27/09/2006

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.

"Idomeneo" cancelled at Berlin's Deutsche Oper

Toward the end of Hans Neuenfels' version of Mozart's opera "Idomeneo", which has been shown at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin for the last three years, the hero presents the severed heads of Buddha, Jesus, Poseidon and well, yes, Muhammad. Kirsten Harms, director the opera house, has cancelled the production, which was scheduled to resume in November. The reason: after an anonymous phone call, Berlin's Criminal Investigation Office concluded the performance could represent "an incalculable security risk." There were no concrete threats, only one call by a frightened opera-goer to the Berlin police. At first, Harms wanted to let the production simply disappear from the repertoire. But then a wave of outrage came down on her. German Chancellor Angela Merkel criticised the decision: "Self-censorship out of fear is not tolerable." Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble called the decision "laughable". The papers, which showed less courage in the discussion over printing the Muhammad caricatures, now react with angry comments. And the whole commotion is taking place on the day when numerous prominent Muslims are in Berlin on Schäuble's invitation for a conference on Islam in Germany.


Berliner Zeitung, 27.09.2006

The story is covered on the paper's front page. Harald Jähner, editor of the cultural pages, mocks "German culture," which "is famed all over the world for its state-subsidised courage. Nowhere else on earth does so much stage blood flow as in our theatres. Litres of the stuff are poured over people's heads, actors shit, masturbate and ejaculate naked on stage. And when people run out of ideas for how to get a few people to leave the theatre in anger, they stick a cross right next to the orgy so that at least the local bishop will be obliged by his congregation to write a letter of protest. Then the amassed intellectual forces of the Republic rally in defence of artistic freedom and give the poor bishop a proper scare... Now the Deutsche Oper is giving an impressive demonstration of how little courage for such scandals there really is in our de-sensitised public sphere: none at all. Because as soon as people even start imagining an audience that could react differently, one that could really take offence at what's happening on stage, the performance is struck from the programme."


Süddeutsche Zeitung, 27.09.2006

"It can have formidable repercussions for art if the scissors in our heads already start snipping away on the basis of the most diffuse facts," says Hans Neuenfels, director of the "Idomeneo" production, in an interview with Christine Dössel. "Four heads roll, that is very important – Muhammad's head is just one of them. They are the heads of world-famous founders of religions. Among them is the Greek god Poseidon, who demands the death by sacrifice of Idomeneo's son. What's really key here is the subjective viewpoint of Idomeneo, who at the end has no time for the fanaticism of any religion and frees himself from all religious ties. Deeply agitated, Idomeno has cut himself off from his previous world-view and discovered his own true substance. The production isn't against Islam or any other religion. It's a discourse on how religions are founded."


Spiegel Online, 27.09.2006

Henryk M. Broder feels very discriminated against by Neuenfels' production of "Idomeneo". "After the Catholic church spent 359 years trying to annul the judgement against Galileo Galilei (more), the current Pope only needs two days to distance himself from a quote that is 500 years old and yet still valid.... And now the Deutsche Oper in Berlin has taken 'Idomeneo' from its programme after the Criminal Investigation Office found in an 'endangerment analysis' that 'one can't rule out the possibility of disturbances.' In Hans Neuenfels' production of a Mozart opera that is more than 200 years old, Idomeneo, King of Crete, comes on stage with a bloody sack from which he removes and holds up the hacked-off heads of Poseidon, Jesus, Buddha and Mohammed. And I, as a secular, non-believing Jew am offended. I feel hurt, discriminated against, alienated. Where is Moses' head? What's this contempt of religion supposed to mean?"


