I assume I’m not the only one who is experiencing political fatigue. I’m not talking about the shuffling of White House personnel, North Korea, or what have you. I’m referring to all the political posturing within the classical music world this summer.
Michael Volle, Die Meistersinger
From July 27, 2017 performance in Bayreuth
Here’s a brief rundown:
Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro canceled the Simon Bolivar youth orchestra tour of the United States due to a verbal spat with Gustavo Dudamel. Dudamel, who came up through Venezuela’s famed youth music education program El Sistema, criticized the violence of Maduro’s regime after an 18-year-old musician was killed. Before that, Dudamel was accused of silent complicity.
In our current hyper-politicized atmosphere Dudamel faced a lose/lose situation. If he remained silent then was perceived as being a Maduro crony. If he spoke out then he put the youth orchestra at risk. Dudamel was not allowed to be just a world class conductor. Apparently, that’s not good enough. He must also construct a political platform to place alongside the conductor’s podium.
Conservative-minded radio host Dennis Prager was protested by members of the Santa Monica Symphony Orchestra when he was invited to conduct the orchestra in a fund raiser. Articles in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and on NPR framed Prager as a hatemonger even though he has been a champion of classical music for decades in Los Angeles County.
The event was sold out. Prager wrote a rebuttal.
President Trump has bowed out of the 2017 Kennedy Center Honors after three fifths of the recipients said they would not attend.
Seattle Opera apologized to Japanese Americans for producing Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. In a series of round tables the company put Puccini on trial for cultural appropriation and found him guilty.
Wagner was put on trial in a production of Die Meistersinger at this year’s Bayreuth Festival. Yes, Wagner was criticized within a piece of music he composed at a festival he founded in an opera house he designed and managed to have constructed. Who has that much nerve?
Yes, Puccini and Wagner were politically minded, but they created art which was based on liberation. However, now their creations are considered to be part of the problem. Their art has been deemed repressive by cretins masquerading as intellectuals.
Classical music would do well to end this trend and steer clear of political acts which by their very nature restrict freedom. Oppression is always based on a political system. The arts, when done well, remove oppression for the individual and give access to an enhanced experience of freedom. Yet this summer we have had examples of people within the arts oppressing the arts based on fashionable rhetoric. Fashionable rhetoric they may or may not understand