HACKNEY EMPIRE has refused to allow a Music Wales Theatre (MWT) production of The Golden Dragon to be performed at the East London venue as it features Caucasian singers playing the part of Asian characters.
The opera was due to give one performance at the Hackney Empire to close a tour of the show. The Empire cancelled the booking just a couple of weeks before curtain up when it took the decision that the show compromised its ethos of promoting diversity.
MWT admitted that it was guilty of an error of judgement, from which it would try to learn the lessons. It issued a statement which admitted that offence had been caused, albeit unintentionally, by featuring “Caucasian singers as performers playing multiple roles, some of whom are specified as Asian characters.” MTW was keen to take the blame for the production decision, insisting that the singers themselves had not been part of the decision-making process.
The Hackney Empire countered in a statement saying, “The debate aroused by the non-Asian casting in The Golden Dragon compromises the Empire’s commitment and position as a champion of diversity and accessibility across the theatre industry. It is imperative that discussion and debate on diversity in the arts is encouraged and supported by the theatre industry if it is to positively reflect the population of the UK; and it is equally imperative that the outcomes of that debate are listened to by the theatre industry.”
The Empire also stressed that it had been hired by MTW and it had not been involved in decision making on the production. It offered to work with MTW in the future on issues relating to increasing diversity in opera performance.