Saturday, August 08, 2009

Asked and answered

I don't know, is it considered bad blogging to quote comments from elsewhere if they were totally excellent and I want everyone to read them?

So it starts with a revealing post with complex implications at Parterre about the fellow who is funding I guess the overhaul of the State Theater, who turns out to be a teabag toting wingnut. (Me, I've always said I'd go libertarian if I weren't so darn fond of roads, hospitals, public schools and universities, the post office &c. &c. &c. I've also been known to say libertarianism is just anarchism with so much hedging you can't even get a decent punk album out of it. That's my libertarianism set. I'll be here all week.)

Anylez...people quickly get up in arms because die Heilige Kunst shouldn't be sullied by mean, dirty politics, and I guess someone with the nom de blogge of javier said "Anyway, opera and politics don't mix," because Will, who we suppose to be Will of Designer Blog who also comments here knocked it out of the park, and I'm gonna make you read it:

When you get to heaven, javier, look up Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Giuseppe Verdi, Richard Wagner, Kurt Weill, and Daniel Francois Esprit Auber, among many others, and mention your little fantasy to them.

Be prepared for gales of laughter.

Mozart deliberately conspired with da Ponte to put a play that had been banned in Paris the day after its premiere for its political content onto the opera stage in Vienna. Play and opera are both inflamatory political/social statements.

Verdi’s Risorgimento operas from early in his career ignited demonstrations and riots and were filled with coded references to the Austrian occupation of northern Italy. If you go to Atilla at the MET next season, listen for Ezio’s line “Avrai tu l’universo; resti l’Italia a me! which set off pandemonium in the theaters.

Wagner was an immensely political composer on and off stage–and I am NOT referring to what was done with his operas long after his death by Hitler and his gang. OK, with Weill I AM referring to Hitler and his gang, via Weill’s social and political protest in so many of his works.

And Auber, composer of what is arguably the first of the great French Grand Operas–what could possibly be political in his tale of a mute girl in love? Only that its run in Brussels caused riots that brought down the Belgian monarchy.

It’s amazing that people still insist that politics must NEVER be mixed with art, particularly “high and refined” arts like opera as if it pollutes them. All the arts are steeped in politics and have been. That’s why when Dictators seize countries, the arts are amont the first things they clamp down on.

Well, it doesn't get much more thorough than that.

It is a mess of a topic. Should we just be grateful of any money thrown at our pet art regardless of the source? I mean I don't think I'm on board with the commenter who said "NYC Opera and Ballet will not be getting a cent of my money," though I respect his conviction. It's worth talking about precisely because it's not straightforward, and precisely because there is some broad impulse not to talk about it. And yes, I also find it interesting to see the wingnuts coming out of the woodwork when something like this comes up. You assume that art broadens people. You are, it would seem, mistaken.


Gert said...

I agree that it is incredibly ignorant to think that the creation of many (most?) art works happened in a political vacuum.

I think it is entirely legitimate to choose not to spend money to contribute to the profits of an individual/organisation whom we fundamentally disagree with, although, in practice, how many of us are fully informed (if at all) about who actually profits from our consumer spending.

It's more difficult in cases like this when it's, as you put it, 'our pet art'. Logically, we should withhold our donations from any cause to which our political adversaries also donate be it arts, or charities of any nature.

Whether choosing not to spend is the same as boycotting, I don't know. There are certain charities I may have supported in the past that I choose currently not to donate to for sometimes obscure reasons specific to me.

In practice, their lack of donations from me doesn't make them any different from the numerous charities I also don't support because of lack of awareness, or interest, or simply because they are lower priorities - to me - than the ones I do support.

Anonymous said...

Maury -- Parterre is the only blog that I post on anonymously because of the vitriol. I am the person who made the comment that NYC Opera and Ballet will not be getting a cent of my money.

It's because Koch and his ilk have stepped over a line. They are funding the mobs that are storming these meetings and shouting anyone down who might want to make a point or have a reasonable discussion.

I'm Jewish so I don't use Nazi analogies lightly but what I have seen is frighteningly reminiscent of Weimar Germany. People like Koch deliberately appeal to the worst in people (the deliberate distortion of palliative care at the end of the life being made to seem as if the elderly will be euthanized) and that is truly evil to me.

And FWIW, I came to opera through the Ring and I LOVE Wagner's music.

Anonymous said...

Gert @1 says
"Logically, we should withhold our donations from any cause to which our political adversaries also donate be it arts, or charities of any nature."

This, I don't get.

So, if a right-winger donates to the American Red Cross, you don't? What about GMHC, or Meals On Wheels?
Because I can assure you that all those groups and many others benefit from barrels of right-wing money.

Granted, the situation is a little more gray with cultural organizations because of concerns that the donations may be given with the intention to shape the group's message.

for an extended discussion see also, Major Barbara.

-- RD

Will said...

Maury, thank you very much for your kind words about my comment on Parterre. I am indeed the Will of DesignerBlog. I'm not always mad for the tone maintained by the Parterre commenters--rather mad AT them sometimes--but I hang in there for some of the more informed and rational comments--yours very much included.

I have a number of performances in NYC this coming season and if, by lucky chance, any one of my dates corresponds to any of yours, I would very much like to say hello in person.

Anonymous said...

Hi Maury,

I would also like to say hello in person, perhaps you and Will, who I know well, can have a ite before something.

As to donating, I have very little to donate these days, although I do plan to see Esther. But if I had it I'd donate it because there is no other way they will make it, and I want NYCO to remain (become again?) a viable and vital company.

Kathy Boyce

Immanuel Gilen said...

Not that it's not besides the (well-made) point, but as a Belgian it's my duty to correct the Auber anecdote: The Mute of Portici did indeed spark riots, but not to topple the monarchy, but rather for Belgium to gain its independence which was achieved a short revolutionary war with the Dutch later. If anything the opera installed Belgian monarchy as opposed to bringing it down.

But still, a point well-made.