Rhiannon Giddens Calls Out The Classical Station for Banning Opera Broadcasts

By David Salazar

Rhiannon Giddens has spoken out against The Classical Station’s decision to ban the broadcast of numerous operas presented by the Metropolitan Opera.

The North Carolina-based station noted that it would not present such works as “Dead Man Walking,” “X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X,” “The Hours,” “Florencia en el Amazonas,” and “El Niño” due to concerns over content and how it might affect younger audiences. The organization did state that it would broadcast numerous other operas, including “Carmen,” Turandot,” “Madama Butterfly,” and “La Forza del Destino,” which also include adult themes.

The Met Opera responded in an article by NPR by stating, “Since we follow FCC guidelines regarding profanity and questionable language, we do not agree with WCPE’s plan to drop several of our scheduled broadcasts. The Met’s artistic mission is to present great opera, both new and classic, and we expect our participating radio stations to carry all of them.”

The NPR report also noted that in its”its broadcast agreement with radio stations, [The Met] is stipulated that the stations carry the complete Met season.”

Now Giddens, a North Carolina native has taken to social media to call out The Classical Station. In an Instagram post, she wrote, “As a North Carolina native with more than a few connections to the wonderful world of opera, I was appalled to hear of your perplexing decision to not broadcast certain of the @metopera’s season this year. The Met broadcasts are the only way many people get to hear the productions, which are situated in New York and priced way out of many people’s budgets. Radio is supposed to be egalitarian and an equalizer, not used as a weapon, as you are doing.

“In your letter to listeners, you say that these six operas: ‘are written in a non-classical music style (and) have adult themes and language.’ I’m sorry Ms Proctor – are you now saying that you are the arbiter for what is a ‘classical’ style? Are you saying that your training has left you fit to tell your listeners that Dead Man Walking, literally the most celebrated and performed American opera of the last quarter century, is not written in a ‘classical’ style?

“You also say: ‘We want parents to know that they can leave our station playing for their children because our broadcasts are without mature themes or foul language,’ she said. ‘We must maintain the trust of listeners.’

“So what you’re also saying is that the suicide, murder, rape, orientalism, battlefield violence, smuggling, seduction, and alcoholism, among many other things, that are rife in the operas that you have chosen to broadcast, like ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ ‘Carmen,’ ‘La Boheme’ and ‘La Forza del Destino,’ is ok just because they are done in another language? ‘Carmen’ itself was lambasted in Paris society at its premiere by folks like yourself for its immoral and vulgar language, music and story – yet you have not struck it from your list. ‘Un Ballo in Maschera ‘was censored again and again, yet there it is, happily present. I guess all of these operas are just fun ditties for you to whistle with total disregard to the content.

“Thanks for being so transparent, I guess! And thanks for protecting our children from the story of a young 15 year old girl, seduced and abandoned by a soldier, who then commits suicide after giving birth to their son… no, whoops, that’s ‘Madama Butterfly,’ and you’re cool with that one too. signed, Rhiannon Giddens.”