Opera criticised for casting non-Asian singers as Chinese characters to go ahead at Snape Maltings

Snape Maltings, which will still host The Golden Dragon opera this weekend.
Picture: SARAH LUCY BRO

Snape Maltings, which will still host The Golden Dragon opera this weekend. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Snape Maltings has decided to go ahead with hosting a controversial opera which has faced recent criticism over its casting of non-Asian singers as Chinese characters.

The Golden Dragon, an opera set in a Chinese restaurant, is set to hit the stage of the Suffolk venue on Saturday, October 21.

The Music Theatre Wales production has been criticised for using white performers to play Asian characters, leading the Hackney Empire in London to cancel its staging of the opera on October 31.

Since the uproar the theatre company has acknowledged it has ‘made mistakes’.

A spokesman said: “Featuring Caucasian singers as performers playing multiple roles, some of whom are specified as Asian characters, has caused offence.


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“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.”

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Despite the controversy, Snape Maltings has decided to keep the opera on its calendar of events, saying they would allow their audiences to take part in the discussion it raises around diversity.

A spokesperson for the venue said: “Music Theatre Wales’ production of Peter Eötvös’ The Golden Dragon has toured extensively around the UK since its first performance at the Buxton Festival in July 2016.

“While it has been critically acclaimed, it has also been strongly criticised for the lack of diversity in its casting, prompting debate about casting in this piece and more broadly.

“Music Theatre Wales has described this as “a transformative experience for the company and one from which we are determined to learn”.

“Snape Maltings is committed to diversity in all aspects of our work, and the activity undertaken in our spaces.

“After careful consideration, we have decided that the performance at Snape Maltings should go ahead, as planned, on Saturday, October 21.

“This will offer audiences the chance to experience this critically acclaimed piece and to take part in the ongoing discussion of the important issues it raises around diversity.”

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