From the Feuilletons


Monday 31 July, 2006

Frankfurter Rundschau, 31.07.2006

After the "Walkyrie" and "Rheingold", Stefan Schickhaus has now been to see "Siegfried", the third opera of Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle, and sees nothing in accusations that the Bayreuther Festspiele can no longer get top-notch singers. For Schickhaus, only the famous tenors showed signs of weakness. "By contrast, fantastic things can be heard from Adrianne Pieczonka as the young, natural-sounding Sieglinde, as well as from Michelle Breedt as Fricka and Mihoko Fujimura as Erda, the two resolute powers opposing Wotan. He himself, sung by Falk Struckmann, has been extremely present vocally over the first three operas. He declaimed his major monologue in the "Walkyrie" clearly, cleverly and economically, a nonchalant, jovial spear-carrier who mocks the world around him."

Die Tageszeitung, 31.07.2006

Gabriele Goettle gives voice to Antje Simnack of Utopia e.V., a solidarity project for victims of right-wing violence in Frankfurt on the Oder. "On the one hand there are the classic skinheads, but over the past years we've also had these teenagers with a good haircut, a solarium tan and nice clothes, where the attitude is not obvious. They look like totally normal club goers and teens. The police often play down incidents, calling them normal teenage fights with no right-wing background, they were all under the influence of alcohol, and so on. Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said it could just as easily be dark-skinned youths attacking fair-skinned. And overwhelmingly it is the case that a victim's self-defence is equated with aggression. You have to wonder where this leads, if you have to refrain from fighting back, physically or verbally, or risk having your victim status removed?!"

Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 31.07.2006

Christian Gasser presents Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Japanese manga author, who set a gloomy counterpoint in post-war Japan with his dramatic gekigas (more here): "Simple employees and workers, jobless or petty criminals - these are Tatsumi's anti-heroes, miserable losers, spurned by their wives, abused by their bosses, humilated by co-workers and even ridiculed by prostitutes. If they don't submit with resignation to their fate, they fight back with a outburst of senseless or murderous violence. 'Heroes?' - Tatsumi, a friendly man of 71, smiles: 'Heroes have never interested me. Heroes always have to win!'"

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 31.07.2006

Even debates between natural scientists can liven up the feuilletons. Dietmar Dath reports on a controversy about string theories, which two American physicists, Peter Woit (more here) and Lee Smolin (more here), have criticised in their books. Sharply dressed down themselves in the blog of Lubos Motl, they take issue with the string theories that seek to harmonise relativity and quantum theory. For Woit and Smolin, string theories "explain less, not more, than their earlier forms years ago. What they've accomplished in terms of simplifying and smoothing out older mathematical constructions is, according to critics, nullified by their own inherent complexity. For Woit, string theories are 'not even wrong,' they're fruitless."

Saturday 29 July, 2006

Die Welt, 29.07.2006

The paper's literature section prints the commentary of French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy, whose notes from Israel also appeared a few days ago in Le Monde (here in the original for Francophiles): "Right after my arrival - in fact, right after my first contacts with old friends whom I have not seen so tense or worried since 1967; after my first conversation with Denis Charbit, a committed peacenik who nevertheless trusts in the legitimacy of this war of self-defence to which his land has been forced; right after my first interview with Tzipi Livni, the brilliant young foreign minister who contributed so much to convincing Ariel Sharon to clear out of Gaza and who suddenly seems unusually stunned by a new geopolitical situation that can no longer be described with the old terminology of the "Israeli-Arabic conflict" - after all that, I sense that something new and unprecedented in the history of Israel's wars is happening. As if one no longer can be safe moving about even within Israel's boundaries. As if the international context, the game of hide and seek between visible and invisible actors, the roles that Iran and its armed branch, Hizbullah, are playing, lend the entire situation a new appearance and unusual prospects."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 29.07.2006

Romanian author Richard Wagner analyses the growth in populist currents all over Eastern Europe: "The use of terminology is decisive for populism's success, for example saying you're both anti-capitalist and anti-communist. You can see this in Viktor Orban, the national-conservative leader of the Hungarian opposition, who was influenced by liberalism in his early days, but also in the Kaczynski brothers in Poland and their 'Law and Justice Party.' Both portray their own camp as being under siege. What was earlier threatened by Soviet imperialism is seen as menaced by the pressure of globalisation. A new concept of the enemy has replaced the old." In response, Wagner calls for "stronger networking of civil forces between East and West."

Arian Fariborz describes the hugely popular if heavily religious culture of theatre in Iran. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad himself opens the "Fadjr" theatre festival, and censorship is everywhere: "Every single play put on in public requires permission from the 'Ministry for Culture and Islamic Guidance.' As a rule, before receiving permission to perform a play, directors' scripts and rehearsals have to go through three checking processes."

Süddeutsche Zeitung, 29.07.2006

Joachim Kaiser has sweated out a performance of the "Walkyrie" at the Bayreuther Festspiele. Above all the last act was terrifically well conducted by Christian Thielemann (interview here). The only down side of the evening came from director Tankred Dorst's clever ideas, the likes of which Kaiser recommends stage directors should simply avoid: "When Wagner's tragic transports are successful, they are all you need to engage the audience. What you don't need on top of that is a pair of lovers repairing bicycles, silly modern-day children running about, or Wotan doing an unclear pantomime of impending failure. All in all, it's enough just to evoke a certain spatial timelessness... As the actor Heinz Hilpert once said: 'Clever ideas are the lice of directors.'"

Berliner Zeitung, 29.07.2006

Well worth reading is the Berliner Zeitung's reprint of Andre Müller's epic 1979 conversation with sculptor Arno Breker. Breker's explanation for why he worked with the Nazis: "If I had opposed Hitler, I could not have helped my persecuted friends." An English version of the interview will appear shortly on - let's talk european