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Friday, 22 February, 2002, 11:47 GMT
Verdi opera dismissed as 'silly'
English National Opera
Bieito's production was expected to shock opera audiences
A new version of Verdi's A Masked Ball at the English National Opera (ENO) has received scathing comments from some national newspapers.

The opera, directed by Calixto Bieito, contains scenes of sex, violence and rape.

Rupert Christiansen, the Daily Telegraph opera critic, wrote that "transvestites, dwarves, gratuitous sexual couplings and visits to the lavatory distract us in every scene".

In an open letter to the ENO, he accused the company of sensationalism, saying: "Do you think this is the only way to get attention for ENO? If so, grow up or give up."

A Masked Ball production at the Royal Danish Opera
There was no booing on A Masked Ball's opening night
He also criticised the relevance of the production to Verdi's vision and delivered a final insult by stating that "it's just silly".

Times critic Rodney Milnes agreed, saying it was a fairly tame production.

"Oh dear, I do wish Bieito would go away and leave opera alone."

However, he did concede that the first scene, where a dozen men sit on lavatories, was "actually rather beautiful".

In contrast to other critics, the Guardian's Andrew Clements did not think the production was gratuitous.

Furore

"Each of these visuals, and of the myriad others in this superbly realised and immensely thoughtful production, is logically fitted into the whole scheme of the drama," he wrote.

Bieito is no stranger to controversy, having directed a production of Mozart's Don Giovanni at the ENO last summer which included sex and drugs.

The opera was greeted by boos and programme-waving on its opening night.

There was no such behaviour at the opening of A Masked Ball, but a Daily Telegraph report had claimed some of the cast were unhappy with some of the more graphic scenes.

The ENO denied this, and 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."

See also:

22 Feb 02 | Reviews
Revamped opera fails to shock
01 Jun 01 | Arts
Boos greet coke-snorting opera
27 Mar 01 | Arts
English opera sparks debate
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