Managing Director, Michael Williams said the “transformative power of the arts” was more important than canceling the performance.
“The opera has “much which should provide food for thought for audiences in Israel. I am proud that our artists, when traveling abroad, act as ambassadors and exemplars of the free society that has been achieved in democratic South Africa,” he said in a statement.
Williams added his company is in ongoing negotiations to perform within the Arab world.
“In particular, Cape Town Opera welcomes the opportunity to perform within Palestine as well.”
However, the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner and one of South Africa’s iconic anti-apartheid heroes, 79-year-old Tutu said the Israeli trip would be inappropriate as it had been for artists to visit South Africa during apartheid.
The former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, wrote a letter to the company saying it would be wrong for them to perform in “a society founded on discriminatory laws and racial exclusivity,” Reuters reported.
“To perform Porgy and Bess, with its universal message of non-discrimination, in the present state of Israel, is unconscionable,” wrote Tutu, urging the company to postpone its trip until “until both Israeli and Palestinian opera lovers of the region have equal opportunity and unfettered access to attend performances.”
Tutu has been an outspoken critic of Israel. Last month, he supported a call for a South African academic boycott of Israel.