Heather Mac Donald has written a terrific piece in Spiked about how the hysterical crusade against ‘whiteness’ in the upper echelons of the American cultural establishment is threatening to destroy classical music. Here’s how it begins:
Until August 2020, Dona Vaughn had been the longtime artistic director of opera at the Manhattan School of Music. Her experience included singing, acting and directing on and off Broadway and on opera stages. The Manhattan School of Music’s 2019 production of Saverio Mercadante’s little-known opera buffa, I due Figaro, showed her influence in stunningly charismatic and witty student performances.
Vaughn was committed to championing minority musicians – so much so that she endowed a scholarship for them at her alma mater, Brevard College in North Carolina. “In all my years of teaching’, she said at the time, “I often have wished that more minority members were encouraged to pursue a music profession.” Besides the classics, she produced socially conscious contemporary works, giving the first professional staging, for example, at the Fort Worth Opera Festival of a feminist opera about a 17th Century nun.
The mob cares nothing for facts, though. On June 17th 2020, Vaughn was teaching a class via Zoom on musical theatre. An unidentified participant, whose name and image were blacked out, asked her, out of the blue, how she could justify having produced Franz Lehár’s allegedly racist operetta, Das Land des Lächelns (The Land of Smiles), several years earlier. (The racial sin, in this case, was allegedly against Asians.) Vaughn cut the questioner off for raising an issue irrelevant to the current discussion.
The fuse was lit. A Manhattan School of Music student petition was immediately forthcoming. Vaughn must be fired because she is a “danger to the arts community”, it thundered. The petition resurrected a meme from the time of the Lehár production: that Vaughn had cast a black singer as a butler, thus supposedly proving her racism. For good measure, the petition threw in unspecified “reports” of “homophobic aggression and body shaming”. The petition quickly garnered 1,800 signatures. Phoney Instagram accounts under Vaughn’s name suddenly appeared on the web, containing fake inflammatory material
Vaughn’s colleagues, cowering from the mob, let her twist in the wind. Almost none came to her defence. Vaughn was fired and replaced by a black male.
Worth reading in full.
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