While we strive for overall diversity in our casting, we have a long-standing policy of ignoring age, race and other physical characteristics when it comes to casting particular roles. Part of this is due to the complexity of casting for opera. In addition to acting ability, vocal beauty, tone and type, opera performers sing unamplified over a full symphony orchestra—an Olympian-level feat that is a combination of rare talent and years of dedication and training.
The title role of Akhnaten is particularly difficult to cast, especially in this production. It requires a very rare voice type, called a countertenor, in addition to outstanding stamina and agility—vocally and physically. Anthony Roth Costanzo was one of only two singers we found to have the skills and ability to perform the role of Akhnaten in this case, plus he comes to LA Opera having recently learned and performed it for English National Opera. Ethnicity was not a factor in our decision. While we do not cast roles according to race, we have a number people of color in Akhnaten, including in the role of Nefertiti, the queen, and another singer of Egyptian descent, among others.
We fully agree that the historical contributions of people of color have long been distorted or ignored. Not only do we wholeheartedly support all peaceful efforts to right these wrongs, we hope that in our own way we can be part of the solution. We are working toward a world where people of all backgrounds experience, as artists and audience members, the transformative power of opera.