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Sierra Boggess withdraws from West Side Story concert following casting row

Sierra Boggess. Photo: Lev Radin / Shutterstock
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Sierra Boggess has withdrawn from a concert performance of West Side Story at the BBC Proms after a backlash over the role not being given to a Latina performer.

Casting was announced on April 19 for the concert version of Bernstein’s musical, conducted by John Wilson, which will have two performances at the Royal Albert Hall in London on August 11.

Sierra Boggess to star in West Side Story at BBC Proms

However the casting of Boggess as the Puerto Rican character Maria caused controversy, with many criticising the “whitewashing” of the role on social media.

Boggess has since released a statement on Facebook stating that after “much reflection” she had decided to withdraw from the role.

She said: “I’ve realised that if I were to do this concert, it would once again deny Latinas the opportunity to sing this score, as well as deny the importance of seeing themselves represented on stage.

“And that would be a huge mistake. Since the announcement of this concert, I have had many conversations about why this is a crucial time, now more than ever, to not perpetuate the miscasting of this show.”

Boggess apologised for “not coming to this realisation sooner”.

She added: “As an artist, I must ask myself how I can best serve the world, and in this case my choice is clearer than ever: to step aside and allow an opportunity to correct a wrong that has been done for years with this show in particular.

“I have therefore withdrawn myself from this concert and I look forward to continuing to be a voice for change in our community and our world.”

A spokeswoman from the BBC said: “We respect Sierra’s decision to withdraw from West Side Story at the BBC Proms this year and will announce her replacement in due course.”

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