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
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
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
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"
Recent Washington Post article about Idomeneo