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15 May 2019, 13:13 | Updated: 15 May 2019, 13:43
A performance of Verdi’s 'Rigoletto' by Opera Australia was disrupted on Saturday night after an elderly composer caused a commotion in the front row.
The man, 90-year-old Australian composer George Dreyfus, was airing a 50-year-old grievance with the opera company over ‘disgraceful’ treatment.
Security guards were forced to remove Mr Dreyfus at Saturday night’s performance, after he wouldn’t stop shouting from the front row.
He told the Sydney Morning Herald: “The issue is that Opera Australia commissioned me to write a piece of music in 1969. Opera Australia performed all the other operas that were handed in [at the time] ... except mine. That’s where the protest started. It was not a level playing field.”
Asked why he has staged a protest 50 years later, Mr Dreyfus, father of federal Labour MP Mark Dreyfus, said he takes his art form “very seriously”.
“It’s about fair play,” he said. “Justice. That’s what it’s about. I’m a very competent composer. I lived off it. However, Opera Australia treats me like dirt.”
After a few minutes, some members of the audience started to boo, while others started a slow-clap to encourage him to leave.
After about 10 minutes, he was escorted out of the theatre. Mr Dreyfus, who was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1992, confirmed that police were called to the scene, but they did not physically intervene.
Opera Australia’s chief executive, Rory Jeffes, told Classic FM that Mr Dreyfus was clearly “intent on preventing some performance”.
“My main concern is that this is a very longstanding beef that he has with Opera Australia, and he was determined to make his point. But after 20 minutes, the security people were able to encourage him to step out of the hall.
“After that, the police arrived and took him to hospital because he was very wound up, as he had obviously been working up to this for a very long time. As I understand it, he is now fine.”
Opera Australia's Rigoletto runs until 29 May 2019. Visit opera.org.au for more information.