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Thursday, 21 February, 2002, 12:32 GMT
Opera company denies unrest reports
A Masked Ball has already run in Spain and Denmark
A Masked Ball has already run in Spain and Denmark
The English National Opera has denied claims that its new production of Giuseppe Verdi's A Masked Ball has upset some cast members.

The show, which opens at the Coliseum on Thursday after previous runs in Barcelona and Copenhagen, features some scenes of sex and violence.

A Daily Telegraph report had claimed some of the cast were unhappy with some of the more graphic scenes.

They include the opera's opening number, which features a dozen men sitting on toilets.

Those who prefer something more traditional should be warned

It is being directed by Spaniard Calixto Bieito, who took control of the controversial version of Mozart's Don Giovanni last summer.

A spokesman told BBC News Online: "The cast has been working on this for eight weeks and they are all professional.

"They will give 100%. They may not agree with everything the director wants, but they are professional enough to do the work."

Bieito, 38, has transferred the plot from 18th Century Sweden to the political climate of post-Franco Spain.

His previous productions of A Masked Ball showed scenes of male rape and nudity.

Audiences are being warned about the adult nature of the production.

'Black humour'

The ENO website warns viewers "those who prefer something more traditional should be warned".

"There will be some violent and adult scenes as well as a black humour and, in Verdi's words, 'fire, excitement, disorder'."

A spokesman for the opera played down claims the production would be graphic, saying people will "see worse things on TV".

Don Giovanni had a mixed reception last summer
Don Giovanni had a mixed reception last summer
Verdi wrote the opera in 1859, during his "middle-period". It was originally about the true life assassination of King Gustav III of Sweden.

However, as it was written during uncertain political times, censors were not happy with the plot line about the murder of a monarch and threatened to stop Verdi's opera being performed.

So he had to relocate it to the US and the King of Sweden became the Governor of Boston.

However in later years, the opera was later returned to its original state.

Bieito has already caused a stir with his ENO production of Mozart's Don Giovanni last June.

He was met with boos after audiences were shocked by the portrayal of the lead character snorting cocaine.

Don Giovanni was written by the Austrian composer in 1787 and tells the story of a heartless seducer and those whose lives he touches.


The ENO production saw Giovanni's debauchery in all its glory with orgies, drug-taking and explicit language.

Some angry opera-goers booed, hissed and waved programmes aloft to show their displeasure.

But a spokesman for the ENO said: "As well as the boos there were a lot of vocal cheers. It was about half and half, you either loved it or hated it.

"I have never seen an opera elicit such reaction but the fact that it got a reaction at all shows the relevance of opera in modern day.

"After all opera is all about passion."

A Masked Ball runs until 11 April.

See also:

01 Jun 01 | Arts
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27 Mar 01 | Arts
English opera sparks debate
22 Mar 01 | Reviews
Magical Barber delights
21 Mar 01 | Reviews
Solitude unlikely for 'Boulevard'
23 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Opera star strikes blow for women
22 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Opera meets Bollywood
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