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Opera North has defended its decision to cancel the premiere of a new community production following a disagreement between a school involved and librettist and Billy Elliot writer Lee Hall.
Hall, writing in The Guardian, said that the production, Beached, was called off because he reached an “impasse” with one of the schools over references to the main character’s homosexuality in the libretto, which was written by Hall.
He wrote: “Word came back from Opera North that, unless I removed the lines ‘I’m queer’ and ‘I prefer a lad to a lass’, the whole project was in jeopardy. (It was by now far too late to replace 300 schoolchildren.)
“The request seemed to come from an entirely different era. I thought there must be some mistake, and that Opera North would support me by finding a way around this completely outdated hysteria. I was amazed when they accepted the school’s position. I was repeatedly asked to excise these references to the adult character being gay.”
In a statement, Opera North responded by saying that the school is the focus of a two-year project in Bridlington and as a result of this, and the fact there is only a fortnight until the performance, the company decided to cancel Beached and replace it with “a celebratory performance of the last two years”.