Not Saussure

September 27, 2006

Mozart opera dropped in Germany for fear of causing offence

Filed under: civil liberties, Islam, Panic — notsaussure @ 6:47 pm

BBC NEWS | Beheaded prophet opera dropped

A Berlin opera company cancelled a Mozart production over security fears because it features the severed heads of the Prophet Muhammad and Jesus.

Deutsche Oper said “incalculable” security risks would be posed by staging Idomeneo.

“We know the consequences of the conflict over the (Muhammad) caricatures,” the opera company said in a statement.

“We believe that needs to be taken very seriously and hope for your support.”

The opera was staged in Berlin in 2003, drawing criticism over a scene where the king presents the heads of Greek sea god Poseidon, Muhammad, Jesus and Buddha.

The director, Kirsten Harms, said security officials had now warned of possible problems if the production went ahead, and that it was in the best interests of performers and opera-goers to cancel it.

Dreadful news, of course, but I’m slightly puzzled by the adjective ‘incalculable’; do they mean incalculably large (I doubt it) or incalculably small? Or is it something on the lines of ‘In reply to your question, while we have no intelligence to the effect anyone plans anything, in theory someone could take offence and the scenes could thus present a security risk but we’ve no way of knowing’. It just seems a bit odd, particularly since they’d apparently performed the opera without problems, despite objections, in 2003.

I see from The Guardian that

The decision to cancel the opera has divided German Muslims. The leader of the country’s largest Turkish association, Kenan Kolat, criticised the move, saying: “We should not make art dependent on religion. That is a step back to the Middle Ages.”

However, Ali Kizilkaya, the chairman of the German Islamic Council, said the issue was one of respect, and welcomed the cancellation.The decision to cancel the opera has divided German Muslims. The leader of the country’s largest Turkish association, Kenan Kolat, criticised the move, saying: “We should not make art dependent on religion. That is a step back to the Middle Ages.”

However, Ali Kizilkaya, the chairman of the German Islamic Council, said the issue was one of respect, and welcomed the cancellation.

Though even Mr Kizilkaya seems unhappy about the situation; according to the BBC,

Germany’s Islamic Council leader, Ali Kizilkaya, supported the cancellation, saying the Muhammad depiction could offend.

“Nevertheless, of course I think it is horrible that one has to be afraid,” he told Berlin’s Radio Multikulti.

“That is not the right way to open dialogue.”

I wonder whether they were, in fact, reacting to a real threat or an hypothetical one. I have to say, too, that my late wife, whose background in some of the stranger reaches of law and finance gave her a curious take on such matters, would have said something about being interested to see the accounts and the details of their insurance cover in the event of having to cancel a production. But marriage to me gave her a cynical outlook on life, anyway.

UPDATE: It’s been uncancelled;

Wolfgang Schäuble, interior minister and the country’s top security official, said on Wednesday that 30 government and Muslim representatives, meeting in Berlin to launch a three-year dialogue forum, had “spoken out unanimously” that the opera should be performed as scheduled in November.

Deutsche Oper and Berlin city officials said on Wednesday night that efforts were under way to ensure the opera, already shown dozens of times in Berlin since 2003, returned to the stage.

Mr Schäuble, appearing to overrule Berlin police, insisted that “there was never a direct threat of violence” against the opera, but acknowledged that security forces had acted in good faith in responding to an undefined “heightened sense of danger” surrounding the 200-year-old work.

The support offered to the opera by the German-Islam Conference, the dialogue forum established on Wednesday and set to run for at least two years, showed that Muslim groups in Germany rejected extremism and supported artistic freedom, Mr Schäuble said.


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