Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Opera Vs. Divas

Okay, so the Deutsche Oper in Berlin cancelled a staging of Mozart's opera "Idomeneo" for later this year because of a scene in which the director planned to feature the severed heads of Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad and Poseidon.

You can guess which one of those was controversial. Although, apparently, the Snorks were pretty pissed off about Poseidon, the fear was that Muslims would freak out about Muhammad and stab a nun or burn something. Christians apparently aren't that scary in Germany, and Buddhists don't burn anything, except themselves, in protest. But, Muslims have gotten the reputation for being... let's say overly excitable.

So, instead of waiting and seeing what would happen, the Opera cancelled the show before anyone could complain. This is the other sort of censorship- not just people being silenced for what they say, but not saying what they might out of fear. And it's just as ominous for those of us who like to be able to think and say what we want.

And then Chancellor Angela Merkel did the right thing by demanding that the opera not start censoring itself. Hopefully, she'll follow through with security. As much as I get nervous about the state involving itself with the arts, I think this is going to have to start happening. Because I can just see this getting worse. The Muslims are placated. So, then the Christians start demanding that they be placated as well. Jerry Falwell issues a fatwa against the Teletubbies. Then all religions need special treatment. Feminist groups start burning Girls Gone Wild DVDs and stabbing Hooters Restaurant owners. And eventually, the only sort of art you can create is kitsch and elevator music.


Josh in Berlin said...

Most people and newspapers in Germany criticize the cancellation of this Mozart opera. Even a representative of one of many Muslim organization criticized this decision.

I think I am in a very small minority who approves of the decision. That opera is an insult to other religions (since it shows the severed heads of Jesus and Buddha as well) and to Mozart, the composer, himself.

What benefit would we get if we had this opera? It seems the only reason to defend this stupid opera is to avoid giving the impression of appeasement to the Islamofascists. That's not enough for me. Analogy: People can call me coward all day, but I don't get intimidated. I am not doing something just to prove to someone that I am not a coward. Well, I did that in kindergarten and elementary school, but now I am more confident and don't feel I have to prove anything to anyone. Jesus, what a hero I am. :-)

Is this opera helping us? No, I think this opera would only strengthen Islamofasicsm since it would help their propaganda. To win the war on terrorism, we need to have moderate Muslims on our side, so that they don't support the terrorists, but give us information about them. And we want the moderate Muslims to win over their autocratic governments and fundamentalist groups in the Arab world. This opera, however, alienates the moderate Muslims and helps the fundamentalists.

I think we should criticize the Arab world all day on how they treat women, violate human rights, lack democracy, have too much corruption, etc etc. And we should lecture them all day that they should make peace with Israel, that they should spend their money education rather than military, that they should save Darfur, that they need economic reforms etc etc. Since nobody likes to be attacked, criticized and lectured on every issue, we should avoid making fun of their Prophet of defaming their Prophet. Rather we should focus on the topics that matter. That's not appeasement, but about focusing on what is important and it is about setting priorities.

Though, as I said: I am in the minority on this one. Most Germans criticize the cancellation of the opera. It was the opera house who decided to cancel the show. Not the federal or the city government. If (!) the government had told the opera show to cancel the show, then I would be critical and complain about strangeling free speech and about unacceptable government intervention into the arts. But that was not the case.

Let's not forget that Muslims are not the only religious group who dislikes controversial art:

This is from Oct 23, 1998: "Last May, William Donohue, the ever-vigilant president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, raised quite a ruckus about the fact that Corpus Christi, Terrence McNally's play-in-progress, featured a gay, Christ-like protagonist who has sex, off-stage, with his male disciples. Donohue, who has a gift for strained analogies that rivals McNally's own, has called the play "hate speech," "bigotry," and of course "blasphemy." He has argued that a similar depiction of a black or Jewish religious figure would be roundly condemned. Only Catholics and their beliefs, Donohue insists, are held up to such ridicule."
Long article here:

Yeah, yeah, this only happens to Catholics.... Right! And some Jews say those kind of attacks only happen to Jews. And some Muslims say those things only happen to Muslims

The play was then shown after all. And probably the Idomeneo opera will be shown as well soon. They certainly got a lot of publicity. More than this opera house would usually get. Usually hardly anybody would be interested in that opera, but now it is the talk of the town.

"On May 23, 1998, the New York Times announced that the Manhattan Theatre Club would be canceling its scheduled production of playwright Terrence McNally's newest play, Corpus Christi, due to bomb and death threats made against the theatre, its personnel, and the playwright. The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights disavowed responsibility for the threats but did publicly applaud the decision, calling the play "blasphemous." A week later, after counter-demonstrations by a roster of well-known contemporary playwrights, the play was reinstated at MTC. Although the Catholic League's president had not read the play, reports claiming that it depicted a gay Jesus-like figure who has sex with his apostles was enough to ignite a series of events that captured the attention of New Yorkers, theatre artists and others, perhaps to a greater extent than McNally's play itself. On opening night, two separate demonstrations took place concurrently on opposite ends of the block outside the theater."

The same play was shown in Germany, but then cancelled after death threats and bomb threats.

Rufus said...

And that's a good point- there is a propaganda war to consider. Or, at least, we want to win the hearts and minds of moderates. I've said before that moderates will defeat the extremists, and that actually they're the only ones who can. So, thanks for giving me something to think about.

The Pagan Temple said...

How dare they insult the Lord Poseidon in this manner. I declare holy war. Drown them in their own dirty bath water, I say.