Once again, I have to ask, ‘How do they get away with it? Why doesn’t somebody do something about these saboteurs and traitors?‘
The short story is, they are coming for the classics
Frank Furedi, The Australian, 17 October 2021
Why am I not surprised to read the Welsh National Opera will run a series of lectures on Madame Butterfly to highlight issues of “imperialism and colonialism”?
Because in recent years it has become increasingly fashionable to frame Western art and culture in a negative light. All its great inspiring figures, from Chaucer to Shakespeare through to Jane Austen face the charge of being “too Western”, “too white” or “too racist”. Classical music, ballet and opera are also dismissed in a similar vein. Western classical culture has always been the target of dogmatic radical commissars on the grounds it is elitist, out of date, irrelevant and far too exclusive. Now these philistine arguments have fused with those promoted by advocates of identity politics.
Hostility towards Western classical culture is frequently justified on the ground that it is too old, too white, too male and far too homophobic. This point was emphasised recently by a participant in the Gender Equity and Diversity in Opera Summit organised by the Australian Music Centre. Sonya Holowell took great objection to the traditional meritocratic emphasis on quality in the opera world. She dismissed the idea that “quality comes first” on the grounds that it “ignores the inherent privileges that many” are afforded
Her solution is to “decolonise the high arts”. In praise of this form of artistic vandalism she asks, the “pertinent question to me is what do we want to leave intact?” Judging by recent unrestrained attacks on classical culture, the answer must be “not very much”.