Killing Aida, Again and Again

by Jay Nordlinger

President Trump is famous for his tweeting. But Vice President Pence’s tweets should not be overlooked. I begin my Impromptus today with them. Then I ramble on through senator-to-be Kid Rock, champion swimmer Caeleb Dressel, and other subjects.

One of those subjects is a Broadway musical: Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, drawn from War and Peace. Mandy Patinkin agreed to play the part of Pierre. Before, it had been played by Okieriete Onaodowan. Before that, it had been played by Josh Groban. Patinkin and Groban are white; Onaodowan is black.

Why bring race into it? Because this is America, where we apparently worship race as a god.

When Patinkin was announced for the part, there was a “firestorm,” as news reports say, because he was replacing a black actor — who had replaced a white actor, but never mind. After the firestorm erupted, Patinkin said he would renounce the part, in solidarity with the firestormers. So now the show is closing.

Hurray! Yay, America!

Last year, I wrote a piece called “Killing Aida.” It was about the clash of identity politics and art. The title came from an episode at the University of Bristol in England, where the musical-theater society was going to put on Aida — not the Verdi opera but the musical by Elton John and Tim Rice. Some students protested, figuring that white people would be tabbed to play Egyptians and Ethiopians. So the show did not go on. It was canceled.

As I said in that piece, and as I say in Impromptus today, identity politics and art cannot coexist. One or the other must go. And it seems that identity politics is winning, which is a tragedy. An outrage.

Anyway …

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