Racial controversy erupts over Calgary Opera casting, director resigns

Controversy erupts over Calgary Opera casting

CALGARY — A director has walked away from the Calgary Opera’s production of “South Pacific” saying his understanding was that a white actor was going to be cast in the role of a Polynesian character in the Second World War musical.

Mark Bellamy says the production includes themes of racial intolerance and the lead characters’ struggle with bringing Polynesians into their lives.

He says he felt strong the show should be cast in a way that accurately represented the characters.

Bellamy says he resigned after being informed a white actor would play Bloody Mary, a Tonkinese woman from what is now northern Vietnam.

He says he made several suggestions for actors he believed had a more appropriate ethnic background for the character, but whose singing abilities didn’t quite satisfy the Calgary Opera.

Bellamy says he understood why that’s the opera’s focus, but that’s not what the musical is about.

“Oscar Hammerstein created this piece of theatre to have this discussion about racism, (he) didn’t create it to showcase voices of sopranos and mezzo-sopranos necessarily,” Bellamy says.

A designer and a performer also quit in reaction to the casting decision, and Bellamy says other colleagues won’t sign contracts to be part of the production.



The Canadian Press

Canadian Press