Thursday, September 28, 2006

Mozart Opera Cancelled in Germany

I am a big opera fan -- my wife and I have had season tickets to the Seattle Opera for several years -- so it's with more than a little interest that I note the cancellation of Mozart's Idomeneo in Berlin ... before a single performance!

Not because there were protests, riots, complaints, or even strongly-worded letters to the editor -- there weren't. It was because the opera showed King Idomeneo on stage parading around the severed heads of Buddha, Jesus, Mohammad and the sea god Poseidon.

The potential for upset among Muslims was cited as a reason for the cancellation. No mention was made of the ardent fundamentalist Poseidonists in the audience...

Okay, I'm of two minds about this: I believe that art for art's sake is a valuable concept, and that great art challenges the viewer. On the other hand, given the deplorable state of fundamentalist religious fervor in the world at large, to continue with the show as staged would just be asking for it. At the least I would expect an angry mob of Poseidonistas to storm the theatre -- maybe even plant a bomb or two to go off during a performance.

In Germany. In this country, it would of course be the Xian fundos making all the racket, storming the theatre, etc.

Interestingly, this particular bit of stagecraft was not even in the opera as originally envisioned by Mozart. It's a very recent addition. So maybe the answer would have been to continue the opera, but without this particular bit of business which is guaranteed to offend religious (in)sensibilities.

I really don't have an answer, except to say that it was overkill to cancel the entire opera over this. This is the kind of self-censorship that entirely too many people are engaging in these days, and we can't let ourselves fall into the trap of being afraid to offend someone. The right of free speech includes the right to say shit that is offensive.

The corollary is that people have a right to be offended, but they do not have the right to riot and blow up an opera house over it.


Granny said...

I have two different performances of Idomoneo on video - both straightforward enough.

Strange setting for it but I've seen some odd things done to Figaro as well.

Funny Idomoneo story. My husband knows I like opera but doesn't know much about it. He called me at work years ago to tell me he'd found a video on sale and picked it up for me.

I said "who and what"? He said "I don't know; one of those Italians you like so much". It's the thought that counts.

You guessed it, the Glyndebourne production. Wonderful story and music and one of the last of the opera seria.

I know I'm off topic; it's what happens when I stumble across someone who's actually heard of that opera.

drainbamage said...

I would think that instead of compromising the values they canceled it. Self censor ship? Try it on yourself. Then you will find the answer.

Good to see you back!

glad you kicked its ass!