Der Tagesspiegel, 27.09.2006

"An opera that is interrupted by disturbances - that's the best thing one could wish for," writes director Christoph Schlingensief, recalling the experience he had with his staging of "Parsifal" in Bayreuth (more). "In the second act, Kundry asks Parsifal: Do you have any idea what's going on with me, what I have to deal with? You're only worried about your own problems. That's how I imagine a fight between Jesus and God or between two lovers. Kundry wears a black burka. In the third act, she takes Parsifal's cloaks off and he takes off her burka. That may be kitsch but that's what it's about: that people are stripped of their mandates and are able to encounter each other as people. Religion is getting more important because we need relics, relics of the metaphysical: a splinter from the Cross or the beer coaster that Cardinal Ratzinger put his stein on. The world is crying out for something supernatural, for an increase of significance that is in no way tangible. That's what we defend, and it's why we're fighting now."


Die Zeit, 27.09.2006

In Die Zeit Online, Klaus Harpprecht defends Kirsten Harms against widespread criticism, which he finds extremely cheap. "The head of the opera house is a clever and, as her career demonstrates, courageous woman. It would be too easy to badmouth the poor woman, who no doubt followed the dictates imposed by her responsibility with a heavy heart. If an explosion were to happen within 100 meters of the opera house, to say nothing of a real catastrophe, the outraged headlines – which in this case should be called rolling headlines – of the Bild Zeitung would cover the paper's entire front page. No commentator would refrain from attacking Harms; the potential for journalistic hypocrisy knows no bounds. Nevertheless the decision to cancel the performance was dead wrong."


Frankfurter Rundschau, 27.09.2006

Knut Pries is alone in his support of Kirsten Harm's decision to strike "Idomeneo" from the Deutsche Oper programme. "What we're seeing is a choir of the cheaply empowered and outraged. Those who blame the director are taking the easy route. Frau Harms didn't capitulate without thinking, she made a rational decision under pressure, in the security interests of those on both sides of the curtain. If a threat has been identified by a qualified authority, it's not the responsibility of an opera ensemble to defend art by means of an aria."


In other stories...

Spiegel Online, 27.09.2006

Navid Kermani explains in an interview what he expects from the Islam conference that is being opened today by Interior Minister Schäuble (more). He's concerned that the fear of terrorism will overshadow the conference. "I'm not in favour of avoiding everything that could possibly offend certain people. I'm opposed to every kind of 'Lex Islam.' Muslims definitely don't need this kind of support. What they need are the same rights, not special rights." (See our features by Navid Kermani here)


Die Zeit, 27.09.2006

Necla Kelek (more), who is also participating in the Islam conference, demands a clearer distinction between moderate Muslims and fundamentalists, and a clear definition of rules to be abided by. "For example the prohibition of head-scarves and Koran classes in primary school. All children should be handled equally, German and Muslim. And there should be a right to childhood. That would be for me a wonderful result. That Muslim children are finally allowed to be children and that there is strict abidance of physical inviolability. So, no circumcision, no corporal punishment. When children enter puberty, then you can decide how to give them Islam lessons. Thank God that Interior Minister Schäuble has clear notions on this front: they have to be in German, they have to be conducted by people that have been educated here and are supervised by the German state." (See our feature "Happier without father" by Necla Kelek here)

Get the signandsight newsletter for regular updates on feature articles.
signandsight.com - let's talk european.

 
More articles

From the Feuilletons

Saturday 11 - 17 December, 2010

A clutch of German newspapers launch an appeal against the criminalisation of Wikileaks. Vera Lengsfeld remembers GDR dissident Jürgen Fuchs and how he met death in his cell. All the papers were bowled over Xavier Beauvois' film "Of Gods and Men." The FR enjoys a joke but not a picnic at a staging of Stravinsky's "Rake's Progress" in Berlin. Gustav Seibt provides a lurid description of Napoleonic soap in the SZ. German-Turkish Dogan Akhanli author explains what it feels like to be Josef K.
read more

From the Feuilletons

Saturday 4 - Friday 10 December

Colombian writer Hector Abad defends Nobel Prize laureate Mario Vargas Llosa against European Latin-America romantics. Wikileaks dissident Daniel Domscheit-Berg criticises the new publication policy of his former employer. The Sprengel Museum has put on a show of child nudes by die Brücke artists. The SZ takes a walk through the Internet woods with FAZ prophet of doom Frank Schirrmacher. The FAZ is troubled by Christian Thielemann's unstable tempo in the Beethoven cycle. And the FR meets China Free Press publisher, Bao Pu.
read more

