Issues of Race Cause Fallout in ‘South Pacific’ Production At Calgary Opera

By David Salazar

The battle against racism is growing these days and it seems that any action against inequality is drawing out no-tolerance responses from offended communities.

Just look at what happened at the Calgary Opera this past week regarding its production of “South Pacific.” The company opted for casting a Tonkinese character with a white woman, leading to a massive overhaul of the production team.

According to the Globe and Mail, director Mark Bellamy, designer Narda McCarroll, and a performer have all quit the production because of the casting decision. Though Bellamy has not confirmed that this was the reason for his departure (his official position is “creative differences”), the report notes that former general director and CEO of Calgary Opera Bob McPhee has confirmed that the casting caused the uproar with the director.

Since the controversy has come to light, the company has taken the steps toward casting an ethnic-appropriate actress for the role of Bloody Mary. Apparently, the company has a Canadian-first policy with the mezzo role and while an artist of Asian descent is in consideration, she is a soprano. As a result, the white performer “remains on hold, although she has not been contracted.”

An Asian performer is being cast for the role of Liat, Bloody Mary’s daughter. The same goes for the performers taking on Emile’s children.

The company must decide what it will do with Bloody Mary by the end of the month as the production rehearsals begin in July with performances slated for August.