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Berlin’s Akademie der Künste calls for reinstatement of Nazi-themed Tannhäuser

One of Germany’s oldest and most respected cultural establishments has intervened in the row over the Düsseldorf production of Tannhäuser, taken off after a single performance amid widespread public protest. About a dozen first-nighters required medical attention for shock and distress. The production opens with Tannhäuser in SS uniform shooting Jewish prisoners in a concentration camp.

The director, Burkhard C. Kosminski, claimed he was the victim of censorship. The Akademie seems to agree.

"Tannhäuser"-Oper in Düsseldorf

 

 

Klaus Staeck, president of the Berlin Akademie, wrote to his Düsseldorf colleagues:

“Kunst – gleich welcher Güte! – ist keine Schönwetterangelegenheit! Ob sie irrt oder im Recht ist, misslungen ist oder brillant, muss diskutiert werden.” Sollte die Inszenierung etwa durch eine “bedrängende Bildsprache” das gesundheitliche Wohlbefinden von Zuschauern gefährden, “so kann davor gewarnt werden”. (Art – regardless of quality – is not a fair-weather affair. Right or wrong, failed or brilliant, it needs to be discussed. If oppressive imagery puts the health of audience members at risk, they should be warned of it beforehand.)

 

Hmmmm….

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Comments

  1. Musiker says:

    The president of the Deutscher Bühnenverein Klaus Zehelein agrees, too.
    Here’s what he says in an interview with DPA:

    Der Präsident des Deutschen Bühnenvereins, Klaus Zehelein, betrachtet die Absetzung der umstrittenen “Tannhäuser”-Inszenierung in Düsseldorf als überzogene Reaktion. “Man hätte sie nicht absetzen müssen”, sagte Zehelein am Donnerstag in einem Gespräch der Deutschen Presse-Agentur. “Kunst muss einem gewissen gesellschaftlichen Druck Stand halten können, selbst wenn etwas misslungen ist – aber letzteres kann ich nicht beurteilen, weil ich die Produktion nicht gesehen habe.”

    Ein Wiederaufnahme der Inszenierung hält Zehelein jedoch für unrealistisch. Der Präsident der Akademie der Künste in Berlin, Klaus Staeck, hat gefordert, die umstrittene Inszenierung wieder in ihrer ursprünglichen Form zu zeigen.

    Rheinoper-Intendant Christoph Meyer hatte die Inszenierung von Regisseur Burkhard C. Kosminski mit drastischen Gaskammer- und Erschießungsszenen nach empörten Reaktionen vieler Zuschauer nur vier Tage nach der Premiere abgesetzt. Er lässt die Wagner-Oper nur noch konzertant aufführen. Mehrere Zuschauer hatten sich nach der Premiere mit brutalen Nazi-Szenen in ärztliche Behandlung begeben. Die Gesundheit gehe über die künstlerische Freiheit, hatte Meyer seine Entscheidung begründet.

    Unter Zensur würde er den Fall nicht fassen, weil Zensur eine staatliche Maßnahme sei, nicht aber die Entscheidung eines Opernhauses, sagte Zehelein. “Wenn man der Meinung ist, eine Inszenierung so nicht rauslassen zu wollen, dann diskutiert man das im Vorfeld.”

    Eine Wiederaufnahme hält Zehelein für unrealistisch: “Man kann das Ding nicht einfach wieder ansetzen als wäre nichts gewesen – das geht überhaupt nicht.” Regisseur und Opernhausleitung sollten sich zusammensetzen und eine gemeinsame Lösung suchen – vorausgesetzt es herrsche Einigkeit, dass das nicht ganz richtig war: “Eine Änderung im Nachhinein kann man nur mit der Regie selbst machen, aber nicht selbstherrlich tun.”

    Zehelein erinnert der Düsseldorfer Fall an zwei Inszenierungen von Hans Neuenfels. Eine “Idomeneo”-Inszenierung, in der abgeschlagene Köpfe von Religionsstiftern – unter anderem des Propheten Mohammed – auf einen Stuhl gelegt werden, wurde 2006 mehrere Monate aus Furcht vor islamistischer Gewalt abgesetzt. “Auch eine völlig überzogene Reaktion damals, nur weil sich einige Zuschauer aufregten”, sagte Zehelein. Im Jänner 1981 habe er in Absprache mit der Polizei an einer “Aida”-Premiere in Frankfurt festgehalten, obwohl es Stunden zuvor eine Bombendrohung gab. Spürhunde und eine Hundertschaft der Polizei hätten damals das Opernhaus durchsucht.

    “Manche meinten damals, diese “Aida” sei eine Schändung des Komponisten – am Ende war diese Neuenfels-Inszenierung ein Riesenerfolg.” “Wir alle neigen dazu, unsere Erwartungshaltungen erfüllt sehen zu wollen”, beschrieb Zehelein das Empfinden von Theaterbesuchern. “Es ist aber grundsätzlich richtig, Theaterstücke auf unsere heutige Situation zu befragen – wir sind ja keine historisierenden Menschen, die Geschichte als eine Art Gut betrachten, das nur gepflegt werden müsste.

    • VERY STUPID
      This is so stupid, the idea that staging an opera as the work that it is, i.e. from a former period, in a presentation that follows the intention of the maker(s) of the work, would be ‘historicizing’ and ‘merely performing it’. This idea is the result of thinking that works of art from the past cannot have any relevance for contemporary audiences, it is a denial of the very obvious fact that good works of art transcend time and place, because they embody universal human experience. And then, in the interpretation of what can be understood as the intentions of the maker(s), there is already so much space that obviously, performances which try to be loyal to the work, will show many variations, which refute the contention that a loyal performance would merely be some kind of routine repetition. It is shocking that the president of the German theatre union has no faith in works from the past, and is still repeating outdated and stupid ideas of half a century ago.

