A North Carolina radio station announced it will not air six contemporary operas from New York’s Metropolitan Opera this season due to its “inappropriate” content — citing “language,” LGBTQ themes and “non-biblical sources” among its reasons.
WCPE, a listener-funded classical music station that serves the Raleigh-Durham area, is protesting the Met’s decision to showcase recently written works by composers from a wide variety of racial and social backgrounds, NPR reported.
In a letter to listeners on Aug. 31, the WCPE’s general manager Deborah S. Proctor said the station took issue with seven operas in particular — six which are scheduled for the 2023-2024 season, and one that aired earlier this year. She asked listeners for feedback.
Proctor’s letter gained widespread attention this week after circulating on social media.
Most of WCPE’s objections relate to depictions of violence, language or the presence of LGBTQ subject material.
In one opera, Proctor said she objects to a composer’s “non-biblical” interpretation of the birth of Jesus.
“All age groups listen to our stations; we want parents to know that they can leave our station playing for their children because our broadcasts are without mature themes or foul language,” Proctor wrote in the letter.
Proctor told NPR that the letter was sent via mail to 10,000 of WCPE’s supporting members, of which about 1,000 responded. Of those who responded, 90% approved of keeping the contemporary operas off of the airways. She said she’s hoping to announce a decision after she receives 2,000 responses.
“If the Met wants to put these out as a ticketed organization with people coming to sit in their venue, for people who choose to be there, that’s one thing,” Proctor told the outlet on Thursday. “But to broadcast these things to anybody who might happen to tune in, that’s something else entirely.”
A content warning before airing the operas would not be a sufficient warning for listeners, she argued.
The letter has outraged opera fans, but despite the backlash, Proctor insists she is not “banning” the works.
“I’m just saying that on this station that I’ve been granted jurisdiction over — and 90-plus percent of the people who have answered the survey agree with me — it shouldn’t be on this station.”
One of the controversial Met productions on that station’s list is the critically acclaimed “Dead Man Walking” — which is based on a true story and opens with a graphic depiction of rape and the murders of two teenagers and ends in another brutal, according to NPR.
It’s reportedly the most widely performed opera written in the 20th century.
Others on the list are: “The Hours” (2022) by composer Kevin Puts, which features a suicide; John Adams’ opera-oratorio “El Niño” (2000) which retells the nativity; Terence Blanchard’s opera “Champion” (2023), about real-life gay boxer Emile Griffith; Anthony Davis’ and Thulani Davis’ biographical “X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X” (1986); and Mexican composer Daniel Catán’s opera “Florencia en el Amazonas” (1996).
When contacted by NPR, the Metropolitan Opera said it had not heard about WCPE’s decision.
The Post has reached out to the Metropolitan Opera for comment.