Author Topic: After Charges of Discrimination, ‘Billy Elliot’ Writer's New Opera Is Reinstated  (Read 1337 times)

Offline Aloysius J. Gleek

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‘Billy Elliot’ Writer
Says Homophobia
Led to Cancellation
of His New Opera

By DAVE ITZKOFF
July 5, 2011, 9:16 am



Lee Hall


After the cancellation of a new opera written by Lee Hall, the Tony Award-winning book writer and lyricist of “Billy Elliot: The Musical,” its author says that discrimination against gays led to the collapse of the project, while a school whose students would have taken part in the opera said it had withdrawn because of concerns about strong language.

BBC News reported that Opera North, a British company based in Leeds, said it was canceling its production of “Beached,” a new work by Mr. Hall. The opera, which was to open later this month, tells of a single father’s struggles to relax on a trip to the beach, and would have involved about 300 school children from the nearby Bay Primary School.

In a statement on the Web site of Opera North, its general director, Richard Mantle, said the work “can no longer be performed due to the withdrawal of the major school participant,” a decision he said was “deeply disappointing for everyone involved in the project to date, not least many young people,” and “the fundamental and only reason that Opera North had to cancel the planned performances.”

Mr. Hall, who is also the author of “The Pitmen Painters” and a screenwriter on the film version of “War Horse,” told the BBC that the cancellation was at heart “a very simple issue about discrimination” and stemmed from his refusal to remove a gay character from the libretto.

Among the lyrics that Mr. Hall said he refused to remove were the following lines sung by that character:


Of course I’m queer
That’s why I left here
So if you infer
That I prefer
A lad to a lass
And I’m working class
I’d have to concur



Mr. Hall said Opera North was “in a very difficult position,” adding: “At the end of the day it’s a very simple issue about discrimination, it’s about silencing gay people and wanting to wipe them out of being in this play.”

Mike Furbank, a school official, told the BBC that there were other concerns about the language in “Beached.” He said it had been “made very clear” to Mr. Hall that “there were certain elements the school found offensive” including “references to drug-taking, sexual conduct and the use of homophobic name-calling.”

Mr. Furbank added, “Although the language was toned down, it was still deemed as unacceptable for 4- to 11-year-olds to be exposed to.”

Mr. Mantle said in his statement: “Opera North feels that the decision by Lee Hall to suggest that the production was canceled due to a homophobic stance on the part of the company is unacceptable. It is so at odds with the reality of our views on the issue, and so publicly misrepresents the situation in such a demeaning way.”
« Last Edit: July 07, 2011, 09:46:05 am by Aloysius J. Gleek »
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Offline Aloysius J. Gleek

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http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/07/07/after-charges-of-discrimination-a-cancelled-opera-is-reinstated/?hp





 
After Charges
of Discrimination,
a Canceled Opera
Is Reinstated

By DAVE ITZKOFF
July 7, 2011, 7:43 am



Lee Hall


A British opera company said on Thursday that it will present a new opera by the “Billy Elliot” writer Lee Hall, following a dispute in which Mr. Hall said that homophobia had led to the opera’s cancellation.

The company, Opera North, which is based in Leeds, said in a statement on its Web site that the opera, “Beached,” “is continuing as planned” following “intense negotiations behind the scenes with all parties.”

Earlier in the week, Opera North said that it was canceling “Beached,” which features music by Harvey Brough and a libretto by Mr. Hall, because it had lost the participation of the nearby Bay Primary School, from which about 300 to 400 students were to perform in the opera.

But Mr. Hall, the screenwriter of “Billy Elliot” and the Tony Award-winning book writer and lyricist for its stage musical adaptation, said that the cancellation of the project was the result of “discrimination” because he would not remove a gay character from the work. Opera North disputed Mr. Hall’s account, and a school representative said there were many problematic instances of potentially strong language, including “references to drug-taking, sexual conduct and the use of homophobic name-calling.”

BBC News reported that one lyric of concern to the school has been changed. A character who was to sing “Of course I’m queer / That’s why I left here” will instead sing “Of course I’m gay/That’s why I went away.”

In a statement, the Bay Primary School and local officials said, “We are delighted to announce that the revisions which the school requested have now been made and the author has addressed the points raised by the school.”

The statement added: “The final libretto is now an age appropriate text which was all the school had requested. The play retained the inclusion of a gay character, Professor Sewerby, who remains central to the play’s dramatic message. Neither the council, school or Opera North have ever expressed any concern over the inclusion of a gay character, only some of the language and tone around the character’s identity. The writer has now addressed this.”
"Tu doives entendre je t'aime."
(and you know who I am...)


Cowboy Curtis (Laurence Fishburne)
and Pee-wee in the 1990 episode
"Camping Out"