Rana Moussaoui, Agence France-Presse, February 8, 2021
The Paris Opera vowed an overhaul of its recruiting practices on Monday as it launched a drive towards greater diversity in the heart of its elite ballet company, orchestra and dance school.
The issue has already sparked fierce debate in France with right-wingers accusing the Opera’s new director-general Alexander Neef of bringing American-style culture wars into the cloistered world of its arts scene.
Neef told AFP he was proud the Opera was the “first large cultural organisation in this country to have launched such a thing. There are others for sure that will follow.”
The report highlighted other specific areas of concern, including the sensitive question of “anatomical criteria” in the selection process — to move beyond “old and tenacious ideas” about black bodies as somehow ill-suited to classical dance.
Paris Opera will appoint a dedicated “diversity and inclusion officer”, Neef said, following the lead of New York’s Metropolitan Opera which named its first person to that role last month.
Neef himself made waves recently when he told Le Monde newspaper that “some works will no doubt disappear from the repertoire.”
There was a typical outcry as politicians leapt on the suggestion that audience favourites such as “Swan Lake” and “The Nutcracker” might face the chop, even though the Opera made it clear that there has “never been any question of dropping (Rudolf) Nureyev’s works”.
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen has nonetheless slammed what she called “anti-racism gone mad”.
And Le Monde’s editor-in-chief Michel Guerrin warned that France was “slowly going down the American road, consisting of the runaway self-censorship of artists and programmers in order to avoid trouble.”