Friday, March 24, 2006

O welche Lust!

A column I try to never miss is Jay Nordlinger's Impromptu's. Here are a few items from his latest...

Friend of mine sent me the below item. I’m afraid conservative satire, today, is impossible. Indeed, conservative comment is almost impossible!

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Easter Bunny has been sent packing at St. Paul City Hall.

A toy rabbit, pastel-colored eggs, and a sign with the words “Happy Easter” were removed from the lobby of the City Council offices, because of concerns they might offend non-Christians.

A council secretary had put up the decorations. They were not bought with city money.

St. Paul’s human-rights director, Tyrone Terrill, asked that the decorations be removed, saying they could be offensive to non-Christians.

But City Council member Dave Thune says removing the decorations went too far, and he wonders why they can’t celebrate spring with “bunnies and fake grass.”

Just one comment: human-rights director? This is what Tyrone Terrill is, the human-rights director? Odd — I thought I wrote about human rights when I wrote about the torture of innocents in dungeons and so on. Little did I know that the real human-rights action is . . . in City Hall, where a secretary displays pastel-colored eggs.

I’m sorry, friends — I’m as patriotic as the day is long, but this is a screwy country.

Let’s have a little music criticism, from the New York Sun. For a review of Beethoven’s Fidelio at the Metropolitan Opera, please go here. For a review of the pianist Richard Goode, in concert with others, please go here. For a review of the mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe and the bass-baritone John Relyea, in joint recital, and a review of the bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff, singing Schubert’s Schöne Müllerin, please go here. And for a review of the pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, in recital, please go here.


Seeing Fidelio the other night reminded me of something a reader sent in, back in April 2003. This was shortly after the Allied invasion of Iraq. I wrote an item about the reader’s note on 4/23/03. Let me share it, if I may:

. . . I am just back from the Easter Festival at Salzburg, which I covered for The New Criterion (account to appear in the June issue). (Bear with me — this has to do with Iraq.) The opera that concluded the festival was Beethoven’s Fidelio.

A few days before leaving for Salzburg, I received a letter from a reader who had been following the news out of Iraq. It seems that Allied forces discovered an underground prison. The poor devils in there hadn’t seen the light in years. As they stumbled out in their rags — shielding their eyes — their families gathered around them, to greet and embrace them.

My correspondent, of course, thought of Fidelio, whose own prisoners emerge into the light. “O welche Lust!” he quoted. “O welche Lust! In freier Luft den Atem leicht zu heben!” Yes, what joy — what joy it is to breathe free air. Anywhere, and always.

And, later, Don Fernando sings that he has “uncovered the night of crime, which black and heavy encompassed all. No longer kneel down like slaves! Tyranny, be gone! A brother seeks his brothers, and gladly helps, if he can.”

Look, I’m all for Realpolitik (speaking of German). No fuzzy-headed, willy-nilly liberator, I. But: A brother should seek his brothers, and gladly help, if he can.

O welche Lust!


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