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Last Updated: Saturday, 6 May 2006, 14:22 GMT 15:22 UK
Archbishop condemns Springer show
Jerry Springer the Opera
The opera features Jesus, Mary and God as guests on Springer's show
The Archbishop of Wales has criticised the planned staging of a controversial opera at the Wales Millennium Centre (WMC) in Cardiff next month.

Jerry Springer - The Opera, a parody of the US TV show, has won several awards, but some Christians have claimed the content is offensive and blasphemous.

The archbishop, Dr Barry Morgan, said there could be protests when it is staged between 12 June and 17 June.

The WMC said it was right to stage art that challenged audiences.

The opera has sparked controversy as well as plaudits since it was first performed in 2002.

2001 - Developed at Battersea Arts Centre, London
2002 - One of the hits of the Edinburgh Festival
2003 - Critical and commercial success at National Theatre and in West End
2004 - Wins four Laurence Olivier Awards, including best new musical
Jan 2005 - BBC receives 63,000 complaints over its broadcast on BBC Two
Feb 2005 - Broadway run cancelled because of controversy
Jan 2006 - UK tour starts

The musical features Jesus, Mary and God as guests on Jerry Springer's TV talk show and up to 300 swear words.

The award-winning West End production was seen by 425,000 people and was watched by an audience of 2.4 million when it was broadcast on BBC Two in January 2005.

But its content led to the BBC receiving a record 63,000 complaints as well as many messages of support.

The show is currently on a 21-venue tour of the UK.

Speaking before the opera is due to arrive in Cardiff next month, Dr Morgan said he believed its content "crossed a line".

He said: "I'm deeply disappointed. On the one hand, I can see that we need freedom for the arts to express what they want to express.

"On the other hand, I think they've crossed a line here, because what they say about Jesus in this opera is likely to cause scandal and they'd never get away with saying the same things about the prophet Muhammad."

Dr Barry Morgan
The Archbishop says the opera is "gratuitously offensive"

Dr Morgan said he had written to the chair of the trustees of the WMC expressing his views on the opera.

He added: "I think what's important is to make our feelings known beforehand and we've done that.

"What they say about Jesus here is blasphemous and gratuitously offensive and I think when an opera does that, then it's time to call a halt.

"Why should Christianity endure this kind of offensive blasphemous treatment?"

Responding to the criticisms, the WMC insisted it was correct to stage art which challenged its audience.

It said the opera would go ahead at the centre in June, adding that although a number of letters of complaint had been received, letters backing the show had also been sent.

The WMC said it had met church leaders and would allow Christian literature to be distributed in the centre's foyer over the period the show is there.

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