Sunday, 27 July 2014

Does Katharina hate her great grandfather?


Does Bayreuth suffer from an autoimmune sickness that is killing it off? Is this – a true Wagnerian melodrama - the punishment of the gods for the evil people who made use and ran it for many years?

Richard Wagner’s great granddaughter, Katharina (together with her 33 years older half-sister Eva), has been running the Bayreuth Festival since 2008. Is it possible that she actually hates Wagner, his music, Bayreuth? Why else would she be running it down?

This year’s festival was opened with a replay of Tannhäuser, directed by Sebastian Baumgarten, which was first played and booh-ed in Bayreuth in 2011. It has not gotten any better.

Opening the festival with a third year replay is in itself a mark of failure. To do so with an opera production that is so annoying, that you find yourself closing your eyes, so as not to let the goings on on the stage spoil the wonderful music that is sung and played, is outrageous. Fortunately, it was musically very beautiful, despite a rather mediocre Torsten Kerl in the title role. 

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Child murderers?


Israeli bombardments have not targeted but killed many children in Gaza. Playing on the old blood-libel about Jews killing Christian children, anti-Israel propaganda portrays Israel as “child murderer.”

Since the beginning of the latest round of violence, Hamas has already fired more than 2200 rockets into Israel. These rockets were aimed at the centres of population. Had Israel not managed to intercept most of these missiles, the number of dead Israeli civilians, including women and children, would by far have exceeded the number of dead Palestinians.

So who is the child murderer? Israel that sometimes fails in its attempts to avoid hitting civilians or Hamas that has fortunately failed in its attempts to kill thousands of Israeli civilians including women and children? 

Racism – Fight Back


The current outbreak of violence between Israel and the Hamas has produced Europe-wide anti-Israel demonstrations, many of which incorporate vile and anti-Semitic proclamations and slogans as well as acts of violence against Jews and Jewish institutions.

It is not surprising that European Jews are worried and often frightened. But so should be the rest of the population. It is up to civil society as well as governments – wherever these anti-Semitic incidents occur – not only to educate but also to come down fiercely against the organisers and perpetrators of these anti-Semitic occurrences.

Similarly, it is up to Israeli society and authorities to educate but also to come down fiercely against organisers and perpetrators of anti-Arab racism that is increasingly rearing its head in Israel. Unfortunately, such racism seems to get away unpunished. Moreover, the right-wing perpetrators of these racist acts are well represented in the Israeli political elite. Israel’s Foreign Minister Lieberman, for example, has just urged Israelis to boycott the businesses of Israeli Arab citizens who are taking part in a general strike in protest of Israel’s operation in the Gaza Strip.

It is generally accepted that such racist language, let alone acts of violence are totally unacceptable, and it is always a minority that perpetrates such racist outrage. But, the majority – be it in Israel or in Europe - must stop looking the other way. It must fight back. 

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

The Human Voice


Sunday night: Karita Mattila as Ariadne in Ariadne auf Naxos, Monday night: Joyce DiDonato as Mary Stuart in Maria Stuarda. Both at Covent Garden.

What more can one wish for? The human voice can be more wonderfully beautiful than any man-made instrument. 

Football


Why do all those people who are not really football players or regular football fans get so excited when it comes to their own national teams?

Trouble in Buenos Aires after the Argentine lost to Germany

Why do 80 million Germans [or any other nation] think that they are superior or better, or just feel good about themselves simply because 11 of them happen to have won a football match?  

Despite the claim of their coach “we are all world champions”, most of us are very far from being good at anything at all, let alone being champions at anything. Talking of “we” and dancing in the street cannot cover this up.

Cheap [is there any other?] populism has driven, or rather flown 
Ms. Merkel as well as Germany’s President, Gauck, to the cup final in Brazil  


The notion that this excitement serves as sublimation to channel aggressive energy away from destructive behaviour is far from true. In fact, this forceful “we” behaviour is in itself aggressive.  


Israel and Hamas

Does the shooting suit both sides?

What does Hamas want? It wants to ensure that no long-term peace deal is made with Israel. Unlike the PLO, Hamas has not [yet] accepted the existence of Israel.

What does Israel want? It wants to avoid reaching a deal with the Palestinians that would entail giving up some of the land it has occupied since 1967.

That is why Hamas, rather than the Palestinian Authority, are the true partners of Israel. They occasionally fight each other, increasing the heat, killing and getting killed, inciting and whipping up the hatred, only to make sure that no compromise is reached. The agendas of the extremes on both sides command the state of affairs.

Both sides are morally wrong; Hamas more evil than Israel and more corrupt than Israel, but then it does not pretend to be a western democracy, cultured, high-tech and European. A few years ago, the then Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, spoke of Israel as a “villa in the jungle”, thereby suggesting that Israel’s neighbours are wild savages. Observing recent [and not so recent] appearances of Israeli politicians makes one wonder whether they haven’t adapted only too well to their surroundings. 

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Scottish Abuse


Last year the Scottish parliament passed a law giving 16-year-olds a vote in the coming referendum on Scottish independence. They justified their deed with claptrap about allowing young people to decide the future of the country they will live in. The truth is more likely that the nationalists expect kids to be more impulsive and less risk-averse than more experienced grown-ups. In a classical case of the extreme setting the tone, Labour and Lib Dems also voted for the lowering for the voting age.

What the Scottish have done is abuse of minors. For their own gratification, to further their own interests, these politicians have taken the virginity of their young. Like with sex, the young may be excited – in this case, by the fact that like grownups, they can vote to cede Scotland away from Great Britain. However, they may wake up the morning after not really understanding what they have done.

And by the way, there is no morning-after pill.



Where Naples meets Cairo

I have recently come back from a short trip to Naples. (The real thing, not the one in Florida.)

It is loud and extremely, really extremely dirty. Rubbish seems only occasionally to be collected. Rubbish collection – I was told – is in the hands of the Mafia and they must be concentrating their resources on collecting money, which leaves them little time to collect the rubbish.

However, the people – that is everyone I met, in the hotel, taxi drivers, restaurant staff, passers by in the street, just everybody – are remarkably friendly. Quite different from what you come across in Venice, Florence, and Milan.

This remarkable overflow in friendliness and dirt reminded me of Cairo. Both are full of life and there is much to see and do and both cities. I would not like to live in either of them but they are a joy to visit. 



The café owner was delighted when I showed him the photo I had taken of the sign in his toilet: 








Thursday, 22 May 2014

Prince Charles


There is very little to like about Prince Charles, however… the supposedly private conversation (or is the 87-year-old Jewish lady who showed him around the Halifax museum an old Polo chum of his?)…

Like so often before, and similar to his father, Charles arrogantly says things, which he should not. This time, I like the outcome: the Putin / Hitler comparison is on the table and, moreover, it's a royal table.

But please God, Save the Queen!





Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Schloss Torgelow

I was invited by Schloss Torgelow, a private boarding school, an hour and a half north of Berlin and almost in Poland, to read from and discuss Die Schatten der Vergangenheit sind noch lang with their 16- and 17-year-olds. (The 18-year-olds were in the midst of their Abitur, the German matriculation exams.)

Ninety youngsters - an audience that had no prior knowledge of the subject matter, no preconceived ideas and hopefully no bias - listened attentively and when it came to the discussion, asked many good questions and… bought books.

It was a real joy.