Dominic Raab accused of elitism over Angela Rayner opera jibe

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Soraya Mafi inherited her love of opera from her grandfather, a builder’s labourer - Robbie Jack/Corbis Entertainment
Soraya Mafi inherited her love of opera from her grandfather, a builder’s labourer - Robbie Jack/Corbis Entertainment

A Glyndebourne soprano has accused Dominic Raab of elitism after he described Angela Rayner’s attendance at the festival as “champagne socialism”.

Soraya Mafi will make her Glyndebourne debut on Saturday as Morgana in a new production of Handel’s Alcina.

Mafi said she was frustrated to hear a government minister suggest that opera was not for the working class.

Angela Rayner attends Glyndebourne festival - The Telegraph
Angela Rayner attends Glyndebourne festival - The Telegraph

The 33-year-old soprano from Bury, Greater Manchester, inherited her love of opera from her grandfather, a builder’s labourer, and studied music through a combination of bursaries and scholarships.

She said of Mr Raab’s jibe: “I don’t understand how he thinks ‘opera - champagne’ and not ‘opera - music, stories’. I think that says more about his perception of things.

“I also think that for any politician in his position, it is really important to choose words carefully.

“To pigeonhole opera as people drinking champagne doesn’t make sense to me. Of course there are people who go to the opera and drink champagne but there are also people who go and drink tap water because they can’t afford a prosecco,” Mafi said.

“We are so lucky to have this tapestry of culture in the UK. It doesn’t matter whether you’re Paul McCartney at Glastonbury or in opera singing Handel, it’s all art. One doesn’t mean champagne while the other means a bottle of Peroni.

“I hate it when people try to dumb things down. My grandfather wasn’t educated - he left school at 14, went into the Army and worked as a builder’s labourer. That doesn’t mean he didn’t educate himself and wasn’t interested in art, poetry and music.

“To be working class, does that mean you aren’t allowed to go and watch those things? That you shouldn’t have access to it?”

Soraya Mafi performing A Midsummer Night's Dream. She says to pigeonhole opera as people drinking champagne doesn’t make sense - Alastair Muir/amx
Soraya Mafi performing A Midsummer Night's Dream. She says to pigeonhole opera as people drinking champagne doesn’t make sense - Alastair Muir/amx

Mr Raab made the dig at Ms Rayner during Prime Minister’s Question Time earlier this week.

He said: “She talks about working people: where was the Right Honourable Lady when the comrades were on the picket line last Thursday? She was at the Glyndebourne music festival sipping champagne and listening to opera.

“Champagne socialism is back in the Labour Party.”

Ms Rayner responded: “My advice to the deputy prime minister is to cut out the snobbery and brush up on his opera. The Marriage of Figaro is the story of a working class woman who gets the better of a privileged but dimwitted villain.”

Mafi said she wanted to dispel the idea that opera was only for the wealthy and privileged, pointing out that tickets for Glyndebourne’s touring productions cost as little as £13.