Saturday, October 23, 2010

Peter Schumann's [Judenfrei]-Christian Skies

It's been quite a while since I wrote a post about Peter Schumann or Bread and Puppet Theatre, but I just came upon the following quotation about Bread and Puppet's touring production of a truncated adaptation of Claudio Monteverdi's opera, The Return of Ulysses:

In order to commit genocide on their competitors, the Trojans, the tricky Greeks employ their multitalented sky, full of custom tailored divinities, to justify the crime, just as we employ our Judeo-Christian sky, occupied by a divine air force and permitted by the in-god-we-trust court system, to justify our atrocities in Afghanistan, Palestine and elsewhere. By order of Jove, the boss, and with special help from his daughter Minerva, Ulysses finally returns home, where he has to murder 100 evil suitors in order to be happily reunited with wife and property.


Some notes:

1.) Any student of Greek mythology knows that the Greeks did not use their gods to morally justify the actions of the Trojan War: both Trojans and Achaeans are portrayed as pawns of the capricious gods of Olympus while the war is portrayed as the consequence of the gods' petty rivalries. Schumann is playing fast and loose with the canon of western civilization just as he does with 20th century history.

2.) I find it interesting that Schumann refers to "our Judeo-Christian sky" but not to our "our Judeo-Christo-Islamic sky." This allows him to ignore acts of ethnic cleansing and genocide by Muslims upon Jews and Christian Arabs-- or between different sects of Islam or even between Muslims of different ethnicities. This also gets back to a conversation in November of 2004 (I was a fly on the wall) where Schumann insisted that Osama bin-Laden was simply an anti-Imperialist and dismissed any notion that bin-Laden was motivated by religious fundamentalism or intolerance.

3.) Speaking of which, Schumann does not, as usual, address his childhood growing up in the Nazi stronghold of Bresleau, or that his father was a Lutheran clergyman during the Nazi era, and Schumann never mentions whether his family supported Naziism or not: after all, this would be his first-hand knowledge of a Judenfrei-Christian sky. In other interviews and reminisces, Schumann speaks of an idyllic childhood of free play and fresh baked bread interupted the day that day Germany was defeated, Breslau was renamed Wroclaw and became part of Poland as he and his family were forced to move westward from the no longer Großdeutchland into the post-war Kleindeutchland. This is part of his overall pattern of presenting Germany as the victim of World War II as opposed to anyone Germany or its allies might have exterminated.

The shame is that Schumann is no longer able to adapt a classic work without linking it to his anti-Israeli animus (which personal interviews repeatedly show to be rooted in elegiac romanticism for his Nazi childhood) especially when he has shown great wit it adapting other works from the theatrical canon, such as his 2002 adaption of Bertold Brecht's and Kurt Weill's Die Dreigroschenoper as Dirt Cheap Opera.

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