From the feuilletons

Saturday 27 November - Friday 3 December

Danish author Frederik Stjernfelt explains how the Left got its culturist ideas. Slavenka Draculic writes about censoring Angelina Jolie who wanted to make a film in Bosnia. Daniel Cohn-Bendit talks   about his friendship, falling out and reconciliation with Jean-Luc Godard. Wikileaks has caused an embarrassed silence in the Arab world, where not even al-Jazeera reported on the what the sheiks really think. Alan Posener calls for the Hannah Arendt Institute in Dresden to be shut down.
read more

From the Feuilletons

Saturday 20 - Friday 26 November, 2010

The theatre event of the week came in a twin pack: Roland Schimmelpfennig's new play, a post-colonial "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" opened at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin and the Thalia in Hamburg. The anarchist pamphlet "The Coming Insurrection" has at last been translated into German and has ignited the revolutionary sympathies of at least two leading German broadsheets, the FAZ and the SZ. But the taz, Germany's left-wing daily, says the pamphlet is strongly right-wing. What's left and right anyway? came the reply.
read more

From the Feuilletons

Saturday 13 - Friday 19 November, 2010

Dieter Schlesak levels grave accusations against his former friend and colleague, Oskar Pastior, who spied on him for the Securitate. Banat-Swabian author and vice chairman of the Oskar Pastior Foundation, Ernest Wichner, turns on Schlesak for spreading malicious rumours. Die Zeit portrays the Berlin rapper Harris, and the moment he knew he was German. Dutch author Cees Nooteboom meditates on the near lust for physical torture in the paintings of Francisco de Zurburan. An exhibition in Mannheim displays the dream house photography of Julius Schulman.
read more

From the Feuilletons

Saturday 6 - Friday 12 November, 2010

The NZZ asks why banks invest in art. The FAZ gawps at the unnatural stack of stomach muscles in Michelangelo's drawings. The taz witnesses a giant step for the "Yugo palaver". Bernard-Henri Levy describes Sakineh Ashtiani's impending execution as a test for Iran and the west. Journalist Michael Anti talks about the healthy relationship between the net and the Chinese media. Literary academic Helmut Lethen describes how Ernst Jünger stripped the worker of all organic substances.
read more

From the Feuilletons

Saturday 30 October - Friday 5 November, 2010

Now that German TV has just beatified Pope Pius XII, Rolf Hochmuth tells die Welt where he got the idea for his play "The Deputy". The FR celebrates Elfriede Jelinek's "brilliantly malicious" farce about the collapse of the Cologne City Archive. "Carlos" director Olivier Assayas makes it clear that the revolutionary subject is a figment of the imagination. The SZ returns from the Shanghai Expo with a cloying after-taste of sweet 'n' sour. And historian Wang Hui tells the NZZ that China's intellectuals have plenty of freedom to pose critical questions.
read more

From the Feuilletons

Saturday 23 - Friday 29 October, 2010

Author Doron Rabinovici protests against the concessions of moderate Austrian politicians to the FPÖ: recently in Vienna, children were sent back to Kosovo at gunpoint. Ian McEwan wonders why major German novelists didn't mention the Wall. The NZZ looks through the Priz Goncourt shortlist and finds plenty of writers with more bite than Houellebecq. The FAZ outs two of Germany's leading journalists who fiercely guarded the German Foreign Ministry's Nazi past. Jens-Martin Eriksen and Frederik Stjernfelt analyse the symptoms of culturalism, left and right. Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht demonstratively yawns at German debate.
read more

