“Art never hurt anybody.” was the slogan that was bantered about when I was in college. We had it printed on shirts and ball caps, we believed it. And I still believed it until two years ago when I heard about the incident concerning Theo Van Gogh, Vincent’s great-grand-nephew. Then of course there was the Dutch cartoons maybe not high art but these drawings got people killed. Both of which were foreshadowed by the Salman Rushie affair. “I would like to inform all the intrepid Muslims in the world. . . that the author of the book titled The Satanic Verses, which has been compiled, printed, and published in opposition to Islam, the Prophet, and the Koran, as well as those publishers who were aware of its contents, have been declared madhur el dam ["those whose blood must be shed"]. I call on all zealous Muslims to execute them quickly, wherever they find them, so that no one will dare to insult Islam again. . . .” the Ayatollah Khomeini
Today I heard on NPR that a German Opera house Shelved Mozart’s Idomeneo Due to anti Muslim Content. (listen here)
“One of the leading opera houses in Germany has cancelled a production because a scene that might offend Muslims could create a security threat. The production of the opera Idomeneo features a scene in which a character presents the severed heads of religious leaders -- including Poseidon, Jesus, the Buddha and Muhammad. The Deutsche Oper in Berlin said police had warned that staging the production could pose a security risk to the opera house, its employees and patrons.” The interesting thing is that scene was not in the original Mozart version but tacked on by a more recent director. Instead of cutting the scene the Opera was canceled. They were rightly afraid for the lives of the cast and audience.
As a director I would have cut the scene because it is sledge hammer aesthetic in the first place and my ego is not yet so large that I think I can make Mozart better. Also by cutting that scene people stay employed and audiences get to hear great music with grandiose visuals. Most likely though it was too late to pull the scene because the rumor still lingers, like rumors do, that Mohammad was and is insulted because the scene is still in the minds of the Opera house staff. The offence does not have to be made tangible only thought of to be the cause of jihad. So they are going to mount the Marriage of Figaro instead, that's safe.
It seems that today not only can art hurt you it can get you killed.
6 months ago