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Were the Deutsche Oper's Têtes Offensive?

Mozart is dead!  His troubles are over: help me!

    -- Tom Hanks, as Walter Fielding, in The Money Pit (1986)

What once was lost has now been found, and the ever so controversial Deutsche Oper Berlin "beheaded religious figures" production of Mozart's Idomeneo has gone on. 

Anne Applebaum bit the artistic bullet and reports on the performance for Slate.  It should be required reading for students of how not to stage . . . well, much of anything:

In the first half, the chorus wore stylized mock Baroque, coordinated to match their hot pink, lime green, and fluorescent orange bouffant wigs. In the second half, Electra crawled into a tiny model of the Parthenon and had a kind of epileptic seizure (as, later, did several other characters, though most recovered).  One of the sets featured a series of black doors, which King Idomeneo, dressed in the garb of an Italian playboy, opened and closed as he sang. . . .

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The music was light, true, but the symbolism was heavy—not to say utterly incomprehensible.  Why did the first scene take place at a black table, for example, around which sat corpses?  Why did the satyrs wear phalluses on top of their furry costumes?  And why did King Idomeneo shoot his pistol at the oracle, who had sweetly taken the form of a loudspeaker to come down to Earth and deliver his deus ex machina?

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Besides, it was hard not to want to laugh.  When was the last time you saw Jesus and Mohammed in boxer shorts?

But finally — finally — after the chorus' clothes went from multicolored fluorescent to black, after five or six seizures had played themselves out, after Princess Ilia had tried to sacrifice herself in place of her lover, the audience finally got what it had been waiting for.  In the last moments of the opera, when everyone else had left the stage, Idomeneo plunked each of the four gods' severed, bloody heads on a pedestal, before expiring himself, with a dramatic, blood-curdling roar.

(Hmmm.  The Idomeneo Theory: isn't that why we were in Vietnam?)


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