell “Animal Farm” comes to mind “four legs good, two legs bad”

    That reminds me of the Hilbot mantra “Hillary great, Trump bad” – empty rhetoric since they have nothing else to offer

    • In order to understand Orwell and his novels, one has to know his politics which took a decidedly far left turn when he joined the POUM militia and observed a real socialist revolution first hand. He was so impressed that he was willing to give his life in defense of it, and came close to doing just that when he took a bullet through his throat. That is why if you wish to really understand his writings you must read Homage to Catalonia. He used the term democratic socialist to differentiate himself from the connotation of STALINIST that came with the term Communist, which party and the leadership of the Soviet Union he really hated. In terms of his program he supported, he was FAR to the left of ALL social democrats. His politics were in agreement with the original program of the Third International,which would make him a communist, and he would have been quite welcomed by Lenin and Trotsky, NOT by Stalin who killed off nearly the ENTIRE Central Committee of the Bolshevik party.

      His criticism of the Republican government was that they were against the actual revolution that unfolded,and worked to keep Spain a safe capitalist haven. The Spanish CP was following orders from Stalin who was desperately looking for allies in the West to counter the threat from Hitler, and they insisted that a socialist revolution was NOT the order of the day for Spain. Unless you understand the context of the time, the events make no sense.

  12. Cultural appropriation? Funny, I thought Aida had an Egyptian theme because it was commissioned by Ismail Pasha, Khedive (whatever that is) of Egypt at the time. Also, it was intended to be premiered in Cairo at the opening of a new opera house paid for by the Khedive. Funny era, when a Muslim ruler would not only build a new opera house (devoted to “sinful” Western musical plays) but would even commission a work for the opening. Who appropriated whom?

  13. Now that I come to think of it….

    You’re cultural appropriation! You’re cultural appropriation! The whole damn world is cultural appropriation!

    Common sense is só hard to come by…

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