(Hope Briggs) said that members of the artistic staff, including Music Director Donald Runnicles, had been cordial and complementary throughout. I talked to a few opera house insiders who said that they were shocked, because she’d turned in a fine performance at all rehearsals, including the last one, but they were afraid to let their names be used for fear of retaliation.
As a cynical old-school veteran of the civil rights movement, I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t a (perhaps subconscious) subtext here. This production is going on TV: it will be simulcast to a number of venues. Hope is a big, handsome dark-skinned woman, with strong African features—quite beautiful, but not exactly like most faces you see in romantic roles on TV these days.
Elza van den Heever, her replacement, whom I’ve heard many times and who also has a lovely voice, is a young South African woman of Dutch descent. She’s tall and pretty in a conventional European way, certainly destined for future stardom. I’m not willing to say that conventional racism affected Gockley’s decision to substitute her into the role, but by the standards of Texas, his last home base, Elza might be considered more telegenic, even though both are good singers.