Akademietheater in Wien recently put on Elfriede Jelinek’s “Schatten (Eurydike sagt)”, a grandiose production with a large number of Eurydikes in various stages of life and well-being, alternating in Jelinek’s endless tirades, repetitions and Thomas Bernhardesque garlands. The special effect of Jelinek’s rendition of the ancient Orpheus and Eurydike saga is a complete turnaround of the story, in the way that Eurydike refuses to follow Orpheus back into the world from the realm of shadows, because she prefers their company to that of the buffoon-like, pop-star acting Orpheus. While in the Greek fable, the singer Orpheus follows the deceased Eurydike across Styx into the underworld, and is promised to bring her back to life and earth, if he manages to lead her back without turning round to look at her. He does not succeed, and she dies. Jelinek makes a tremendous success in both her language and the change in the story to talk about sexual repression, male domination – and female rejection of these values. Continue reading
Category Archives: Life
(written version of a talk given to the Workshop “Change in Economy and Arts” at the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin, February 13-15, 2013)
20 months after former President Mitterand had launched the idea in 1989, EBRD was already up and running, having been founded by an array of Western (EU, USA, Japan, AUS, CDN, Egypt, Mexico, etc.) and transforming countries. The aim was to engage the international community to bring the ex-Socialist countries of Central and Eastern Europe on a “sustainable path towards market economics and democracy”. Continue reading
Oder Ist weniger Staat mehr?
Die ideologische und betriebswirtschaftliche Logik hinter der EU-Wasserdebatte
- Markt ist gut, der Staat ist ein schlechter Unternehmer: dies ist der ideologisch-politische Hintergrund hinter der langjährigen Privatisierungs-Debatte, die jetzt wieder durch die EU-Konzessionsrichtlinie in Österreich neue Nahrung bekommen hat. Die Idee dahinter: Kommunale Betriebe wirtschaften ineffizient, schanzen Aufträge Parteifreunden zu, beschäftigen viel zu viele Menschen (Klientelpolitik), verlangen keine kostendeckende Preise für die angebotenen Dienstleistungen, quersubventionieren über mehrere Bereiche hinweg – und als Monopolisten verlangen zu hohe Preise.
Diese Argumente, die zT auf Erfahrungen basieren, haben einiges für sich. Als gelernte Österreicher kennen wir viele einschlägige Erfahrungen, die dies bestätigen, allerdings gibt es auch eine Reihe exzellent und transparent wirtschaftender Kommunalunternehmen. Continue reading
The end of my four-plus years’ stay in London was marked by the remarkable Mikhail Bulgakov, the re-entry into Vienna by Beethoven and Richard Strauss. The Wiener Konzerthaus performed on New Year’s Eve a ravishing Beethoven 9th Symphony, in full blast, with the 100 plus strong choir of the Wiener Musikakademie and a remarkable cast of soloists, both in the orchestra and as singers. Somehow, it seems to me that the 9th Symphony is really an “event” symphony, which needs an occasion like New Year’s Eve or the like to really exhibit its bombast, its grandiosity, its revolutionary soundscape. It definitely got us into the mood for an extended New Year’s celebration. Continue reading
As we all know, the Itelmen tribe in Kamchatka (that is as far East as our region extends) has the saying: De mortuis nihil nisi bene: speak only good about the deceased! Of course, nobody knows, how Latin got to the Itelmen, but that is another story. Suma and Suzanne here are setting a new standard for “Ad partentes nil nisi bene”: say only nice things to the departing: I can accept this easily. Thank you.
