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09/08/2005

From the Feuilletons is a weekly overview of what's been happening in the German-language cultural pages and appears every Friday at 3 pm. CET.. Here a key to the German newspapers.

Süddeutsche Zeitung, 09.08.2005

The future of Iraq will be decided in Kirkuk, writes author Najem Wali: by Turkmens, Kurds and Arabs. Wali looks back on the history of the capital city of At-Ta'mim province, which was always disputed between camps. "Even in the seventies, representatives of the party elite toured Iraqi universities to propagandise for the 'glowing future' that awaited 'young Arab alumni in At-Ta'mim'. They coaxed all non-Kurdish students to commit to move to At-Ta'amim after graduating. The state offered them a house, a car and 15,000 dinars (then worth around 45,000 US dollars!), attractive salaries as well as other bonuses and perks."


Die Tageszeitung, 09.08.2005

Writer Wilhelm Genazino contributes to the series of articles entitled "Political Studies". Coming out as an "electoral cynic", he has a slap in the face for one politician after the next. "And then there's CDU chancellor candidate Angela Merkel. I've now almost come to pity her. She speaks in pious terms of Ludwig Erhard, CDU chancellor in the early 60s, without guessing that she will also share Erhard's fate. She will break her party apart, regardless if she is chancellor or leader of the opposition. The CDU complained for so long about her hairdo that she finally relented and now looks as neat as television moderator Petra Gerster. But it won't help. Because there is still something even more unacceptable, more incompatible about Angela Merkel than her hairdo, and that is her flat, squeaky, ridiculous voice. It's a voice for a teacher, or at best for the administrator of some rural district."


La Traviata in Salzburg...

In the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Eleonore Büning is elated by the performance of Verdi's "La Traviata" which premiered on Sunday at the Salzburg Festival, directed by Willy Decker and conducted by Carlo Rizzi. Büning is particularly happy about the widespread enthusiasm created by the event: "It is above all to the credit of Anna Netrebko that opera is now enjoying such massive prime-time media attention, and for once is not being treated as a stodgy minority pastime. The cute, crispy-crunchy Russian soprano loves nothing more than being photographed and interviewed. Thank you, Anna! But the lusty Mexican star tenor Rolando Villazon is also a real titbit for the media. The two brim over with youth, life and temperament. It almost doesn't matter that on top of that, they both sing so wonderfully."

"Mon dieu, what a commotion!" writes Peter Hagmann in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung. "You can't get away from the pictures: Anna shopping, Anna with her boyfriend, Anna at parties, Anna in St. Petersburg – where she is said to have worked as a cleaner at the Marinsky Theatre, and to have been discovered by director Valery Gergiev. Life is a dream." But the hour of truth came on stage. "That Anna Netrebko has an exceptional voice is beyond question. Her soprano is not at all like that of Callas. It rises from deep within her throat, resonating opulently without being at all heavy. Her timbre is compact and yet rich in overtones, and full of power. But it also lets her explore softer realms with an intensity all her own." All in all quite an act. It is only "when Anna Netrebko is alone on stage, during the slow death in the third act, that the action is somewhat distant: well sung – and full of promise."

In the Tagesspiegel, Christine Lemke-Matwey is quite dissatisfied. Yes, Netrebko has a nice voice but unfortunately "she's immune to all inner and outer emotions and events". The biggest disappointment was the Wiener Philharmoniker under Carlo Rizzi. "This music has never been performed so badly: noisy, oom pahpah, monochrome, dumb. Almost no pizzicato played synchronously - from that orchestra! - almost no phrasing that the singers know how to breathe through, almost no real piano, no desire, no sex. As though the whole thing played in a Neopolitan backyard (which actually could have quite a charm!) or somewhere in the hicks. A festival disaster."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 09.08.2005

Art scandal
in Switzerland! In the Kunstmuseum in Bern, a show of Chinese contemporary art called "Mahjong" is being presented by collector Uli Sigg. Samuel Herzog reports that "one of the works, which was already viewed by thousands of visitors at the Venetian Arsenale in 1999, is causing quite a stir: 'Ruan', a bird figure with a human-like head swimming in formaldehyde, by artist Xiao Yu (beware, image). Adrien de Riedmatten, owner of the Internet site 'Bureau audovisuel francophone' (BAF) feels an 'atrocious horror' when beholding 'Ruan'. He is also convinced that the 'botch' is an 'original decapitated seagull on whose body the real head of a foetus or prematurely born baby has been set'. Which is why he has decided to take the matter to court." Should it turn out that a real human head was used, the Museum has agreed to hold a symposium on the matter, inviting "experts in ethics, art, medicine and theology".


Frankfurter Rundschau, 09.08.2005

Oliver Tepel leaves the screening of Alexander McQueen's catwalk videos at his solo exhibition in the NRW Forum with mixed feelings. Wonderful images. "Much is his visual language recalls the calculated shock of the British art of the 1990s, Damien Hirst is not far off. Other pieces refer to the aesthetics of Matthew Barney's films and every now and again, something of the Dandy legend Leigh Bowery shines through: the staging, the play with the body as well as the renunciation of commercial value." In short, "it wants to be art and remains a cored sales show, something between presentation and performance that suddenly reduces all its messages to marketing tools – precisely because they are so perfectly mediated. Between frustration and the desire for content, the statement annihilates itself, exposes the open spaces like wounds. These empty spaces create a sadness which cannot be filled with the still photographs or the six original dresses on display. You trot back to the noisy screens feeling quite alone, knowing that regardless, you would go to the next McQueen exhibition, if you had the opportunity, just to be there, for the moment."

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