Stereotyping Danes is the last socially acceptable form of bigotry in America today, protesters say.
“For centuries, the Hamlet myth has presented the world with an inaccurate and unfair picture of the Danes,” Danish spokesman Aaron Sørensen said. “If this opera were about any other ethnic minority, would Fort Worth program it? I think not. Anti-Danish slurs and bigotry may have been acceptable in our grandparents’ time, but not any more.”
Sørensen, who has not seen the production because Thomas’ Hamlet will not have its regional premiere until May 2, 2015, describes the opera in terms of “outrageous stereotypes and slander. For example, not all Danes are obsessed with their mothers,” Sørensen continued. “Very, very few of us go around talking to skulls or randomly stabbing people in the arras. And some of us are not at all melancholy; we’re actually rather fun to be with. Granted, not many of us, but it’s unfair to smear us all with the same Havarti.”
Sørensen: “Something is rotten in — oh, you know the rest.”
Danish Rights activists are particularly concerned that leading roles will be performed by performers who are not Danish. This is in keeping with longstanding tradition that includes such acclaimed speaking actors as Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, Richard Burton, and Keanu Reeves, as well as such operatic Hamlets as Sherrill Milnes, Thomas Hampson, and Simon Keenlyside.
“All of these Hamlets were required to wear makeup intended to make them appear Danish,” Sørensen said. “It’s time to put a stop to the practice of Slightly Paler Face theater.”
“Not even remotely Danish” Wes Mason,
slated to star as Fort Worth’s Hamlet.
Fort Worth Opera general director Darren K. Woods responded in a brief statement: “While we welcome the opportunity to engage in a dialogue and to listen to the Danish concerns, we at Fort Worth Opera uphold the principles of non-discriminatory casting. In our long history, we have presented such noteworthy performers as the Eastern European–American soprano Beverly Sills as a Scottish madwoman, the Irish–American soprano Mary Dunleavy as a consumptive French seamstress, and — oh, to hell with it, I just can’t.”
Casting Danes in leading or supporting roles would be a good start to cooling tempers and smoothing relations, Sørensen said. However, the Danish Rights activists are willing for a Scots–German to take the supporting role of Claudius’ German-speaking Major-domo, or Haushofmeister, a groundbreaking new feature of Fort Worth’s upcoming production, sure to please audiences and critics alike.
Olivier as Hamlet. “He’s fondling a human skull!” Sørensen protested. “I mean, seriously, who does that? Apart from my uncle Torsten, I mean.”