Thursday, September 28, 2006

Security fears force cancellation of Berlin opera

I've missed the boat a bit with this story but I thought it worthy of a few words nonetheless.

The Berlin opera company 'Deutsche Oper' cancelled the performance as it feared reprisals over scenes featured the severed heads of Muhammed and Jesus (not their actual bonces I wouldn't have thought, probably balloons with papier-mache skin- you know the sort). Oddly those responsible for the opera 'Idomeneo' don't appear to have actually received any threats for intending to perform it. Though a 2003 performance of the opera in Berlin did arouse criticism for the severed heads scene.

In a particularly strange dichotomy it was the mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit,- the establishment figure and not the bohemiam theatre types- who lamented the company's decision to cancel the opera saying, "Our ideas about openness, tolerance and freedom must be lived out on the offensive."

The cancellation of Idomeneo marks a particularly depressing nadir. In 2004 Sikhs in Birmingham demonstrated against the city's Rep theatre's run of the play Behzti. More recently the Christian Voice's Christo-fascist loony director, Stephen Green, led protests against Jerry Springer the Opera. And in so doing resorted to some pretty un-Christian methods of persuasion. Not gentle discourse and a few verses of kumbayah for our Greenie; but threats of violence and unholy alliances with the BNP.
However, in Deutsche Oper's case it had yet to see a single burning effigy or so much as dodge a molotov cocktail.

The Berlin mayor's intervention is to be credited, but we cannot rely on elected officials to be guarantors of artistic license. It's for the artists themselves to take chances and risk opprobrium for the work they produce. Elected officials should be ensuring protests pass off without incident and where they fail to ensure this see that criminality is punished. In this case the threat of a threat seemed to be the motive for Deutsche Oper's decision. And that is almost as barmy as the feared protestors themselves.


At 6:39 pm , Anonymous Josh in Berlin said...

It seems that the cancellation will be revoked and this opera will be shown after all. What a clever publicity stunt the opera house made by first announcing the cancellation. Usually hardly anybody would be interested in that opera, but now it is the talk of the town.

I think I am in a very small minority in Germany who approved of the cancellation. 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. 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.

Greetings from Berlin,
My blog: The Atlantic Review, A press digest on transatlantic affairs edited by three German Fulbright Alumni

P.S.: What do you think would happen if this opera (which shows the severed heads of Mohammed and Jesus) would be showed in the American bible belt?

At 7:13 pm , Blogger Finnieston Crane said...

Hi, Josh in Berin, thanks for the post. How on earth did you find me?

I think my first comment would be that if moderate Muslims are upset by the opera then perhaps they are not entirely moderate.

I must admit that I found it strange that the opera was announced and then cancelled, apparently without the merest hint of trouble. There is no tangible reason for the volte face. Whereas if it had been announced and then protestors had emerged then it would at least, rightly or wrongly, be sighted as the reason for cancellation. So, perhaps it was cynical publicity stunt.

I must admit to having no evidence as to the quality of the production so you're in a better position than me to judge. However, I've no qualms about people offending as many religious as possible provided it is not gratuitous crap like the Danish cartoons. In that instance the cartoons were neither well drawn nor particularly funny. They were entirely without context and did not seem to have any point other than to mock. And as you concede this opera was not even singling out Islam.

There'd obviously be uproar in the American south about such an opera but I wouldn't give in to the bible-belters either.



At 3:30 am , Anonymous josh in Berlin said...

So then Bible belt folks are not moderate Christians either...

Religious folks are just sensitive. I dont like it.

At 3:35 am , Anonymous josh in Berlin said...

I found you via technorati. A great service that links us all in this interconnected blogosphere :-)

At 10:51 pm , Blogger Finnieston Crane said...

Do come again.


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