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26/09/2006

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, 26.09.2006

Lars von Trier (interview here) is a filmmaker who constantly sets himself rules on artistic freedom. First he created "Dogma". Now the rule is called "Automavision", and is used in von Trier's latest production "The Boss of it All", a worker's comedy which Fritz Göttler has seen at the Copenhagen Film Festival. "It works like this: for each scene, the director and his crew establish the optimal positions for the camera and actors according to classic rules for height, perspective, focal distance, depth of field, etc. Then they press a button on a computer equipped with an arbitrary mathematical programme which deforms and imbalances the harmony of the shot. For example, the actors are pushed a little to the edge of the frame, or there's a huge space above their heads. Jump cuts provide a certain unsettled feeling, while the breaks in light and colour shock the eyes – because of course the material is not edited after it's shot."


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 26.09.2006

Eleonore Büning is very taken by the German premiere of composer Hans Werner Henze's most recent opera "Upupa and the Triumph of Filial Love" (story here) at the Hamburger Staatsoper. For the first time, Henze himself wrote the libretto, based on a saga from the Middle East. "There is also a wonderful duet in the well where the hero Al Kasim is thrown by his two evil buffo-brothers (Andrew Watts and Jan Buchwald) when he gets back from his adventures. Badi'at, the beautiful Jewish girl who Al Kasim had claimed for himself on his expedition, has followed her groom. Ha Young Lee's colororaturas are solid as a rock, and lend glockenspiel tones to the scene which she accompanies with a charming, lively coquettishness. Her supplicating aria on the good of the heart beguiles the Sarastro-like prattling tyrant Dijab (Siegfried Vogel) and sweeps the entire royal household off its feet."


Die Welt, 26.09.2006


Manuel Brug reports that the Deutche Oper in Berlin has pulled Mozart's "Idomeneo" from its programme, fearing agitation by Islamicists. In Hans Neuenfels' staging, the heads of Poseidon, Buddha, Jesus and Mohammed all roll. "Neuenfels has expressed the suspicion that the entire affair may have a fully other explanation. 'This Islamistic action seems very elite to me, very knowing, especially when this staging has not been performed for a long time now.' Might Kirsten Harms (more) have reacted too fast? Berlin is not Dinslaken. A cancellation in such a prominent house takes on greater symbolic meaning than the possible risk of a disturbance, which can be prepared against. Theatre as a moral instance of an enlightened western spirit has done itself no favours here."

Eckhard Fuhr reports on a new initiative launched by the Goethe Institute in response to a reconsideration of its purpose prompted by last spring's controversial decision to cut the Copenhagen institute's funding (more). "'Macht der Sprache' (power of language) is the name of the Goethe project that a happily combative president introduced on Monday in Berlin. This really is a linguistic-political offensive that is intended to guarantee Germans the position they deserve, especially in Europe. Almost a quarter of EU Europeans speak German as a mother tongue. As a second language, it comes second place behind English – a result of the EU expansion. One of the tasks of the German council presidency next year will be to maintain German not just as an official language but also, with English and French, as a language of legal process for the EU."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 26.09.2006


Paul Jandl reports from the opening weekend of Steirischer Herbst, the annual arts festival that takes place in Austrian Graz. "The several kilograms of mortadella (smoked sausage) make a dull thud as they land on earth after a ten metre fall. Now we know that. In his 'Gravitational field with air impressions,' Austrian composer Georg Nussbaumer has converted Leonardo da Vinci's illustrated fantasy of a 'rain of tools' into a triumphant acoustic and visual reality. Potatoes, meat grinders and dentures pour down from the ceiling of the Helmuth List hall. Book pages flutter, rain sprays and sand drizzles. And if the metallic sounds don't create a "bell shower," then at least the eight wind machines destroy hair-dos and turn the spectacle into a sacral experience of apocalypse."


Die Tageszeitung, 26.09.2006

The taz is running a series of articles on "criticism of criticism." Today Brigitte Werneburg looks at reviews in newspapers, especially art reviews, which in her view are becoming increasingly bound up with the PR apparatuses of collectors, museums and sponsors. "Journalism is surrounded by marketing, which stacks one highlight after the next on the critic's desk. Who will dare ignore a blockbuster show like 'The Guggenheim Collection' in Bonn once it's been hyped for months on end in all the media? Ultimately, shows like that guarantee attention, and even procure additional revenue for some papers, as the advertising supplements in the Süddeutsche Zeitung demonstrate."

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