The other day, my postman delivered a parcel from a big European opera house, complete with fancy logo and wrapping. "Fantastic stuff, opera!" he said, "I'm hooked!". He told me he'd been watching Tony Pappano's series Opera Italia on BBC TV4 which can be watched online, on demand, everywhere for 2 more weeks, and a new one coming up soon. With a recommendation like that, how could anyone resist? So I hurried to watch. Yes, my postman is right! This really is wonderful. Pappano's a natural communicator, he makes you feel how he feels, draws you in and makes you care almost as passionately as he does. He communicates. So what if "clever folk" already know the material. Pappano's enthusiasm makes you want to delve further into the subject. In the long term that's much more important. Recommended!
In complete contrast, steer clear of the Wagner show also on offer. I watched that because there was a publicity shot of Alice Sommer Herz, but didn't get that far as I switched it off, thoroughly sickened by Stephen Fry. Here, the presenter is the subject, which itself is irrelevant except as it promotes the presenter's ego. "Oooh" says Fry, "I can't believe it, they're letting me play Wagner's piano" Honey, it's high profile BBC TV, of course they'll let you. But that can be excused.
Far worse is the crass exploitation of the Holocaust. Everyone's interested in that subject, so as long as you create a connection, you get viewers, even if the actual product has marginal connection. Sorry, but to me it's immoral to use the dead for personal gain. Maybe to others this is OK, but to me it's not.
If this had been a serious look at how Wagner connects to Hitler, it would have been reasonable, but this was just cynical exploitation. Barely above the level of dirty minded Nudge nudge, wink, wink, count the money as it rolls in. I've long admired Alice Sommer Herz, so I couldn't bear to see her used like this. Perhaps what she really said was heavily edited. A friend watched to the bitter end and said that Alice had said things like "I wouldn't sit thru 5 hours of Wagner", and "You listen, I won't". Alice is 106 years old, she's heard it all before. She's still sharp as a tack, and has no time to waste. Most revealingly, when asked if they'd played Wagner in Theresienstadt, she snapped, "We didn't have a Wagner sized orchestra". At one stroke, Fry's pander is punctured.