Cape Town's renowned opera troupe has rejected a call from retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu to cancel a performance in Israel scheduled next month.
The opera's managing director Michael Williams said in a statement Wednesday that the opera would not take a political position and cut cultural ties with Israel or the Palestinian territory.
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Tutu, who earned a Nobel Prize for his peaceful opposition to apartheid, urged Cape Town's renowned opera troupe not to tour Israel until what he called, "discrimination," ends there on Tuesday.
In a statement, Tutu compared the Cape Town Opera's planned visit next month to international artists performing in apartheid South Africa, when it was "a society founded on discriminatory laws and racial exclusivity."
"Cape Town Opera should postpone its proposed tour next month until both Israeli and Palestinian opera lovers of the region have equal opportunity and unfettered access to attend performances," he said.
He added it would be "unconscionable" to perform "Porgy and Bess," which he says has a "universal message of nondiscrimination."
Tutu charged that by bringing international artists to perform, the Tel Aviv Opera House "advances Israel's fallacious claim to being a 'civilized democracy.'"
Hanna Munitz, the Israeli Opera's general director, responded in a
statement, saying that her house and Cape Town Opera were apolitical.
"The agenda is culture and art, and definitely not politics," Munitz
said. "Both houses relate to culture as a bridge, the aim of which is to
be above any political dispute. Furthermore, the fact of the matter is
that very big performance companies arrive in Israel from abroad all the
Tutu has long been a sharp critic of Israel. Last month, he backed calls for a South African academic boycott of Israel.
Tutu retired earlier this month, saying he wanted to travel less and
spend more time with his family. He did not, though, say he would stop
speaking out on issues he has championed.