Friday, 13 May 2011

Berlioz Gilliam Damnation of Faust ENO - review

Maybe Mephistofeles intervened to blow up Google blogger so this post would disappear! But here it is the long promised review of Gilliam's take on Berlioz Faust at the ENO.  " best approached as a Monty Python skit on the theme of Faust, with incidental soundtrack by Berlioz."  Which is pretty mild indeed.  I don't have any objection to things being updated as long as they're done intelligently and with  purpose. But a collection of images with no meaning makes a mockery of one of the most metaphysical icons of all time. The Germans didn't make a pact with the Devil, nor did the Jews. Racial stereotypes and distortions cause wars. Only with real understanding and sensitivity can we avoid things like the Holocaust ever happening again.

I carefully avoided reading any of Gilliam's interviews and podcasts so I wouldn't be influenced.  But here is a corker you simply couldn't make up. "Berlioz was crackers" said Gilliam, "He suffered like me". Sure Berlioz was full of his own self-importance, but he took the subject seriously. And it's his music, not some irrelevance that gets in the way of what's happening on stage. Many directors new to opera don't understand it. Gilliam actively hates it. Faust was an intellectual who cared about truth and ideals. The Devil and the Brownshirts were anti-intellectuals who put the boot into what they didn't understand. Most ordinary people in Germany probably didn't like the Nazis but were caught up in the hysteria. Any society that mocks intellect and learning falls victim to totalitarian brutality. Beware emotive jackboots!

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