Invalid propositional constructions

I was looking at reviews on Amazon of that M22 set of Mozart productions from Salzburg. I own enough of the DVDs at this point that it wouldn’t make sense for me to buy the set, but I was curious.

One of my favorites of the reviews there was one that complained about an excess of “underware” (most people don’t know this, but Underware was one of the less successful side projects of the Tupperware company in the mid-1980s) and rejected the productions of both Don Giovanni and Die Zauberflöte on the grounds that they were “not logical.” You know that Monty Python bit about sex and logic? In my head, I heard the rest of the review read in that voice.

As far as visible underwear in productions of Mozart operas is concerned I am neither for nor against. The artistic value of a pair of tighty-whiteys or a see-through chemise is one of those things that we must have the courage to determine for ourselves on a case by case basis. Indeed, I will go so far as to say that the rejection tout court of underpants in Mozart operas is, fundamentally, an abdication of responsibility.

Hanno Müller-Brachmann will back me up on this:

14 thoughts on “Invalid propositional constructions

  1. I assume most of the reviews on are from Americans. I’m a bit baffled by the extremely negative reactions to the Nozze and the Don Giovanni. One may not like them (I do) but it’s crass not to recognize that there is something quite profound and disturbing going on with both. That should be obvious to anyone even if they don’t enjoy them.


    1. Sorry, that wasn’t very logical. The first sentence should have been edited out as I changed my line of reasoning half way through writing the comment. Still, I doubt one would have seen quite such simplistic dismissals on


      1. I think there’s a significant contingent of opera watchers (American or otherwise) who are assuming either that good art is uplifting (or whatever) and not troubling or ambiguous; or that everything in Mozart’s day was happy and innocent and so his operas should be performed that way too. Either that or it’s only the people who get really steamed up over regie who go and write Amazon reviews. (Though Smorg’s entirely reasonable review is also there too!)


        1. I think what gets me is that the approach is essentially prescriptive. “This is how it ought to be done”. No one, I think/hope, writing about a Picasso painting says what he/she thinks Picasso ought to have painted.


          1. And the difference between a painting and an opera is probably part of the problem. Paintings don’t have to be performed to be appreciated – they’re just there. But with music, you pretty much have to have a layer of interpretation, otherwise the music is just the score. There’s always going to be an interpretive layer between the artist and the audience or you don’t hear anything at all. But I think some operagoers work on the principle that an opera should be as much like a painting as possible – there is an assumption that a conventional production is less of a layer, or somehow a clearer or thinner window into the ‘real’ thing than a more modern production – when in fact both are people making decisions about how to perform the work.


            1. There are those who want their opera houses to be museums. Or any — ALL music as museum pieces. I like your painting analogies. People will liken an opera production to “painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa,” when that is a completely illogical comparison. One might as well say it’s “like water-skiing on Mount Rushmore.”


      2. Out of curiosity I read the reviews of the M22 DG on both and, and they seem about on a par. If anything, the .de negative reviews are even more dismissive than the .com ones.


        1. Interesting. This makes me think of the Salzburg King Arthur where Merlin appears midway through in the persona of a grumpy theatergoer who knows precisely how opera should be staged – exactly the way it was 30 years ago, when they did things just as they were done in the 18th c. It seems like the attitude is pretty widespread.

          Did the people on .de voice the same sorts of criticisms?


          1. Yes. Only they’re less inclined to feel they have to make a case. I liked the one that said the director should stick to pornos.


            1. “Only they’re less inclined to feel they have to make a case”

              Actually that’s what always strikes me most forcibly about the ultra-traditionalists. They have this strong sense of entitlement that productions should be the way they like them because that’s how it ought to be. No reasons or reason required.


              1. It’s the Edmund Burke theory of opera: do it the way we always have, wisdom of ancestors, etc., and if you don’t it will end in a total and utter bloodbath.

                (I suppose he would have felt a bit vindicated after seeing the Met’s Parsifal last spring.)


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