In Solidarity with the Asian Opera Alliance
San Francisco Opera would like to recognize and support the recent historic formation of the Asian Opera Alliance. Modeled after the Black Opera Alliance, the Asian Opera Alliance (AOA) formed in June of this year to build solidarity in a Eurocentric field. In AOA’s words, this diverse group of Asian-identifying industry professionals aims to “address the dearth of Asian representation in the opera industry and the field’s systemic neglect of Asians and people of Asian descent."
We recognize the deep significance of this work. Through dangerous rhetoric and misinformation, the COVID-19 pandemic has again sparked violence against AAPI communities, bolstered by the legacy of anti-Asian racism throughout the history of the United States. We also recognize that representation - our stage - holds power, both to transform minds or exclude hearts. True inclusion can only be achieved when all our stories are told.
In the first statement from Asian Opera Alliance, they have graciously included calls to action for the work ahead – namely casting, including, pursuing, and consulting Asian people at every level. They urge the field to holistically engage Asian artists, administrators, storytellers, composers, donors, and audience members. With this community in mind, they ask those dedicated to Opera to uplift Asian stories onstage and revision established works.
In the upcoming centennial season, San Francisco Opera will produce Madame Butterfly, a notorious example of cultural misrepresentation that relies on harmful stereotypes. With such a stained history, the impulse may be to hide away from this work in our repertoire. However, as AOA notes in their letter, eliminating Madame Butterfly from programming would remove two already scarce opportunities for Asian women to lead in starring roles. Rather than hide away from the mistakes in our history, San Francisco Opera is revisiting this classic with a critical eye and embracing the opportunity for dialogue. As AOA suggests, we will use identity-conscious hiring practices for the production, inviting Asian artists to make an opera that truly represents them. We strive for a Madame Butterfly that honors the culture it represents and challenges its shortcomings.
This production is just one example of the ongoing work San Francisco Opera will be doing for years to come. We are committed to listening and collaborating with AOA, and we thank them for their invitation for partnership.
San Francisco Opera's DEI Statement on Anniversary of the Death of George Floyd
May 25 marks the first anniversary of the killing of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer fatally pressed his knee onto his neck. It was a modern-day lynching, and a life was lost. Derek Chauvin, a member of the Minneapolis Police Department, was brought to justice and convicted last month of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter only due to worldwide protests and the multiple, months-long campaigns calling for justice and restoration. For many people of color, the resulting conviction does not bring solace. In fact, watching the trial was re-traumatizing and exhausting, stirring up some strong emotions. This was compounded by the deaths of numerous Black men, even as the trial ensued. In light of these horrific incidents and the aftermath, what have we learned? What are we doing to support social change? How might we transform our anger and our grief into responsible action and advocacy?