Thursday, 2 February 2012

Hitler Birthday Show Planned For Berlin Opera House. What Were They Thinking?

Op-Ed: The Berlin opera house scheduled a performance of Richard Wagner’s "Rienzi" – Hitler’s favorite opera – for April 20, the Führer’s birthday. After complaints, the show was rescheduled. Still, how could the Deutsche Oper have organized such a thing in the first place?
The capital's classic music lovers gather at the Berlin opera house (@boetter) The capital's classic music lovers gather at the Berlin opera house (@boetter)

By Lucas Wiegelmann
DIE WELT/Worldcrunch
BERLIN--You only need to know a few basic facts to understand how the German opera world’s latest bit of theatrics demonstrates zero historical awareness and even less of a sense of how to manage the past.
1. Richard Wagner’s "Rienzi" was Adolf Hitler’s favorite opera.
2. During the Nazi era, the Deutsche Oper Berlin was, along with the Bayreuth Festival Theater, the bastion of music for the Nazis.
3. This year is the Deutsche Oper’s 100th anniversary.
4. Hitler’s birthday was on April 20, and during the Nazi years it was a big day known as "Führers Geburtstag" (Führer’s birthday).
This information is available to anyone as educated as, say, an opera house director.
So if you conducted a poll and asked on what day in 2012 you should NOT, as director of the Deutsche Oper, schedule a performance of "Rienzi," the answer -- after maybe Christmas Eve and the day of the European Soccer Championships finale – would be April 20. Right? Talk about a bad idea: Hitler’s opera, on his birthday, during the centennial year of an opera house adored by Joseph Goebbels and Nazi big-wigs in general. Really?
Christoph Seuferle, however, didn’t have a problem with it. The commissioning director of the Deutsche Oper set the date long ago and nobody put two and two together.
Until recently, that is, when staffers at the Deutsche Oper did notice and protested. So now the institution has released a statement that reads: “During internal discussions, a number of those associated with the opera house stated that for personal reasons a performance of that opera on that particular night would be difficult or impossible.”
“Rienzi” has now been rescheduled for the following night. Leos Janacek's "Jenufa" will be performed on April 20.


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