Letter: Race pitfalls in Mozart

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Sir: The problems Fritz Spiegl suggests black companies may have with classical texts are not merely theoretical (Letters, 12 August). When I played the trumpet in a performance of The Magic Flute in Port of Spain in 1979, all references to Monostatos's blackness were cut from the dialogue. Since virtually all the singers were black, to have left them in would have appeared paradoxical at least.

However, it has since become a widespread custom to cut not only Sarastro's condemnatory line in the second act, "Your soul is as black as your face!", which would understandably give offence, but also the comic line in the first: "Since we already have black birds in the world, why shouldn't there be black men?", which is meant to show Papageno's innocence.

In the performances given at Snape Maltings last weekend, directed by Benjamin Luxon, these lines were, unusually, retained, although the tenor singing Monostatos wore token black make-up. Perhaps it was felt that people were less likely to be offended, since the performance was in German.


London W4