Appeasement at the Opera

Mozart falls victim to fear of Muslim rage — By Roger Kimball
About the only thing less pleasing than having to sit through Hans Neuenfels’s production of Mozart’s 1781 opera “Idomeneo” is the news that Berlin’s Deutsche Oper, citing an “incalculable” security risk from enraged Muslims, has decided to cancel its scheduled showing of the piece.

Don’t get me wrong. I am certain that the production, which premiered in 2003, is a horror. In Mozart’s version, the opera, set on Crete in the aftermath of the Trojan War, is a play about sacrifice and reconciliation. The opera ends with King Idomeneo issuing a “last command. I announce peace,” before ceding power to his son. Mr. Neuenfels’s version is Modern German — i.e., gratuitously offensive. It is more Neuenfels than Mozart. Instead of appearing as the harbinger of peace, Idomeneo ends the opera parading the severed heads of Poseidon, Jesus, Buddha and the Prophet Muhammad. How do you spell “anachronistic balderdash”?

Poor Mozart. Mr. Neuenfels is one of those directors more interested in nurturing his own pathologies than in offering a faithful presentation of the geniuses with whose work he has been entrusted.

The rest of Roger Kimball’s excellent article in the Wall Street Journal goes on to deal with the rights and wrongs of Deutsche Oper’s decision to cancel their production of Mozart’s Idomeneo because of security concerns. While I agree absolutely with the thrust of his argument, I’ve provided that quote from the beginning of his piece because of something else I agree with (pace, Ron) — the increasingly nonsensical lengths which self-indulgent opera producers go to these days to get their message across at the expense of the composer’s intentions or the musical integrity of the opera in question.

Does anyone know what reaction Mr Neuenfels’s work got from Deutsche Oper audiences? Dermot?

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