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October 2006 - Nr. 10


The Editor
Letter to the Editor
The Trakehner Horse
Minczuk & Kuusisto at TSO
Dresden's Frauenkirche
Mozart Opera Cancelled
German Impressionists
Golden Madonna
"Der Brückenbauer"
The Permanent Wave
Putin visits Dresden
Double Negative
KW & Beyond
Opera York's 10th Season
Two Outstanding Films
A Soiree To Remember
Opera On Film
Go To The Marché
Dick reports...
Sybille reports
Ham Se det jehört?
Baden-Wuerttemberg meets Ontario
Planet in Focus
Romancing the Rhine

Modern Version of Mozart Opera Cancelled in Berlin Amid Fears of Islamic Backlash

Though the decision might be reversed by now we bring you this to show how great works of art are subject to other influences - the publishers

TWIG - The managing director of Berlin’s biggest opera house has come under fire from German officials for canceling a performance of "Idomeneo", a production with anti-religious overtones which she fears could incite anger among Islamic extremists.

Kirsten Harms called off four performances of the work scheduled for October at the Deutsche Oper by provocative director Hans Neuenfels on Monday. She cited an analysis conducted by the city-state of Berlin’s Criminal Police Office, or Landeskriminalamt, which cautioned that "disturbances of the performances cannot be ruled out". Harms said she feared staff might be attacked.

In an interview with the Berliner Zeitung newspaper she has since however stressed that "Idomeneo" has not been dropped completely.

"Idomeneo has not been cancelled," Harms said in comments published Thursday. "Only the four November performances are not being performed because we live in a very sensitive time."

But she reportedly did not elaborate on what that meant for the opera’s fate, although a report in the mass-circulation daily Bild quoted a spokesman for the opera saying the show would still go on "if we get the appropriate security guarantees".

Merkel, Schäuble speak out in favour of
staging the opera

First staged in 2003 at the Deutsche Oper, the production has a scene devised by Neuenfels and not in the original opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart showing the hero laughing at the severed heads of the Prophet Mohammed and Jesus Christ.

While some Germans have praised Harms for her prudence, media on several continents and top German politicians have accused her of "self-censorship" and limiting freedom of expression.

"We must be careful that we do not increasingly shy away out of fear of violent radicals," Chancellor Angela Merkel told the north German daily Hannover Neue Presse. "Self-censorship out of fear is not tolerable."

Both Berlin Culture Minister Thomas Flierl and the head of its opera corporation, Michael Schindhelm, have called for the work to be performed, if necessary with extra police protection, as has Berlin Governing Mayor Klaus Wowereit, dpa reported. "People can’t debate it unless it’s being performed," said Flierl.

German Muslim leaders want to see the show

The issue was expected to dominate discussions at a previously scheduled summit with the German government and Muslim leaders, held on Wednesday with a view to launching a two-year dialogue on how better to integrate the country’s roughly three million Muslims.

German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, who hosted the so-called "Islam-Konferenz" in Berlin, said afterwards that all of the meeting’s participants would like to go see the play together, Spiegel Online reported.

According to dpa, moreover, a range of Muslim leaders gave their blessing this week for the production to go ahead.

A leak of the original police report seen by dpa warned that the decapitations scene "might be associated in some Muslim circles with videos made by militant Iraqi Islamists of people’s heads being cut off". Police reportedly said on Thursday that they would cater for the new situation if the opera proceeded with Idomeneo after all.

Bound to the spirit of enlightenment

When the Neuenfels work was first performed, reviewers said the closing scene implied that world religions were evil and had caused the sacrifice of countless lives.

In a statement released by the Green Party in Brussels, Helga Trüpel, a German Green politician and vice president of the culture committee in the European Parliament, also criticized Harms for withdrawing "Idomeneo" from the Deutsche Oper’s agenda.

"Mozart’s opera is bound to the spirit of enlightenment and the denial of every form of religious fanaticism," said Trüpel.

"This is the topic of our times and belongs in public debate. This piece must be put back on the playbill."
Republished with permission from "The Week in Germany"


Deutsche Oper

Recent Washington Post article about Idomeneo


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