I will, however, not retaliate in kind, because when else than at your own farewell reception do you really have a chance to speak your mind. Of course, I speak under the control of the Chief Legal Counsel and the Chief Compliance Officer, so I hope not to violate the strict EBRD code of conduct. Continue reading
Cultural life in London was my salvation: next to a very interesting job at the Board of the EBRD, I spent a compensatory (in the sense of giving my soul some kind of balance) time in London’s theatres, opera houses and concert halls. This was a truly amazing, exhilarating, and sometimes baffling experience. Continue reading
This opera was a sensation when first performed in the 1830 and remained popular for decades. However, it is hardly ever performed any more, even though the late Romantics took over a lot of the rather sensational techniquies which Meyerbeer introduced. This is maybe due to the rather confused romantic story (Norman night searches for love in Sicily, gets torn between the good (his “milk-sister” and his bride versus his companion/father, who turns out to be the devil), or the Wagneresque length (5 acts spanning 4 ½ hours), or the nearly impossible sound acts nearly all singers have to perform. But it is a laudable enterprise by the Royal Opera House (co-producing with Geneva) to put this on. It is absolutely worth hearing, even if the impressions remain mixed. Continue reading
Giacomo Meyerbeers Oper war zu ihrer Erstaufführung in den 1830er Jahren ein Riesenerfolg, der einige Jahre andauerte. Angeblich stark bewundert und kopiert von den späteren Romantikern, wurde sie weitgehend der Vergessenheit überlassen und in den letzten Jahrzehnten kaum mehr aufgeführt . Die neue Londoner Produktion (gemeinsam mit Genf) zeigt ein eigenartiges Bild: einerseits 5 lange Akte von fast Wagnerscher Länge, wenn auch nicht Intensität, da einige extreme Längen gekürzt gehörten. Andererseits eine ganze Reihe von wunderbaren dramatischen und lyrischen Arien, Duetten und Terzetten, die überzeugend beweisen, warum Meyerbeer so populär war. Continue reading
Letzten Mittwoch hat Schatzkanzler George Osborn seinen Herbstbericht zum Budget vorgelegt. Wie erwartet, hat er die selbst gesteckten Budget- und Schuldenziele weit verfehlt. Daher wurde die Austeritätsperiode, die er zur Erreichung seiner Budgetziele definiert hat, um zwei Jahre auf 2017/18 verlängert: für die leidgeprüften Briten und -innen heißt dies, dass die Durstperiode bis zur (geschätzten) Erreichung eines Normalwachstum noch 5 Jahre dauern wird. Und viele der geplanten Einsparungen werden erst nächstes Jahr wirksam. Erstaunlich, dass die Regierung noch immer von der Mehrzahl der Befragten unterstützt wird (auch wenn der Zustimmungsgrad schwindet). Viele Kommentatoren gehen davon aus, dass die bisher geplanten Einsparungsmaßnahmen nicht reichen werden, daß mindestens weitere 10 Mrd GBP gefunden werden müssen, um die Ziele zu erreichen. Continue reading
This was a first for me. While I had heard the individual operas of Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelungs several times, this was the first time I heard all of them in one sweep – and sitting very close up. This was a great performance by Royal Opera House’s Antonio Pappano and the orchestra, mostly fanstastic singing, but an ugly, quite dismal and absolutely illogical production. There are beautiful images (the Rhinemaidens, Valhalla in Rhinegold), but kitschy and ludicrous sets (the downed and broken-up airplane in Siegfried, the clumsy and dirty wall behind which Siegfried finds and awakens Brünnhilde; the stupid suspended boat – reminiscent of the 3 boys from Zauberflöte – from which Alberich urges on Hagen to obtain the ring; the final scene in Götterdämmerung where caricatures of the gods’ golden statues are brought in, etc., etc., etc.) and really ugly sets (an utterly illogical and ugly upstairs room in Hunding’s hut, with its velvet wallpaper looking more like a 20th century brothel in New Orelans than a medieval abode). Director Keith Warner should go home and cry, luckily for him is was not on the stage for plaudits, he might have been booed off (certainly by me!).
The outstanding singers were certainly Bryn Terfel as Wotan/Wanderer whose stage presence matches his commanding voice, both in the lyrical passages (“leb wohl, mein schönes, herrlich Kind”), as well as the imperial and the wrath-filled ones. He really is the perfect Wotan, hard to see who could surpass him. Also John Tomlinson (a previous Wotan) was excellent as both Hunding and – even more so – as Hagen, both vocally and as the envy-torn devious son of Alberich. Both of them received standing ovations and the loudest cheers. And, of course, at least on an equal level with these two giants was Stefan Vinke’s Siegfried. He initially looks like a young Per Steinbrück (the German SPD chancellor pretender) and also acts accordingly, but this is not to his disadvantage: the rough-hewn cave boy, ignorant of the facts of life, who takes what he likes and obeys advice both from the Waldvögelein as from Hagen. A beautiful tenor, a real Heldentenor with a great future.
Among the women most impressive were Eva-Maria Westbroek as Sieglinde and especially Mihoko Fujimura as Waltraute in a riveting unparalleled performance. Susan Bullock as Walküre was disappointing in Walküre, but found her appropriate strength in Siegfried and especially in Götterdämmerung, to an absolute dramatic highlight. If just she did not have to jump into the fire!
