The Lemming Report 4. Excess in the Arts

My thoughts were confused when I attended the Islington cinema screening of “William Tell”, the Rossini opera. I had booked before the brouhaha about the rape scene — no voyeur me. I only knew of the overture bit (an American child loyal to the “Lone Ranger” radio shows) and the apple and arrow contretemps. I expected kitsch and feared the long length. I was exceedingly pleased and greatly enjoyed the wonderful staging, the performances and most of all the music. The several hours passed quite quickly and all the audience (about 20 souls) stayed the distance. Apart from only three young people that I could see, the rest of us were old and elderly. I make this point as I enjoy many of the streamed film attractions from theatre and music venues and find most of us sport grey and white hair. Most film attractions seem aimed at a youth audience, but these watch on their devises, so it might be a consideration if programmers thought about those who still buy tickets and stop the crap. I recently quit my membership to a cinema group for this reason and their cursed on line booking.

Back to “William Tell”. The main theme of the marvelous ensemble performance was anti-war with a fabulously drilled chorus of close to one hundred members. Did this include the well behaved children? There are some kitsch touches, the comic strip bits and the silent caped Spirit of Switzerland and all that fake blood and the endless stripping of the male torsos. Could the director have had Nazism in mind with his depiction of the Austrian bullies? Certainly they did act in the Storm Trooper manner. And was he remembering that Hitler was Austrian and that Austria has claimed German occupation as an excuse for their behaviour during the War and their refusal to make repayments for confiscated property.

Having been pleased at my attending the opera and surprised at the difference from my expectations, my thoughts roamed to other operas I have seen and heard. Such as Wagnerian ones. What trials we put ourselves through for considering ART. If Tell did not seem long, any of Herr Wagner’s endurance matches more than drag. If Debussy and Stravinsky said these things, and particularly the Ring Cycle is like reading a city directory; the directory at least has a purpose. Were their editors in late 19th Century Europe?

Another cultural event I put myself through was the television piece devoted to the self adulation of Jeff Koons. It occurred to me that the same out of control excesses of Wagner are matched with those of Koons. If among other suckers supporting Richard, he had Mad Ludwig of Bavaria as a monied fan, in today’s market their are those fuckers who are called by the non-word, “Gallerists”. Big, big bucks here for all concerned. But, will they build a Beyreuth to house these monstrosities and have a summer festival for lovers of bad art to worship at? Not if they have to pay for it. Time is the great leveler and museum storage and insurance the greater deterrents. Where will these excesses of the present day art scene finally repose? The filthy beds, the pickled sharks, the metalled balloons; will they go where the snows of yesteryear repose? Let us hope.

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