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What, please tell me, is Renee Fleming doing here?

You may well decide that the press release below was written by extra-terrestials. It has no purpose or meaning fathomable by the human brain. You may also decide that the two figures in the picture below are posed zombies. As for the headline, it’s heading straight for the Science Museum.

Press Statement Attributable to the Spokesperson for The UN High-Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations: The UN High-Representative for AoC Meets with Musical Ambassador Renée Fleming”

You might now like to ask why, when hundreds of children are dying daily in Syria, does the United Nations waste its time and our money on photocalls for its freeloaders with hardworking opera singers. Renee, what tf are you doing here?

Read the full release here.Renee-Fleming



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  1. José Lastarria says:

    This kind of event serves no purpose beyond giving a dutiful public face to a load of self-serving freebies. As for the text, well, I had no idea that Borat was now in charge of the Google Translate programme.

  2. I like Ms. Fleming’s new title! I say – make it official! With regard to the press release, I am certainly in favor of music bridging cultural differences, but I am unclear how the U.N. is involved. Should they be more involved? Less?

    Finally, in more expected business of the day –

    I believe Ms. Fleming premiered a new song cycle from Anders Hillborg this week. Was anyone in attendance?

  3. Fabio Fabrici says:

    while I agree that wordings like “using arts and music as one of the tools to foster the culture of peace” does not put bread on a hungry family’s table or protect civilians in a war zone, it never the less is a commendable effort.
    Why you sound so bitter about it I don’t understand.

  4. UNAOC was initiated at the U.N. by the Prime Ministers of Spain and Turkey in an effort to combat extremism by furthering international, intercultural, and interreligious dialog. See:

    A noble initiatie even if the name sounds like something out of a Star Trek TV episiode in about 1972.

  5. I myself have a jaundiced view of music for peace, having been around quite a few less than peaceful scams for money using peace as a pretext. The question I would ask is, does this position come with a salary, and how much? Usually the peace people don’t promote peace without money, instead attract loads of it, I might add.

  6. I’d have more respect for Ms Fleming if she actually got down and dirty and went (for example) to visit the refugee camps full of displaced Syrians. Posing for a photo achieves nothing, going out there and bringing more direct media attention to the horrendous problems on the ground – might actually help raise awareness.

    • @Rosalind – The point originally was a bit obscure, but it is clear now that this is solely dealing with arts education, for which Ms. Fleming has already done much.

  7. deborah platner says:

    As someone who was in attendance of this event, I’m at a loss as to why you would put this on your blog and attack someone for doing a charitable, greater-good event?

    Please read the entire release … This was not a UN event … This was an Aspen Institute event that she gave for donors where she discussed and promoted the importance of arts education in schools and her wonderful work with artists like Yo Yo Ma, Damian Woetzel, lil Buck etc. In going into inner city schools and getting exposing children to artists they might never be able to experience and be inspired from. The photo was taken with the UN ambassador who was in attendance for the talk

    Shame on you for taking the time and effort to try and look at a negative aspect of an artist doing charitable work

    • Ms. Platner, Thank you for this information. I did not understand this was about arts education.

      I have long wondered why classical writers (blogs and otherwise) do not pay more attention to the work Ms. Fleming and others are doing within the U.S. school system. At a time when the lack of music education is universally lamented, Ms. Fleming, Yo Yo Ma and others are doing something about it. These two named artists, in particular, seem to have made arts education something of a cause, lobbying and going themselves into the inner city schools to provide exposure. I wish, instead of continual articles about the “death of classical music,” others would get up and do something constructive about it.

      I would be interested in some individual collating the work of classical artists and institutions in arts education. I believe there are extraordinary efforts occurring, but we are largely unaware.

  8. Maybe the idea is that music, as one of the highest attainments of man, is a way to show people what we can achieve, why we are on earth. It’s not to kill each other and starve to death. I am grateful that the UN has some recognition of this. Pablo Casals spoke about this all of the time.

  9. The observation about Syria is most apt- that is the reality one is facing. In contrast, the statement by Nassir Abdelaziz Al-Nasser, and on whose behalf it was delivered, including the conference’s sponsorship by the Aspen Institute, reveal inconsistencies and contradictions, despite its stated good intentions. In his speech, Mr. Al-Nasser calls for religious tolerance and interfaith dialogue. This is all well and good, indeed laudable, until one realizes that the event was co-sponsored by the emirate of Qatar which is also funding and arming Al Nusra in Syria. Religious tolerance? Qatar? Is that after your head gets separated from your body by one of its mercenaries? As for the Aspen Institute, its think tank neocons have been the ones promoting and profiting from these damned wars. So, how are they going to sell the next invasion, or the ordinance to execute it, if every one is lovey dovey? So, yes, it’s something out of the Twilight Zone.

    • Thought worthy observations. The Aspen Institute Board is hard right and includes even the far right ideologue, David Koch. And the so-called Arab Spring is more than suspect. On the other hand, I think the project of strengthening peace through intercultural dialog being led by the U.N., Al-Nassar, and Flemming are worthy even if some of the people and organizations around them smell.

  10. Timon Wapenaar says:

    Isn’t the United Nations a division of the Walt Disney Corporation?

  11. Should the US State Department eliminate its cultural exchange programs? After all, people are dying in Syria. Should every government facing budget distress eliminate every iota of arts funding? Is that not the same basic argument?

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