Hindus urge Opernhaus Zürich to drop culturally insensitive opera Lakmé

Hindus are urging Opernhaus Zürich in Switzerland to withdraw “Lakmé” opera; scheduled for April 2-8-15, 2023; which they feel seriously trivializes Hindu religious and other traditions.

Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that a renowned institution like Zurich Opera House, whose history goes back to 1834; should not be in the business of callously promoting appropriation of traditions, elements and concepts of “others”; and ridiculing entire communities.

Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, indicated that this deeply problematic opera was just a blatant belittling of a rich civilization and exhibited 19th-century orientalist attitudes. He also urged Zurich Opera House to apologize for such an inappropriate selection.

Zurich Opera House should have shown some maturity before selecting an opera like Lakmé (Lakshmi), displaying Western caricaturing of Eastern heritage and abetting ethnic stereotyping, Rajan Zed noted.

It was highly irresponsible for an establishment like Zurich Opera House to choose such a opera which had been blamed for caricaturing, appearance of mocking of “other” cultures, colonial terminology, degrading and offensive elements, dehumanizing portrayal, essentialism, narratives often failing to represent “other” cultures with dignity and humanity, imperialistic outlook, justifying ideas of superiority, looking down on people and customs, misrepresentation, considerably wrong about the culture it was supposed to be portraying, needless appropriation of cultural motifs, patronizing flawed mishmash of centuries-old orientalist stereotypes, pseudo and unabashed orientalism, reimagining Hindu traditions-practices-deities, shallow exoticism based on prejudice, etc. Zurich Opera House could do better than this to serve its diverse stakeholders; Zed stated.

Rajan Zed suggested Zurich Opera House Director Andreas Homoki and Opera Director Annette Weber to re-evaluate its systems and procedures and send its executives for cultural sensitivity training so that such an inappropriate stuff did not slip through in the future.

Zed also urged Kühne-Stiftung, which claims “promotion of the common good” to withdraw their support from Lakmé opera. Moreover; Opernhaus Zürich partners like Credit Suisse, Rolex, UBS should rethink their relationship with it if it continued with operas like Lakmé, which trivialized traditions of “others”; Zed added.

Like many others, Hindus also consider opera as one of the revered art forms which offers richness and depth. But we are well into 21st century now, and outdated Lakmé, which premiered in 1883 in Paris, is long overdue for permanent retirement from the world stage; Rajan Zed points out.

Musical director of this opera is Alexander Joel, chorus master is Janko Kastelic, while Lakmé is represented by Sabine Devieilhe.

Lakmé, a French opera in three acts, was composed by Léo Delibes and set in India in the mid-19th century.

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