Opera issues trigger warning that includes 'volcano erupting'

Actors on stage

Candide was first performed in 1956

Welsh National Opera
Sam Montgomery

By Sam Montgomery

Published: 13/07/2023

- 20:20

Ticket holders cautioned about depictions of an earthquake and erupting volcano that they might find ‘distressing’

The Welsh National Opera has issued an extensive list of trigger warnings for their production of Bernstein’s Candide.

Circulated via email and available on their website, the warning informs potential opera-goers about ‘themes and language that some people may find upsetting.’

First performed in 1956, Candide is an operetta with music composed by Leonard Bernstein based upon Voltaire’s 1759 novella of the same name.

While the operetta does traverse dark themes, the Welsh National Opera’ cautioning has been very comprehensive.

Stage production photo

Candide is based upon Voltaire’s 1759 novella of the same name

Welsh National Opera

In its statement, the Welsh National Opera reminds attendees to “please be aware” of “anachronistic and explicit language used” and “themes that some people may find distressing.”

Included in the list are occasional strong language; reference to rape; depiction of war and violence including murder; and misogynist language.

It continues by cautioning references to religious prejudices and blasphemy; a scene that shows nooses culminating in two hangings; references to slavery; and depiction of an earthquake / volcano erupting.

Classical music and arts news site, Slippedisc, responded to the statement: “We might as well pack up the whole of opera and stay home.”

Actors gaze into a book on stage

The production has been well reviewed

Welsh National Opera

On the Welsh National Opera’s website, Candide is promised as a “supercharged wild ride” in which “18th-century France crashes into 20th-century post-war America.”

Welsh National Opera added the description: “An ebullient romp that pulls together the best of Broadway, the champagne froth of operetta and the timeless satire of Voltaire’s original novella.”

The organisers proclaim the story to be “as relevant now as when it was first written in 1759,” perhaps in spite of the anachronistic attitudes and themes on display.

Reviewed by The Stage as “an ingeniously witty, all-out absurdist Candide from Welsh National Opera,” both The Stage and The Times gave the production four stars.


Actor Simon CallowActor Simon Callow rages against woke trigger warnings for 'fundamental failure to understand theatre'


Running from the 5th to the 15th July 2023, the production features Ed Lyon as Candide, Claudia Boyle as Cunégonde, Mark Nathan as Maximilian, and Gillian Bevan as Pangloss.

The running time is 2 hours and 25 minutes with an interval.

Actor Simon Callow has scorned the trend of attaching trigger warnings to theatre as completely failing to grasp the purpose of the arts.

In a letter published in the Times, Callow wrote: “There is a fundamental failure to grasp what the theatre is: not a model for behaviour but a crucible in which we look at what it is to be human.”

Simon Callow on stage at the Savoy Theatre playing Oscar Wilde in the play The Importance of Being Oscar Wilde\u200bSimon Callow on stage at the Savoy Theatre playing Oscar Wilde in the play The Importance of Being Oscar WildePA

The Olivier Award winner described theatre as “not a pulpit, but a gymnasium of the imagination”.

The British actor continued: “It is precisely, and by definition, a safe space because it is perfectly clear what happens on the stage is performed by actors, on a set, very visibly lit by artificial light, and that the whole thing is an act of imagination.

“Hamlet will not die but get up to take a curtain call; likewise, Falstaff will not succumb to diabetes but will take the padding off.”

Further debate around trigger warnings has been stirred by Chichester Festival Theatre’s to warn their Sound of Music audience members that they might find depictions of Nazi Germany “distressing”.

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