December 19, 2006

Off With Their Heads

I dislike operas. Operas are not free for me even on PBS! But girl, ain't I looking forward to the staging of Hans Neuenfels' Idomeneo in my city, and how!

Mozart's Idomeneo returned to Berlin's Deutsche Oper on Monday, and what a return it was! Despite all the security and precautionary measures, the 1,863-seat hall was nearly sold out. The controversial production by Neuenfels was suspended in September 2006, after concerns were expressed about the risk of Muslim backlash against the depiction of the severed head of Muhammad in the final scene (along with those of Gautama Buddha, Jesus Christ, and Poseidon). Neuenfels had insisted that the scene, which registered his protest against "any form of organized religion or its founders", must stay, and it did.

The polemic erupted when the piece was dropped from the schedule in September due to vague concerns about a possible violent backlash from religious fundamentalists. The Deutsche Oper's General Manager Kirstin Harms later put it back on the plan after she was widely accused of sacrificing artistic freedom in an act of "self-censorship out of fear," as German Chancellor Angela Merkel put it.
Fear of assassinating the long dead men, and one fictitious mythical god of the sea? Well, I wouldn't blame Kirstin Harms entirely, knowing what happened to the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten and Pope Benedict XVI. On a positive note, there was just one "boo!" during the three hour show, , and that was quickly drowned in the cheering all around. There was no sign of Muslim agitation, and nor did anyone burn buses or smash cars for Buddha's decapitation.
Indeed, there was but a single demonstrator standing outside the opera house with a sign that read, "Artistic freedom or Jesus Christ?"

Is it me or is there a choice here? Please, take the blasphemy challenge and deny these dead men and mythical gods!

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