After work last eve, myself, my sister, and two others went to see Rossini’s The Barber of Seville at the English National Opera.
This is the second time I have seen this wonderful performance at the London Coliseum. I enjoyed it, even more, this time because I had far better seats and could see the performance as well as hear it!
There were a total of 4 black people that I saw and I am one of the four. The other was my sister attending with me, the single black cast member playing one of the Musicians/Soldiers (an unnamed part with some chorus singing) and lastly the ice-cream vendor (I recommend the Salted Caramel, it was delicious, and not too shocking at £3, unlike the Baileys for a staggering £7!)
I turned to my sister at one point and joked, “want to play spot the black person” she turned to me and answered simply, “no, why would I want to do that?”. I’d forgotten who I was talking to, I play this game with my daughter all the time, it amuses us no end, and sometimes if you’re lucky enough to spot another black person at these events you get the nod, I can’t explain this to you easily. I suggest you watch this to hilarious video to help you
My sister and I were raised in a tight-knit religious community that had no interest in or time for racism as we are all God’s creation. (Don’t worry, there is a fair amount of biblically mandated female as second to a male to counter this). My point is for me it’s amusing when people do a double take at seeing a black person at an opera or ballet. In fact, the double take is so common it is one of the main reasons I never hesitate to wear items from the Indian part of my heritage -because people are going to stare anyway, may as well give them some truly fabulous modified sari and jewellery to stare at!
However, for the first time I had a good think about this last night and wondered.
Is it really exclusion when my people often don’t want what you’re selling?
The Barber of Saville in case you don’t know about it, is a comic opera and is meant to be laughed out loud at, they make frequent jokes in the performance about how these new comic operas are dreadful because that was how vox-pop (the voice of the populous) felt at the time. Yet apart from two ladies sitting next to us howling with laughter (actually quite unusual at these events) the mostly native English crowd sat stiffly through the performance as standard with the occasional chortle, only coming to life for the thunderous applause at the end when they deign it appropriate to react.
My culture is immersed in music and dance and joy and vibrancy, we find it very difficult to sit stiffly and not show enjoyment of the art forms we celebrate -and in the end maybe that is what excludes.