Opera to open despite row over gay role

Opera North has undertaken a dramatic U-turn over the staging of a controversial opera after accusations of homophobia.

The company issued a statement yesterday saying it was going ahead with Beached, a new opera by Billy Elliot writer Lee Hall, after Hall attacked the company for "discrimination" claiming his production was shelved because he would not remove a gay character. There was widespread condemnation of the cancellation.

However Opera North claimed it was cancelling the production because it had lost the participation of a nearby school, Bay Primary. The company had also criticised the opera's "references to drug-taking, sexual conduct and the use of homophobic name-calling". The production will now begin on 16 July.

It was reported yesterday that in a concession to Opera North and the school's concerns, a lyric had been changed from "Of course I'm queer" to "Of course I'm gay".

Mr Hall said: "I'm delighted that the school and Opera North have seen sense. It is a real victory for collective action. I could never have achieved this on my own; it was cancelled until everyone expressed indignation against discrimination."