Entertainment & Arts

William Tell: controversial opera rated 15 for cinemas

The Royal Opera House
Image caption Rossini's opera of the Swiss patriot, William Tell, who shoots an arrow that splits an apple atop his son's head, stars Canadian baritone Gerald Finley as Tell and American tenor John Osborn

The Royal Opera House's production of William Tell, which was booed on its opening night because of a nude rape scene, has been given a 15 certificate for a cinema screening.

Organisers have also written to ticket holders for the live performance to warn them in advance about the scene, which is not in the original opera.

The Opera House has since apologised for distress caused by the first night.

The 5 July performance is being screened in cinemas around the world.

The production, which is directed by the Italian director Damiano Michieletto, was heavily criticised by audience members and critics.

The Stage gave the production one star. George Hall called it a "dire evening" in which the "gratuitous gang-rape" scene provoked "the noisiest and most sustained booing I can ever recall during any performance at this address".

After the first night, Director of Opera Kasper Holten defended the controversial scene saying it "puts the spotlight on the brutal reality of women being abused during war time, and sexual violence being a tragic fact of war."

Now Holten has been joined by Alex Beard, chief executive of the Royal Opera House and Antonio Pappano, music director of The Royal Opera, in issuing a joint response in which they say they want to "assure that the public reaction to this scene has been of great concern to us and we take it very seriously.

"For this reason, we want to make sure that ticket holders are warned in advance of watching the show, that they will be seeing a scene depicting momentary nudity and violence of a threatening sexual nature."

The response which is posted on the Royal Opera House website again defends the scene saying that they "feel that the scene in question is not gratuitous but is founded in the libretto of the opera and in the context of the overall action of the piece".

But the post admits the "reactions have made a deep impact on us".

"It has never been our intention to offend members of our audience, but for the scene to prompt reflection on the consequences of such terrible crimes on their victims."

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