China: 18th-century German opera censored in Beijing



18th-century German opera censored in Beijing

Zhang Huan’s production of the Handel opera ‘Semele’ concerned Chinese censors. The officials insisted on a number of changes.

“As any artist or performer in China knows, it is impossible to predict what will set off the mercurial culture censors who have sweeping power over the content of film, music, television and print,” wrote Andrew Jacobs in The New York Times on 25 October 2010:

“On Sunday, it was the depiction of a sexually aroused, anatomically correct male donkey and references to capital punishment that nearly derailed an ambitious interpretation of the Handel opera ‘Semele’. (…) In the end, officials allowed the donkey to remain onstage, but they insisted on a number of last-minute changes that significantly altered the production and left the audience perplexed.

Before the cast arrived from Europe, Chinese officials who saw the production in Brussels, insisted on a number of changes: they vetoed the singing of the Communist anthem “The Internationale” during the finale — too provocative, apparently — and suggested a costume change for the Greek chorus, whose burgundy and saffron robes too closely resembled those worn by Tibetan monks.

Click to read more about China on

Source and more information

The New York Times – 25 October 2010:

‘Lustful Opera, Censored, Befuddles Chinese’

Go to top
Related articles on China