But where does the difference lie?

27 September 2006

Let me begin by saying that I find it hard to complain about any increase in the number of performances of Le Nozze di Figaro or La Traviata. The Deutsche Oper‘s recent decision to cancel performances of Mozart’s Idomeneo and replace them with the foregoing productions, however, deserves some attention.

The NPR story provides the most complete coverage I’ve seen, but the central issue seems to be that the chief of the Deutsche Oper, concerned about an intentionally controversial scene added to the original opera in 2003, cancelled the production citing potential threats of terrorism. This turns on advice handed down from security agencies in Berlin who, in a move wearily familiar to Americans, didn’t cite specific threats but rather the possibility of violence. The inflammatory scene in question involves one of the characters in the opera carrying the severed heads of Jesus, the Buddha, Mohammed, and Poseidon on stage. The subtext seems to be that the only decapitation that would really provoke riots is that of Mohammed–I haven’t seen any radical priests of Poseidon in a while.

As opposed as I am to self-censorship, even in the face of the kind of response that cartoons and disingeneous remarks have provoked recently, I have to wonder whether tacking a gory scene on to a comparatively obscure opera is really a coherent critique of religion in society. Kinda seems like First Amendment groups being forced to defend Fred Phelps and his merry band of villains, although that group is in a much more serious league of despicability than Hans Neuenfels.

At any rate, this feels like a substantially different issue than the previous two posts. Is it?

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