Rafael Villalobos Comments on ‘Tosca’ Controversy at the Gran Teatre del Liceu

By Francisco Salazar
(Credit: La Monnaie)

Director Rafael Villalobos is speaking out against the controversy over the cast change for the Gran Teatre del Liceu’s upcoming production of “Tosca.”

In a statement posted on his website the director said, “Despite insistent media requests over the past few days, I have never believed I should have to make a statement regarding the controversy surrounding the cast change for the Liceu ‘Tosca,’ or the rumors arising from it, as this is an internal matter for the theatre alone to clarify, and private decisions of artists can only be respected. I also believe that with the latest revelations, the public, whom we owe respect and who, faced with a cancellation, have a right to information and transparency, now have a rather more complete and honest picture of the whole affair.”

He added, “As a director, I do not have to defend my work against insults, because it must hold its own on the stage, where it will be judged by those who see it in Barcelona next season. I do believe, however, that it is important the public know that this ‘Tosca’ has already been presented at international theatres without the slightest discomfort to any of the singers taking part. I always strive to create a safe environment for all artists to work in. Actually, many of them have witnessed this polemic with astonishment and sent me messages of support, which I thank them for. I am especially grateful to Peter de Caluwe, original producer and initiator of this production, for bringing some coherence to this affair and staunchly defending the project and by extension, the values of the institution he directs and represents, proving La Monnaie remains a beacon for culture in Europe.”

He concluded, “The truth is I find it very disappointing that not all of us in the opera industry – artists, technicians, administrative staff and management – meet the expectations citizens have of us. It saddens me that our collective projects are not always based on dialogue, respect for each others’ work, empathy, and, above all, responsibility for the public resources placed in our hands which allow us to continue to deliver this form of artistic expression, especially at a time of public budget cuts due to the world crises we are currently experiencing. Controversies like the current one make it ever harder to defend opera in the face of the more skeptical parts of society, who perceive it as a bourgeois, elitist art form aimed at the tastes and interests of the few, devoid of social reflection, and completely disconnected from the reality of the cities and countries we are living in.”

The statement comes after the Gran Teatre del Liceu and La Monnaie’s General Director Peter de Caluwe responded to Roberto Alagna and Aleksandra Kurzak’s interviews that were given to the Italian and Polish press.

Alagna and Kurzak withdrew from the production on May 23 and will be replaced by Maria Agresta and Michael Fabiano. “Tosca” opens on Jan. 4, 2023.