From the Feuilletons

Saturday 16 - Friday 22 October, 2010

A new book chronicles the revolt of revolting "third persons" at Suhrkamp publishers in the wild days of 1968. Necla Kelek is appalled by the speech of the very Christian Christian Wulff, the German president, in Turkey. The taz met a new faction of hardcore Palestinians who are fighting for separate sex hairdressing in Gaza. Sinologist Andreas Schlieker reports on the new Chinese willingness to restructure the heart. And the Cologne band Erdmöbel celebrate the famous halo around the frying pan.
read more

From the Feuilletons

Saturday 9 - Friday 15 October, 2010

The FR laps up the muscular male bodies and bellies at the Michelangelo exhibition in the Viennese Albertina. The same paper is outraged by the cowardice of the Berlin exhibition "Hitler and the Germans". Mario Vargas-Llosa remembers a bad line from Sweden. Theologist Friedrich Wilhelm Graf makes it very clear that Western values are not Judaeo-Christian values. The Achse des Guten is annoyed by the attempts of the mainstream media to dismiss Mario Vargas-Llosa. The NZZ celebrates the tireless self-demolition of Polish writer and satirist Slawomir Mrozek.
read more

From the feuilletons

Saturday 2 - Friday 8 October, 2010

Nigerian writer Niyi Osundare explains why his country has become uninhabitable. German Book Prize winner Melinda Nadj Abonji says Switzerland only pretends to be liberal. German author Monika Maron is not sure that Islam really does belong to Germany. Russian writer Oleg Yuriev explains the disastrous effects of postmodernism on the Petersburg Hermitage. Argentinian author Martin Caparros describes how the Kirchners have co-opted the country's revolutionary history. And publisher Damian Tabarovsky explains why 2001 was such an explosively creative year for Argentina.
read more

From the Feuilletons

Saturday 25 September - Friday 1 October

Three East German theatre directors talk about the trauma of reunification. In the FAZ, Thilo Sarrazin denies accusations that his book propagates eugenics: "I am interested in the interplay of nature and nurture." Polemics are being drowned out by blaring lullabies, author Thea Dorn despairs. Author Iris Radisch is dismayed by the state of the German novel - too much idle chatter, not enough literary clout. Der Spiegel posts its interview with the German WikiLeaks spokesman, Daniel Schmitt. And Vaclav Havel's appeal to award the Nobel prize to Liu Xiabobo has the Chinese authorities pulling out their hair.
read more

From the Feuilletons

Saturday 18 - Friday 24 September, 2010

Herta Müller's response to the news that poet Oskar Pastior was a Securitate informant was one of overwhelming grief: "When he returned home from the gulag he was everybody's game." Theatre director Luk Perceval talks about the veiled depression in his theatre. Cartoonist Molly Norris has disappeared after receiving death threats for her "Everybody Draw Mohammed" campaign. The Berliner Zeitung approves of the mellowing in Pierre Boulez' music. And Chinese writer Liao Yiwu, allowed to leave China for the first time, explains why schnapps is his most important writing tool.
read more

From the Feuilletons

Saturday 10 - Friday 17 September, 2010

The poet Oskar Pastior was a Securitate informant, the historian Stefan Sienerth has discovered. Biologist Veronika Lipphardt dismisses Thilo Sarrazin's incendiary intelligence theories as a load of codswallop. A number of prominent Muslim intellectuals in Germany have written an open letter to President Christian Wulff, calling for him to "make a stand for a democratic culture based on mutual respect." And a Shell study has revealed that Germany's youth aspire to be just like their parents.
read more

From the Feuilletons

Saturday 4 - Friday 10 September, 2010

Thilo Sarrazin has buckled under the stress of the past two weeks and resigned from the board of the Central Bank. His book, "Germany is abolishing itself", however, continues to keep Germany locked in a debate about education and immigration and intelligence. Also this week, Mohammed cartoonist Kurt Westergaard has been awarded the M100 prize for defending freedom of opinion. Chancellor Angela Merkel gave a speech at the award ceremony: "The secret of freedom is courage". The FAZ interviewed Westergaard, who expressed his disappointment that the only people who had shown him no support were those of his own class.
read more