Pressure on Berlin theatre to reinstate opera

28th September 2006, Comments 0 comments

28 September 2006, BERLIN - German officials stepped up their pressure Thursday on the head of Berlin's biggest opera house to reinstate an anti-religion production to her schedule, with critics saying Kirsten Harms had bowed to Islamic extremists by cancelling it. Both the culture minister of the city-state of Berlin, Thomas Flierl, and the head of its opera corporation, Michael Schindhelm, called for the work by provocative director Hans Neuenfels to be performed, if necessary with extra police protectio

28 September 2006

BERLIN - German officials stepped up their pressure Thursday on the head of Berlin's biggest opera house to reinstate an anti-religion production to her schedule, with critics saying Kirsten Harms had bowed to Islamic extremists by cancelling it.

Both the culture minister of the city-state of Berlin, Thomas Flierl, and the head of its opera corporation, Michael Schindhelm, called for the work by provocative director Hans Neuenfels to be performed, if necessary with extra police protection.

Deutsche Oper, one of three opera houses belonging to the corporation, said on Monday it was cancelling four showings of Idomeneo next month. Harms said she feared staff might be attacked.

First staged in 2003, the production has a scene devised by Neuenfels and not in the original opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart showing the hero laughing at the severed heads of the Prophet Mohammed and Jesus Christ.

While some Germans have praised Harms for her prudence, media on several continents and top German politicians have accused her of "self-censorship" and limiting freedom of expression.

Flierl demanded that the production proceed since "people can't debate it unless it is being performed," and demanded that churches and other groups rally round in solidarity to support freedom of expression.

City police said they would cater for the new situation if the opera proceeded with Idomeneo after all.

A spokesman said police had told Harms from the start that they would offer assistance, whichever way she decided. Harms says she relied on advice from police that there was a potential danger of attack.

Schindhelm, chief executive of the corporation and Harms' boss, said in a radio interview, "It would be a sensible thing to reinstate this production." The mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit, has also demanded that the production be put back on the programme.

Muslim organizations in Germany have been embarrassed by the crisis, saying it makes them appear like bullies. A range of Muslim leaders appealed this week for the production to go ahead.

A leak of the original police report to Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa warned that the decapitations scene "might be associated in some Muslim circles with videos made by militant Iraqi Islamists of people's heads being cut off."

When the Neuenfels work was first performed, arts reviewers said the closing scene implied that world religions were evil and had caused the sacrifice of countless lives.

DPA

Subject: German news

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