Opera is generally associated with stuffy men wearing top hats and monocles, women with deep chortles fanning themselves and an overwhelming sense of the profundity of life – not offending Muslims. But according to an article in the United Kingdom’s The Times online edition Sept. 27, an opera house in Germany has begun censoring its content and has decided to forgo a famous opera because of its religious content.
The scene in question is from a Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart opera titled “Idomeneo” and it involves the beheading of Jesus, Buddha, Poseidon and, of course, the Prophet Muhammad with the proclamation “The Gods are dead” from the king of Crete.
The decision to not show the play all together came not from the government, but from the “bosses” at Deutsche Oper, the opera house “for fear of Muslim anger.”
The debate over freedom of speech is a moot point. Should we be allowed to express ourselves at the expense of others? Are other people going to suffer from this type of expression? In this case, no. It would do no such thing.
The opera in question is an important piece of history, made by one of the most important and renowned composers in classical music. Ted Libbey, the author of “The NPR Listener’s Encyclopedia of Classical Music,” even marked Mozart as “music’s supremely gifted creator, whose achievements mark a zenith of Western culture.”
Simply choosing to omit this opera because of the hyper-sensitivity of one group is a disservice to culture as a whole, the opera-going community and, of course, the often forgotten creator, Mozart. This opera is one of his works many people in the opera world are unfamiliar with and instead of illuminating it and sharing it with the rest of the world, Deutsche Oper is succumbing to the childish bullying of the Islamic community.
Now, Deutsche Oper has chosen to play the all-too-familiar “The Marriage of Figaro.” Simply playing the same operas over and over again grows tiresome and can only lessen interest in opera as a whole, which is quickly diminishing already.
Opera is an important medium that has gone by the wayside in recent years, but in its time, before television, radio or newspapers, it served as an outlet for social commentary and means of expression.
Its significance is tremendous, capturing the pulse of the world in the time period in which it was created. To ignore an important piece of our history to appease the whims of one group would be extremely detrimental to our knowledge and understanding of the popular thought of one time.
Yes, we can read books about an age, but nothing compares to visually and aurally experiencing something written by someone from that period.
Sometimes we just need to be able to recognize other people’s qualms with our beliefs and accept criticism. So let all gods be subject to the opinions and satire of others equally. It is the only way to allow for self-examination and, ultimately, improvement.