Carmen loses out to smokes deal

EXCLUSIVE Cathy O'Leary Medical Editor
A scene from the opera Carmen. Picture: Andrew Taylor

The State opera company has dumped a planned performance of Carmen because it features smoking, putting it at odds with a new sponsorship deal with Healthway.

The 140-year-old opera by French composer Georges Bizet will be banished from the stage under a $400,000 two-year partnership between West Australian Opera and the State Government health promotion agency starting in March. The love story about a fiery Spanish beauty and her rival suitors has been dropped from the opera company's performance schedule and will be replaced with a different opera for the 2015 season.

West Australian Opera general manager Carolyn Chard said the company had voluntarily made the change to accommodate Healthway's policies, describing it as "not difficult".

She said Carmen, which is set in Spain with the first act opening in the Seville town square outside a cigarette factory, portrayed smoking in the setting, action, direction and the libretto, or text.

"We care about the health and wellbeing of our staff, stage performers and all the opera lovers throughout WA, which means promoting health messages and not portraying any activities that could be seen to promote unhealthy behaviour," Ms Chard said.

The two-year partnership is one of Healthway's biggest arts sponsorships and the opera company's 2015 and 2016 seasons will promote the safe drinking message Alcohol. Think Again. It will support the annual City of Perth's Opera in the Park and the opera's winter season.

Regional school tours will also promote the Smarter Than Smoking message.

Healthway chairwoman Rosanna Capolingua said despite smoking becoming less common, it remained the single most preventable cause of chronic disease and early death.

"The portrayal of smoking on stage, in film and on TV normalises smoking and presents it as being attractive, which could dissuade smokers from quitting and encourage young people to take it up," she said.

"In addition, new trends such as smoking electronic cigarettes may re-establish smoking behaviour in our community where the majority of people are non-smokers."

She said Healthway now banned electronic cigarettes as part of its minimum health policy requirements, which meant they could not be smoked at any event Healthway sponsored.