LONDON - The Royal Opera House in London on Wednesday defended a gang rape scene in its new production of Rossini's "Guillaume Tell", after it was booed by the first night audience and savaged by reviewers.
The Times newspaper said it was "inexcusably nasty" and supported the loud booing at Monday night's performance, which reportedly lasted for more than a minute and even forced the orchestra to pause until it had finished.
"An over-reaction? Not if you saw 20 men from the chorus pull forward a woman, taunt her, strip her naked and then pile on to rape her. Explicitly and downstage," which is the part closest to audience, wrote the newspaper's reviewer, giving it one star out of five.
The Guardian review called it a "protracted and pruriently voyeuristic gang rape" that felt "completely unnecessary", and gave the production two stars.
The Telegraph newspaper said the scene during the third act of Damiano Michieletto's debut production was "in blatant contradiction to the spirit of the music".
In a statement, the Royal Opera House's director of opera, Kasper Holten, defended the staging but said that audiences would from now on be warned of what to expect.
"This production includes a scene which puts the spotlight on the brutal reality of women being abused during war time, and sexual violence being a tragic fact of war," he said.
"The production intends to make it an uncomfortable scene, just as there are several upsetting and violent scenes in Rossini's score.
"There are no plans to alter the staging of the production. However we have taken steps to forewarn audiences that there are scenes of sexual violence and nudity."
Booing from the audience, particularly on the first night, is reportedly becoming more common, with The Times reporting at least three instances of "vocal discontent" at the ROH last year.