WA Opera Bans Carmen From Its Repertoire Because Of Smoking And A New Health Sponsor

Muriel Smith as Carmen in 1966. Photo: Lee Tracey/BIPs/Getty Images

Lots of unsavoury things happen in opera. Madam Butterfly is basically the victim of a paedophile. Don Giovanni is a serial rapist, Wagner’s Ring Cycle features incest. The stories told are dark and full of betrayal and unsavoury acts.

By comparison, lighting up a ciggie seems benign, however the West Australian Opera has said it won’t include Bizet’s Carmen in its season for the next two years due to a $400,000 sponsorship from WA government’s health promotions body Healthway.

The heroine of Bizet’s 1875 tale, one of the world’s best known and loved operas, works in a tobacco factory and the cast includes “cigarette girls”. Naughty, naughty Bizet.

The ABC reports that WA Opera general manager Carolyn Chard, linked the decision to the sponsorship deal and that art companies “need to deliver benefits” to such deals.

“Carmen is an opera that is actually set in a tobacco factory, so that does present some difficulties if you’re promoting non-smoking and healthy work environments,” Ms Chard told ABC radio in Perth.

Healthway chair Dr Rosanna Capolingua said they hadn’t asked for Carmen to be sidelined, but they’re pleased anyway, because smoking is glamorised in such works.

You’d think the story has a pretty strong anti-smoking message and shows how harmful tobacco can be – Carmen is killed, after all.

Chard says the company plans to stage it again after the sponsorship ends.

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