The Director of the Hungarian State Opera made an unusal request to the cast of the opera Porgy and Bess. Although they are all Caucasian, Hungarian singers, Mr. Ókovács asked them to sign a statement saying they identify as African-American.
Szilveszter Ókovács claims: this step was needed, because he finds it unacceptable that the rightholder stipulates that the opera should only be performed by a black cast.The director told us that the opera singers were not obliged to sign the document: 15 of the 28 singers agreed committing.
Szilveszter Ókovács, Director of the Hungarian State Opera:
"If we are forced to play on an absurd field, then we have no other choice than to play with the help of an absurd gear"- he says.
Mr. Ókovács argues that because of the requirement, this opera is almost impossible to stage in Europe – for instance, the Hungarian State Opera doesn't have a contract with even one black singer.
The company first put on the opera a year ago, leading to a spat with the Gershwin estate.
The Director added: he can't and don't even want to give in to the stipulation, which he calls racist.
"Actually, I don't even want to comply with this stipulation. It's impossible to define the participation in a production based on one's skin tone."
Other opinions are that a director should accept this legal condition and should not fuel a debate about the issue.