Music Theatre Wales has issued an apology after its casting for The Golden Dragon was criticised. The company cast Caucasian performers to play roles specified as Asian characters, a move which some commentators described as racially insensitive.
Its final tour date on 31 October at the Hackney Empire has been cancelled by the venue. All ticket holders will be given a full refund. Other remaining tour dates at Pontio Arts Centree, Bangor (18 October) and Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh (21 October) will go ahead.
Here is the statement from Music Theatre Wales in full:
We are sorry to announce that Hackney Empire has cancelled our performance of The Golden Dragon. The performance on 31 October was to have been the work’s London premiere, and would have marked the end of our autumn tour.
We acknowledge that we have made mistakes. Having chosen to stage this work – an operatic adaptation of a German play, partly set in a pan-Asian restaurant – we now recognise that we did not discharge in a sensitive way our responsibility to the communities it depicts. Featuring Caucasian singers as performers playing multiple roles, some of whom are specified as Asian characters, has caused offence. This practice is still widespread within the opera world, and we acknowledge that it is problematic, and realise that we should have reflected more deeply on the implications it had for the kind of production we made. These errors of judgement were ours alone. Our exceptional performers are not to blame.
We’re extremely disappointed by this cancellation, and on behalf of our outstanding cast, ensemble and technical team, we want to express our regret that a production that has been so widely acclaimed by audiences and critics won’t now be seen in London. Music Theatre Wales’s work is undoubtedly challenging, but we have never set out to offend. We continue to believe in The Golden Dragon as an important and powerful modern opera that is a sincere attempt to engage with the issues that face people living at the margins of Western society, and which gains its power through forcing audiences to confront their complicity in exploitation.
This is a transformative experience for the company and one from which we are determined to learn. We are already in the process of meeting with a number of professionals and practitioners who wrote to us to raise their concerns, and we will be listening to them as we engage in a thorough review of our approach to equal opportunities and diversity: in our programming, in our casting, and across all our activities as a company. We are committed to incorporating this learning into everything we do.
We are also aware that this is an industry-wide issue and we’re determined to move forward as an active contributor in building relationships that will initiate and guide change across the sector.