This is part of a series of articles exploring opera in the 21st century. Read Dr Caitlin Vincent on gender and sexual violenceagainst female characters in our March 2022 magazine, and Greg Eldridge’s Opera Columnlooks at on how changing social values have shaped the presentation and reception of opera.

Cat-Thao Nguyen’s piece in the Sydney Morning Herald(26 February) on Opera Australia’s presentation of Puccini’s Turandotre-ignited the continuing, passionate discussion of racial stereotypes in opera. Nguyen, an author and inclusive leadership strategist, says she felt “utterly sick” and “a violent wilting of dignity” on watching the characters Pong, Pang and Ping, whom she described as “horrible caricatures…with their Fu Manchu-style moustaches and fake long ponytails”.

Turandotis racist,” writes Nguyen, defining racism to include “the cumulative impact of colonisation and bias that…produces unequal results between different cultural groups. It includes the compounding effect of how Asians have been depicted in the West”. No doubt a disappointing end to her evening; she left after the first act.

Turandot OA