Thursday, February 7, 2008

Die Walküre at the Met

Last night I attended the final performance of Die Walküre conducted by Lorin Maazel. Maazel's interpretation was lyrical and introspective compared to Levine's. He is not afraid to let the orchestra play at less than maximum volume, building slowly to climaxes, rather than pounding away as Levine tends to do. Despite vocal unevenness from everyone except mezzo Michelle DeYoung, the Fricka, it was a profound, moving, almost religious experience.

Wotan's existential dilemma -- to either satisfy Fricka's request to punish the adulterous Siegmund and Sieglinde, or allow the Wälsungs to retrieve the Nibelungen gold and save the Gods -- is of course the proverbial rock and a hard place. What major political decision today, while accomplishing some short-term, politically expedient good, does not also contain the seeds of eventual disaster?

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Opera and Free Speech

In Sept. 2006, a decision was made to close the Deutsche Oper's production of Mozart's Idomeneo because one small scene depicting the severed heads of Mohammed (and Jesus) caused security concerns (fear of violence from the practitioners of one of the "offended" religions.)

Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit spoke against the closing, articulating perfectly the reasons why: "Our ideas about openness, tolerance and freedom must be lived on the offensive. Voluntary self-limitation gives those who fight against our values a confirmation in advance that we will not stand behind them."

Why don't other politicians get it, that this is the way to respond to these kinds of threats? Appeasement and apologies don't work.