Seconds often make the difference between life and death and new technology makes the difference…
The impact of opera on contemporary politics is fairly limited these days. Unlike the 19th century when new operas by composers like Giuseppe Verdi would often be seen as important political statements, the contemporary lyric theater is usually the preserve of an elite that most people don’t care about. But every once in a while something can happen at an opera house that makes its way onto the news pages.
Such an event happened earlier this month when a new production of Camille Saint-Saens’s biblical set piece “Samson et Dalila” had its premiere at the Flanders Opera in Antwerp. A two-man directing team, Omri Nitzan, an Israeli, and Amir Nizar Zuabi, a Palestinian, conceived the new staging of the opera.
But rather than a conventional rendition of what was written as a fairly static work for the theater, Nitzan and Zuabi decided to turn the piece on its head. In their version, the Philistines oppressing the Hebrews were portrayed as Israelis and the Hebrews as the Palestinians.
According to The New York Times, this included scenes in which “Jews, in fancy dress, dance atop a shiny, black, two-tiered set, oblivious to the swarm of robed Palestinians under their feet.” Elsewhere in the show, “Dalila’s Jewish handmaidens, in red underpants, sprawl on their backs … helping to seduce Samson” and “Israeli soldiers clad in black humiliate blindfolded Palestinians and shoot a Palestinian child, who reappears as a kind of leitmotif during the opera.” And the character of Samson, wearing a “dynamite-loaded vest” ends the opera with a suicide blast.
Shocking as this may sound, in the world of opera today such “artistic license” is far from rare when it comes to putting on the classics. Anyone entering an opera house these days is as likely to see the works of Mozart, Verdi, or Wagner set in a time and place that the composer never envisioned as they are a traditional staging. Political agendas, almost always with a left-wing slant, as well as the sort of vulgarity seen in Antwerp, are commonplace.
The rise of a generation of directors who commit vandalism rather than bringing new insights is a fact of life in contemporary opera, especially in Europe. It is a symptom of the same deconstructionist school of thought that has turned the study of literature on its head with pseudo-scholars claiming there is no such thing as objective truth and that the text of any work can be separated from its original meaning with impunity.
But the Antwerp “Samson” must also be understood as part of the ongoing campaign to delegitimize the State of Israel. Essential to this trend is the claim that the Jews aren’t really the Jews. In order to treat Israel’s right of self-defense against terrorists and states that seek to destroy it as inherently immoral – a standard no rational person would seek to impose on any other country – you have to impose a new identity on the Israelis.
The most popular way of doing so is to claim the Jews are Nazis. Such claims have become popular in Europe as well as throughout the Muslim world. Such juxtaposition is both offensive and an absolute falsehood since Israel, far from seeking to exterminate the Palestinians as the Nazis did the Jews, are merely trying to stop them from committing mayhem.
But when Nazis aren’t available, turning the tables on the Jews vis-à-vis the Palestinians will do just as nicely. Yet one of the problems that vandals such as Nitzan and Zuabi run into when they parachute their ideology into innocent operas is that the text often contradicts them. This requires their Belgium audience (which, unlike an audience in say, New York, probably understands the French language in which the piece is sung) to believe that when in the first act Samson rallies the Jews to overthrow their Philistine oppressors – “Israel romps ta chaine” (Israel break your chains) – he doesn’t really mean “Israel” but Palestine.
This is interesting because in this oratorio-like opera, the Jews are the good guys but don’t get very much interesting music to sing. By contrast, the Philistines get all the good numbers including a really stomping Bacchanale just before the Temple of Dagon comes crashing down on their heads.
About the Author: Jonathan S. Tobin is senior online editor of Commentary magazine and chief political blogger at www.commentarymagazine.com, where this first appeared. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Comments are closed.
Pataki is the last Republican Governor to win a majority of Jewish votes.
Obama’s desire to be “fair” enables Iran to get nuclear weapons which will threaten global security
All GOP candidates will continue seeking – and praying – for Jewish money with greater success.
“We returned to this Land not in order to be murdered, or uprooted. We came here to be replanted!”
I don’t fear for the future of our people because I believe Yeshiva University has created an “Iron Dome” of Jewish leadership
Poland’s great Jewish cities where Jewish life had once flourished and thrived, were now desolate
Chief rabbi, Rav Dovid Lau, stated that the Torah community’s turnout in the WZO election is vital.
Iran has at its core the same ideology as that of ISIS but, inaccurately, is thought a lesser threat
An early Yom Ha’atzmaut gathering for Israel’s 67th birthday with Pres. Rivlin of Israel and guests
Israel’s Memorial Day shouldn’t be a day of mourning, it’s a day to honor, not another Holocaust Day
God’s 3 part promise for Israel: to the Avot; a plentiful land; the eventual return home by all Jews
A committed Religious Zionist, he was a sought-after adviser on Zionist affairs around the world.
More important, Mr. Obama is simply acceding to Iran’s position on the timing of the lifting of sanctions.
The abuse following publication proved a cautionary tale: no one followed in Peters’s footsteps
One of the key talking points by apologists for Hamas in the current conflict is that it isn’t fair that Israelis under fire have bomb shelters while Palestinians in Gaza don’t have any. Among other factors, the lack of shelters accounts in part for the differences in casualty figures between the two peoples. But somehow […]
How will all this end? Hamas seems to think it will be Netanyahu who will blink first.
Nothing short of a stroke that will decapitate the leadership of this group will convince the Arabs that Hamas has made a mistake.
Z STREET will have the ability to compel IRS officials to testify as to their practices and produce all records.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/eyeless-in-antwerp/2009/05/20/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online: