Monday, December 26, 2011
Major opera house and singers take tobacco money
Tosca trends on Twitter as a result of BBC TV's Christmas Eve screening from the Royal Opera House Covent Garden. But the Royal Opera's funding from a cigarette company does not trend. As well as receiving £26 million in public funding from the Arts Council, the Royal Opera takes money from "Gold Patron" British American Tobacco. With brands including Dunhill, Kent, Lucky Strike and Pall Mall, British American Tobacco is the world’s second largest quoted tobacco company.
Cigarette sponsorship is alive and well in opera and an earlier post revealed that Japan Tobacco International, which is the third largest tobacco company in the world, is a corporate sponsor of Glyndebourne, the Mariinsky Theatre and Salzburg Whitsun Festival, while tobacco money also goes to the London Philharmonic and Ulster Orchestras.
Even more surprising is the number of individual singers jointly sponsored by British American Tobacco and the Friends of Covent Garden. These include bass Jimmie Holliday, soprano Aoife O' Sullivan and mezzo Doreen Curran. It may be argued that classical music needs whatever money it can find. But it can also be stated categorically that smoking is the major cause of cancers of the mouth, throat, oesophagus, pharynx, larynx, tongue, lips and salivary glands.
So we have an orchestra receiving an award for a partnership with a manufacturer of the leading cause of preventable death and we have opera singers taking money from a major purveyor of throat and larynx cancer. What exactly must happen before classical music says no to ethically compromised funding?
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