The opening night of Opera Australia’s Rigoletto in Melbourne on Saturday saw drama both on stage and off, with audience members witnessing the latest protest by composer George Dreyfus. Rising from his centre front row seat just as the conductor was about to take their place in the pit, the nonagenarian used a megaphone to express his frustration about how the company had commissioned, but never performed, his 1970 opera The Gilt-Edged Kid.
Members of the audience became increasingly irritated at the interruption, with Dreyfus’ actions delaying the performance for 15 minutes. The front row was eventually evacuated in order to allow venue staff to remove Dreyfus from the theatre. He was then met by police who escorted him out of the building, where he was taken to hospital for medical attention. Charges have not been pressed against Dreyfus.
Dreyfus had intended to read a prepared statement airing his well-publicised grievances with OA, memorably detailed in his 2011 book Brush Off!, but the dimming of the houselights prevented him from doing so. He had also planned to distribute two-page leaflets about the dumping of his opera, but these were left undisseminated.
The composer staged a similar protest at the opening of the company’s Ring Cycle in Melbourne in 2016. That occasion saw him joined by a small group of protestors bearing placards and handing out flyers. Dreyfus himself lay across venue doors, forcing bemused patrons to step around or over him.
The composer has been a vehement critic of the company’s decision not to perform his opera for over five decades, often referring to it as “an injustice”.