I was also impressed by Sarah Connolly’s Fricka, especially in Rheingold, less so in Walküre, but her act between stern protector of virtue and her lust for power and sex is played out extremely well. Of special quality (in Rheingold) was Wolfgang Koch’s Alberich, despite being slightly indisposed. But why does his early coughing have to be turned into him breathing into a plastic asthma bag in Götterdämmerung? Again, one of Warner’s ridiculous “ideas”. His powerful singing depicted his “depraved” lust for world domination beautifully. Less convincing, but still very good was Gerhard Siegel’s Mime, whose portrayal as a scientist was rather credible. Rachel Willis-Sorenson’s Gutrune did well. The major disappointment was Peter Coleman-Wright’s Gunther whose voice is just too weak for that role. Granted, he had a hard time maintaining his position between Siegfried and Hagen, but even in a weaker cast he would have been an outlier.
Beautiful singing by the Rhinemaidens, a very strange characterization of Erda, an extremely strong choir of the Gibichung’s followers – who completely incomprehensively show their determination for battle and celebration by brandishing little books, like delegates voting at a party convention (???), somber Nornen and a wild bunch of very< strong-voiced Valkyries, who unfortunately have to handle slaughterhouse meat carcasses (skinned torsos, arms and legs) instead of bodies of fallen “heroes”.
It seems to me that to hear the whole Ring in two weeks’ time does not do what one of my friends had told me before (“you will be sick of Wagner after this”), but rather the opposite. It brings out so much of the late-romantic music, the ups and downs of life and gods, a musical richness and quality which makes me want to hear more of it. But next time: I need to see a different staging.
On a beautiful fall weekend I took the train sightseeing to York, a 2-hour train ride from London. York is mainly known for its Gothic minster, the second largest Gothic church building in England (behind Winchester Cathedral), and the third-largest (supposedly) in Europe (after St. Peter’s and the Gaudi-folly Sagrada Familia in Barcelona). York boasts also a large medieval old town, a multitude of very original and well-stocked pubs and restaurants, a Roman heritage and much more. Continue reading
Die English National Opera hat eine ältere Produktion der Zauberflöte wiederbelebt – und sie funktioniert hervorragend. Sie schafft es, in einer wirklich witzigen englischen Übersetzung das doch etwas schwerfällige Libretto Schikaneders in einer idealen Mischung von Leichtigkeit, Witz und Gravitas hinüberzubringen. Diese Mischung macht denn auch das Auftreten des weisen Mannes (Priesters?) Sarastratos einigermaßen erträglich, umso mehr als die Bruderschaft hier nicht als klösterliche Priester gezeigt wird, sondern als (weitgehend) normale, wenn auch aufgeklärte Männer, die sich sowohl mit Freude der Jagd hingeben, als auch offenbar Familie haben und im Isis- und Osiris-Tempel nur „nebenbei“ agieren. Continue reading
Mit Eric Hobsbawm, der am 1. Oktober in London mit 95 Jahren starb, ist in kurzer Zeit nach Tony Judt im Vorjahr ein zweiter intellektueller Gigant mit Bezügen zu Österreich verstorben. Beide, Judt und Hobsbawm hatten die große Gabe, geschichtliche Zusammenhänge zu erkennen, zu analysieren und – besonders wichtig – in einer Sprache zu verbreiten, die allgemein verständlich war. Continue reading
A truly impressive production of Three Sisters by Anton Czechov at the Young Vic theatre uses a new translation by David Pountney and brings this story of provincial ennui and frustration to a vivid life. Initially the 3 sisters appear quite separate from each other, united only in their longing for returning again to Moscow from where many years ago their military father moved them. Continue reading
In modern times, reality frequently has to take second place to influencing sentiments. An important part of neo-liberal economics is based on “rational expectations theory” which posits that businesses and consumers are less swayed by the real environment, but by expectations they form about the future. The much maligned financial markets and their lackeys/eminences grises, the rating agencies, answer to any hot air from a policy maker with increased spreads, changes in interest rates, gains or losses in share prices. Every statement by a policymaker can become a menetekel or manna from heaven. Whether what is being said, is evidence-based or not, or whether it is merely designed to increase poll ratings, plays no role.