Thursday, 13 June 2013

Let's be clear here. This is my own interpretation of events. No one else is saying this. You may choose to interpret the same facts in a different way. But here they are.

Mozart's opera "Die Entfuhrung aus Dem Serail" [The Kidnapping from the Harem] is about a European woman who has been sexually enslaved by the Muslim Turkish ruler, the Pasha. When the man to which she was betrothed finds out that she has been kidnapped, he sets out to rescue her.

In a new production of the opera which has just premiered in England, the plot has been reworked and the libretto has been rewritten. Instead of the sexual enslavement of a European woman by a non-European Muslim, the Pasha figure has become a European (Russian) oligarch and the European sexual slave has become merely his girlfriend. Of course, this completely subverts the original idea. The plot now makes no sense, since the woman is no longer a captive but in a voluntary relationship.

Given the climate of oppressive political correctness in which we live, it is clear that many members of our ruling caste would find a plot featuring dark-skinned Muslims sexually enslaving snow-skinned European women uncomfortable. I haven't seen any public discussion of the possibility that political correctness - a reluctance to portray brown people and Muslims specifically in an unfavourable light - may have played a part in the decision to rework this opera. Nevertheless, that, in my view, has to be the strong suspicion.
In days gone by it was the dog (or donkey or some other animal) that stole the show in opera. These days it’s the car. And there’s a notable example, sleek, black and expensive, that makes everybody’s evening in the new Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail at Garsington. It drives on not once but twice, presumably by popular demand. And should you wonder what a car is doing in a Mozart opera about 16th Century Turkish harems, it’s because Daniel Slater’s production has nothing to do with the 16th century or Turks or harems – and I’d be tempted to say, not much to do with Mozart either except that the music’s the music and all there (although not always in the expected order).

Instead, we’re in modern times with the Pasha Selim transformed into a dodgy Russian oligarch, surrounded by bodyguards in dark glasses, one of them Osmin. Needless to say, he owns a football team (which is critical to the denouement). Belmonte suffers social relegation from a Spanish nobleman to an American in a baseball cap. Blonde for some reason becomes Swedish, as opposed to English. And the dialogue is largely rewritten to accommodate the changes.

I can understand why Slater does this. Faced with a German singspiel of its period whose jokes revolve around the peculiar relationship the Viennese enjoyed with their old enemies the Turks – a mixture of fear, suspicion, and the management of those emotions by cultural assimilation or laughter – you either have to cut the dialogue to the bone, because it isn’t funny any more, or you have to rewrite it. And casting around for some 21st Century analogue of how the Viennese felt about the Turks, you might well arrive at Russian oligarchs: people we find threatening, dangerous, but have learned to live with by laughing at their vulgarity.
Source: Telegraph


Johnny Rottenborough said...

From The Times [£] of 2005:

Marlowe’s Koran-burning hero is censored to avoid Muslim anger

It was the surprise hit of the autumn season, selling out for its entire run and inspiring rave reviews. But now the producers of Tamburlaine the Great have come under fire for censoring Christopher Marlowe’s 1580s masterpiece to avoid upsetting Muslims.

Audiences at the Barbican in London did not see the Koran being burnt, as Marlowe intended, because David Farr, who directed and adapted the classic play, feared that it would inflame passions in the light of the London bombings.

Simon Reade, artistic director of the Bristol Old Vic, said that if they had not altered the original it ‘would have unnecessarily raised the hackles of a significant proportion of one of the world’s great religions’.

The burning of the Koran was ‘smoothed over’, he said, so that it became just the destruction of ‘a load of books’ relating to any culture or religion. That made it more powerful, they claimed.

Members of the audience also reported that key references to Muhammad had been dropped, particularly in the passage where Tamburlaine says that he is ‘not worthy to be worshipped’. In the original Marlowe writes that Muhammad ‘remains in hell’.

Anonymous said...

This is a crime against the beauty of opera. The people who hare responsible for this should be put in jail. This is the worst case in my opinion when the arts suffer as a result of these fuckers. Bomb em all.

Frau Katze said...

The trend to make old operas fit into modern themes--I have seen it before, not necessarily related to PC. Entertainment can no longer just be entertainment, there must be a "social message". Deplorable, IMHO.

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