Melania E: an extraordinary story for our times

I don’t think any of the English language media have picked up on the extraordinary story of Melania E, the Romanian refugee who took part in the recent production of Mozart’s Zaide by Peter Sellars at the Aix-en-Provence festival.

The story was published in Le Monde.  For the benefit of those who don’t read French, Melania E is a 23-year-old Romanian who was placed in an orphanage at 7 and by 11 had been raped and became the man’s slave for more than ten years before escaping in 2006. She is now singing in the chorus in a production of Zaide (a work whose theme is slavery) at the festival, directed by Peter Sellars, who has recruited a chorus of amateurs to, as he says, connect the work with reality.   The article describes her history and how she managed to break free from the man who had enslaved her and the support of the community around her.   It appears that her history only emerged during rehearsals, and the piece describes how she told her story to the collected cast in full rehearsal, and the effect on them.

I often feel that there is no aspect of our society that is more brutal than our casual dismissal of the experiences of the displaced and the migrant – witness the hate-filled rantings of the British tabloid press in particular.  The reality lies in the countless stories of human misery, and courage in the face of adversity, that the media ignore completely.


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