It has already raised eyebrows over its portrayal of Africans subjected to brutality by Fascist troops.
Critics questioned the taste of including scenes of rape and racial abuse by Mussolini’s soldiers during Italy’s 1930s subjugation of Eritrea in what is a much-loved 18th century opera.
But the South African production of Mozart’s masterpiece Cosi Fan Tutte ran into further trouble when it transferred to France.
There were accusations of exploitation after 12 black singers, employed by Cape Town Opera, found that French artists were being paid significantly more than them.
The company returned to the stage at the Edinburgh Festival this weekend with the production led by the French conductor Jérémie Rhorer.
In a further twist, however, the festival organisers have employed the singers directly, on British contracts, to avoid the dispute that plagued the Aix-en-Provence production, described as a provocative and sexually explicit take on Mozart’s opera.
The disagreement came about after an elaborate arrangement to circumvent French rules on pay. Cape Town Opera told the singers to ignore local laws requiring individual performers to sign contracts with the festival organisers, which guaranteed them the French minimum wage.
But the artists began dealing directly with the festival organisers in order to win a pay rise. They say that, as a result, they were sacked by the company and told to return to South Africa.
A representative for the singers said: We got information in Aix that we were working illegally. We thought there was something fishy about it. The contracts were made out to us each guaranteeing us the minimum wage, but the day after we signed we received emails saying we had breached our contract [with] Cape Town Opera and that there would be repercussions.
The episode has dented the image and finances of South Africa’s flagship opera company and placed the careers of its former stars in jeopardy. Michael Williams, Cape Town Opera’s managing director, said the deal had enabled the company to go on tour abroad as a way of raising funds to continue staging operas in South Africa.
He said: If you’re in our employ, you can’t be paid a second contract. They go there for eight weeks and see how the French opera singers live and how they get paid and say, ‘We deserve this, we’re as good as them.’ And they are as good, it’s just they’re not living in France.
News Source TelegraphNews