Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Opera? Banned?

Reuters and CBS News are reporting that the Berlin opera house is canceling their production of Mozart’s "Idomeneo" over concerns they could enrage Muslims and pose a security risk. Instead they will perform “The Marriage of Figaro” and “La Traviata.”

So what prompted fear of Muslim outrage? Last time I checked Mozart never seemed to have a beef with the good people of Islam. I mean, I’ve played a few of his opera’s backwards and all I ever hear is “Wolfgang is dead.”

Certainly I’m kidding, and I mean no disrespect. Upon further reading, it seems in this production of Mozart’s “Idomeneo,” directed by Hans Neuenfels, King Idomeneo is shown staggering on stage next to the severed heads of Buddha, Jesus, Poseidon and the Prophet Mohammad, which sit on chairs.

Okay, that’s probably going to be a problem. First you got the German pope making some rather unfortunate comments about Islam and now you have an image of the Prophet Mohammad (whose image is strictly forbidden - particularly in editorial comic form), beheaded on a Berlin stage.

Rarely is opera political, in fact, many critics point to opera’s lack of relevance in a modern society as a key factor to its decline. Proponents say that opera’s timelessness is part of its appeal.

No matter what side of that argument you stand on, there is no denying that in this situation, opera just got political!

After checking up on director Hans Neuenfels, I realized that the Google translation system might still need to go through some beta testing since the most coherent thing I discovered was that his last name translates into “new rock.” As a result, I really don’t have any insight into this particular director’s intentions or thoughts. I don’t know what he’s trying to say and I don’t know how important severed heads of religious groups are to his vision of “Idomeneo.” I will say that it must be fairly critical, since the idea of removing the images and continuing with the production of the show, as scheduled, did not seem to be an option.

Certainly there should be a level of racial and religious understanding in this world. However, I find it interesting that the Berlin opera chose to pull “Idomeneo” not for fear of offending Christians, Buddhists or the wait staff of Olympia Gardens (Home of the best moussaka!), but for fear of offending the followers of Islam.

I get it, honestly I do, but at what point do we need to be worried about the aspects of self-imposed censorship in the arts? What do you think? Weigh in: I’ll be curious to hear your thoughts…

- KariG, TBPAC


Table Mountains said...

when i spit i never do it in the direction of mecca. im afraid i might offend someone.

Dominick F., Senior Bean Counter said...

Being the iconoclast that I am, I’m sick and tired of censorship being crammed down my throat from all directions. This Berlin opera flap is nothing more than sensitivity run amuck. Don’t like the opera, book, cartoon, essay, poem, painting, film, photograph, or song? Too bad. Don’t watch it, read it, listen to it, look at it, or buy it.

The new twist, practiced by some practitioners of the religion of peace, of killing and threatening to kill authors and artists (and those who patronize them) who disagree with their view of the world is the ultimate attack on the arts. Do the ongoing death sentence on author Salman Rushdie, and the murder of film director Theo Van Gogh in Holland come to mind?

Being the armed iconoclast that I am, I’m not inclined to cower in fear if I choose participate in an area of the arts that is not on the “approved” list (thanks to Messrs. Glock and Beretta). Being the pragmatic realist that I am, I also believe in the intelligence of containment policy (i.e. as opposed to the lunacy of jumping into every armed conflict under the sun).

However in the end, the only thing thugs respect is strength—as in telling these rigid fundamentalists that if they move into the realm of violence because they cannot censor the arts, then they will pay the price. Otherwise the arts will simply be held hostage to fear.

TBPAC said...

Interesting take, D. You seriously need to check out Jobsite's production of The Pillowman opening in a few short weeks ... http://jobsitetheater.org/pillowman.htm


Dominick F., Senior Bean Counter said...

Indeed, I found the plot description of The Pillowman very intriguing when I perused Jobsite’s upcoming season lineup about a week ago. Unfortunately, children at home and the resulting family dynamics tend to preclude adult-oriented activities at this point in time. Good luck with The Pillowman—it looks to be another memorable Jobsite production.