      • PS
        Again on Tannhäuser: the idea that the conflict between carnal and ideal love, which is the central dramatic subject of the opera, would no longer be relevant to contemporary audiences (as Kosminski maintains), is obviously not true. As psychology has, already long ago, established, and which can be experienced by all healthy adults in any period in any place in any culture: there exists purely physical ‘love’ which in our own time is considered acceptable recreational sex, and love which involves the entire personality, including but not necessarily so, the physical aspect. These two different levels which can exist in interpersonal relationships are a universal human trait, and not a product of culture. The interpretation of these two aspects is culturally determined, but not the phenomenon itself. Therefore, Wagner’s presentation of these two aspects as a conflict is a universal human subject, as for instance the same opposition in Parsifal. It is a conflict underlying much cultural friction, which we can see all around us, and surely contemporry audiences can easily relate to the subject. Mr Kosminski exposes himself as a very immature mind – and shows his own embarrasingly primitive opinions about love.

    • Peter Feldman says:

      If they believe in freedom of art, I am free to say that Germans are Nazis.

      • Of course you are. And I am free to say things about you I won’t say for the sake of good demeanour.

  2. personally, I would not have translated “bedrängende Bildsprache” as “oppressive imagery”:
    to “oppress” in german is “niederdrücken” or “unterdrücken”,
    “bedrängen” is to “hassle” or “pester”.
    So the author was just saying that the imagery was perhaps annoying or at most perhaps bothersome and putting the audience out of their comfort zone.

  3. Well, he has a point indeed regarding the supposedly endangered health of the audience. This is a b***s*** argument. If the medical assistance thing is true, simply issue a warning that it could hurt the sensibility of the spectators, like those concerning nudity in museums in anglos-saxon countries.

    If they withdraw the production because they consider it poor and not worth playing, they should say so frankly. And if they don’t consider it poor, they shouldn’t withdraw it. Controversy alone shouldn’t be a reason for withdrawing a production.

  4. itrinkkeinwein says:

    They can call for it, but they won’t get it. And a good thing too!

    Opera needs less of this garbage, much less. We can hope that the Düsseldorf débacle represents a turning point, the beginning of the end for Régietheater intrusion on our art form.

  5. We haven’t seen the last of the Düsseldorf production of Tannhäuser. I’m sure this production will be remounted there or somewhere else. Those who need to visit the doctor after confronting German history are now well warned to stay away.

    • Fabio Fabrici says:

      There is a place for everything. If I go to the opera I do not want a psychopathic projection of German history in a distorted mis-en-scene of a classical work like Tannhäuser. There are plenty of better opportunities to confront it, and people in Germany have taken great use of it.

      To say that Germans are afraid to confront their history, because they protest this ideological brutality by Kosminski, is dishonest.

  6. Timon Wapenaar says:

    Tsk, tsk. Close stupid opera before cast is playing to an empty house = cut losses. Close stupid opera AFTER house empties = stupid theatre. Only in the case of “Close stupid opera in the middle of record attendance and universal acclaim” do you pull the “censorship” card.

  7. It seems the dark forces are acting to reinstate their right to outrage and kill opera.

  8. German press have been skeptical of the “ill” people; noting that nothing like that happened during the showing of “Schindler’s List” or the “The Pianist” – far more graphic. Nobody thought of the cancellation of the ballet “Rite of Spring” after the actual riot and fights that occurred during the production (the 100th anniversary of that event is in six days). The radical production of Cherubini’s Médée in Paris last December (Warlikowski) elicited door-slamming walkouts and audience booing even in the first half hour. No thought of cancelling that.

  9. NEUROSIS
    The Akademie der Künste, anxious to avoid totalitarian reactions to happen in Germany, is merely in the grip of the usual ‘Nachkriegsschuldbewältigungsneurose’. When we do not want crime or mating to happen in public space, that is not censorship, but protecting civil society. They confuse two very different things – freedom of expression and protecting civil society. Imagine a stage director ‘invents’ a real murder to take place on stage (Götterdämmerung); such thing surely does not need to be discussed and therefore FIRST to happen to make discussion possible. Germany should liberate itself from postwar neurosis & become a normal, contemporary country, not afraid to ban crazy productions which violate civil society. Art does not need such tasteless aberations to make its point, it is merely a neurotic rest from the last century when ‘going bad’ was translated as ‘transcending limitations’.

    • Bob Burns says:

      I couldn’t agree more. The central question is whether there are limits to what is termed as art. I think there are.

  10. momixou says:

    This stage director and his helium -inflated ego with a half-witted setting are typical of the way in which opera today is suffering, suffering from the mediocrity of a collection of self-crowned geniuses and damaging ideas. If you want to put on a show which creates controversy just to get your name in the press, you are not doing the singers a service. It is they who save the day, when it can be saved, from the foolishness of provocation. Modern German opera just does not seem to be able to free itself from from its old demons, men running around dressed up with garter belts and sporting high-heel shoes, and other facile metaphors. I remember only too well a Merry Widow a few years ago at the Berlin Staatsoper staged by Peter Mussbach. The embassy had been transformed into an ice floe and the choir was dressed up up as penguins and deep sea divers. Examples abound of state-subsidized opera settings organized by stage directors who know little if anything about music and nothing about opera. I remember one man appearing for rehearsals who had only listened to the CD, did not know the libretto and could not managed any singer or helped him to give his best.
    Years ago, these so-called stage directors did not even have their name on the program.
    Think of the singers! When they sign a contract they don’t know who is doing the scenery and what they are letting themselves in for. Too many people can “appoint” themselves stage directors.

    If the cap fits, wear it! I agree with what “Roger” has to say above.

  11. harold braun says:

    Please call it quits now!

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