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Fête de la Musique, 'Klinghoffer', George Benjamin

As mentioned in yesterday's post, Saturday is the annual Fête de la Musique. According to an article by Pauline Verduzier (La fête de la musique boycottée par des bars parisiens, June 18) in Le Figaro, about fifty bars in Paris will stay closed on Saturday, to protest the local city governments, which the bar owners feel play favorites with neighborhood associations to the detriment of their establishments. These bars will not admit customers or open their doors on Saturday, but they will greet people in the street and ask them to sign petitions.

The other thing that is threatening the festival on Saturday is the ongoing demonstrations by the intermittents du spectacle, mentioned in Tuesday's post. According to an article by Violaine Morin (La Fête de la musique en partie menacée, June 20), also in Le Figaro, the Fête de la Musique has changed from its original nature as a day to celebrate amateurs making music, becoming more focused on "megaconcerts organized by cities in large auditoriums." While no actions have yet been announced for the biggest events in Paris, such concerts in several cities, all free and open to the public, have been canceled or may yet be, because of the actions of the intermittents.

The Metropolitan Opera and Peter Gelb took a considerable risk by producing John Adams's controversial opera The Death of Klinghoffer. As everyone should have expected, the Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish groups pressured the company to cancel the production, in response to which Gelb offered the compromise of going ahead with the production and canceling the simulcast. This has churned up the polemic battles that Klinghoffer has provoked over the years, centered on the question of whether the opera is anti-Semitic in its portrayal of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict behind the cold-blooded murder of an American man in a wheelchair during the hijacking of the Achille Lauro. Robert Fink's 2005 article (Klinghoffer in Brooklyn Heights, in Cambridge Opera Journal) was a systematic assessment of the opera's critical reception. While Fink focuses especially on the portrayal of Jewish characters in Klinghoffer, putting to rest the idea that they are in some way anti-Semitic, he confronts but does not really rebut the most salient point in Richard Taruskin's trenchant analysis of Klinghoffer (Music's Dangers And The Case For Control, December 9, 2001) in the New York Times: "The Death of Klinghoffer trades in the tritest undergraduate fantasies. If the events of Sept. 11 could not jar some artists and critics out of their habit of romantically idealizing criminals, then nothing will."

Since the wild success of Written on Skin, has George Benjamin become the "Spielberg of opera"? According to an article (George Benjamin, le Spielberg du lyrique, June 19) by Eric Dahan for Libération, Benjamin is now the "most bankable of opera composers." The composer will lead a masterclass at the Manifeste Festival at Ircam in Paris next week, about which he says: "These six composers have each written a five-minute opera scene for two singers and the Ensemble Intercontemporain. For a week, we will correct technical problems posed by their scores by working with the singers and the ensemble. At the end of this workshop, a public concert at the CentQuatre in Paris will allow us to hear the results."

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