The Royal Opera House has apologised to an audience after its newest offering was booed on opening night for a “gratuitous” rape scene.
The production of Rossini’s Guilliame Tell, an opera first performed in 1829, featured full frontal nudity and a brutal rape scene, leaving people horrified.
The production, which was set in the 1990s Balkans wars rather than medieval Switzerland, showed a woman being force-fed champagne, molested with a gun, stripped naked and forced onto a banquet table.
In a statement, director of opera Kasper Holten said: "The production intends to make it an uncomfortable scene, just as there are several upsetting and violent scenes in Rossini's score.
The production at the Royal Opera House was booed on opening night
"We are sorry if some people have found this distressing."
The BBC also reported, that Holten said the scene "puts the spotlight on the brutal reality of women being abused during war time, and sexual violence being a tragic fact of war."
According to the BBC, Tenor John Osborn, who performed in the opera, told Reuters that the scene perhaps “went a little longer than it should have".
But he added: "If you don't feel the brutality, the suffering these people have had to face, if you want to hide it, it becomes soft, it becomes for children."
The scene triggered booing from the audience, while several critics slated the production.
The Stage gave the opera one star while the Guardian was slightly kinder with a two star rating, crediting the “professionalism of the performers”.
According to Guardian critic Tim Ashley, many people also left the theatre before the end of the production.
He described the offending scene as “protracted and pruriently voyeuristic gang rape”, which was met by “an immediate reaction of unprecedented anger”.
The Sunday Express’ theatre critic Michael Arditti tweeted:
Meanwhile the Telegraph’s Rupert Christiansen gave it three stars, while still describing it as a “dismally banal production, which drains the opera of all its romantic nationalism and bucolic charm without putting anything enriching its place”.
He added: “If this sort of interpretation represents the future of opera, then God help us all.”
According to Classic FM, this is not the first time the ROH has had a production booed.
Its staging of Mozart’s Idomeneo and Jonathan Kent’s Manon Lescaut were both criticised by audiences.