Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Beheading Mozart

Yesterday, in Short Takes, I reported on the cancellation by the Deutsch Oper of four performances of Mozart's classic opera `Idomeneo' because of the fear of Muslim violence since the final scene shows the severed heads of Mohammed, Buddha,Jesus,and Poseidon on stage.

This story looks like it may be headed for something of a happy ending.

The theme of the opera is the attempted predominance of man over G-d, and the opera has been in repetoire almost since Mozart wrote it, 225 years ago.

The scene in question is not original, but was put in by the director, Hans Neuenfels, who created this scene for the 2003 production of the opera that the Deutsce Oper was staging; the libretto certainly suggests such a scene.

The performances were cancelled by Deutsche Oper director Kirsten Harms after the police had warned her of an "incalculable" security risk if she went ahead with the production.

The cancelation elicited a veritable howl of protest all over Europe, following so closely on Islamic riots over the MoToons and Pope Benedict's inocuous remarks. In my experience, the two things you DON'T mess around with when it comes to Germans is their beer and their music.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel got involved and said Germans should not cave in to fears of Islamic violence.

"Why are we bowing to Islam?" read Thursday's front page of the top-selling daily Bild. Inside, the paper showed a photoshp image of Berlin's parliament building with minarets and an Islamic crescent superimposed on its central glass dome.

Bavarian state premier Edmund Stoiber said succumbing to fear represented a victory for terrorists. "We must never give up our constitutional freedoms out of fear of Islamist thought-terrorism," he told Bild.

I must admit, I like that phrase, although it's somewhat clumsy in English compared to the German `gedanketerrorismus'.

Germany's Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble cleverly linked the controversy to a conference held yesterday designed to encourage assimilation of Germany's 3 million Muslims into being an `integral part of our society' in Schaeuble's words. It was attended by representatives of every Muslim group in Germany, including Eyup Kohler, chairman of the German Muslims Council and was overall positive in outlook.

The minister, in a statement after the meeting, said: "We all hold the same view with regard to resolving the problems. We will collectively implement our works to address those problems. It is good to determine that Islam is part of this country on the base of federal constitution, and see that Muslims openly declare their acceptance of our present order."(emphasis mine)

The opera came up, of course...and one point on which the 30 participants in a landmark conference held here on Wednesday agreed on, according to Schäuble is that they would all like to see the Deutsche Oper of Berlin reinstate the Mozart opera. As a matter of fact, the 30 representatives, drawn equally from the German government and Germany’s Muslim population, want to go see the opera together!

"We have, in a very tolerant tone, laid out quite different positions," Schäuble said. "That was the point."

The fact that the majority of Germany's Muslims are Turkish in origin rather than Arabs and thus more open to the idea of a secular society may make the job easier for Schäuble...and for Germany.

And Oper Direktor Kirsten Harms? People are calling for her head, or at least her job..for bowing to `gedanketerrorismus'.

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