Deutsche Oper Berlin Sets Dates for Reinstated Idomeneo

Classic Arts News   Deutsche Oper Berlin Sets Dates for Reinstated Idomeneo
The Deutsche Oper Berlin has set performance dates for its revival of the controversial staging of Mozart's Idomeneo which it cancelled over fears of religious violence and then reinstated following a political uproar over freedom of expression.

The opera house announced the rescheduled performances — December 18 and 29 — yesterday, according to reports from the Associated Press and Reuters. Casting has not yet been finalized.

This particular production of Idomeneo includes a final scene added by director Hans Neuenfels in which the title character handles the severed heads of the god Poseidon, Jesus Christ, the Buddha and the prophet Muhammad. (Only Poseidon figures in the plot, which is set in ancient Crete.) The production drew protests from outraged Muslims when it was last presented, in 2004; with Christian-Muslim relations in Europe being in their current tense state, there were fears that the scene might provoke actual violence this year. (Neuenfels, claiming the scene was his personal protest against all organized religion, refused to allow its removal.)

In September, the Deutsche Oper Berlin received a warning from authorities of an unspecified threat because of the production, and company management cancelled the revival, citing concerns for the safety of performers, employees and audience members. A huge controversy promptly broke out, with politicians and newspapers all over the country (right up to Chancellor Angela Merkel) harshly criticizing the opera house for stifling artistic freedom and capitulating to the threats of extremists and terrorists. After several days of pressure, Deutsche Oper superintendent Kirsten Harms agreed to consider rescheduling Idomeneo if the authorities could give assurances that doing so would be safe. Berlin police announced last week that they could find no "concrete danger"; Harms announced her intention to reinstate the production the following day.

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