Contemporary European culture will be manifested in all its glory later today when a new production of Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera opens in Erfurt, Germany.
A German opera house is to unveil a provocative new production staged in the ruins of New York’s World Trade Centre.
It features naked pensioners and Mickey Mouse masks, Hitler salutes and Elvis impersonators.
The self-consciously outrageous September 11th staging of Verdi’s ‘A Masked Ball’ has been dreamed up by Austrian director Johann Kresnik.
He has described the concoction as a populist critique of modern American society, aimed at showing up the disparities between rich and poor, which attracting a large audience.
It will be a different, a provocative masked ball on the ruins of the World Trade Centre,” he told reporters before Saturday’s premiere. â€œThe naked stand for people without means, the victims of capitalism, the underclass, who donâ€™t have anything anymore.”
Rehearsals suggest that Mr Kresnik’s anti-capitalist staging is unlikely to be celebrated for its subtlety.
Some of the cast are dressed in soldiers uniforms, or in the red white and blue of Uncle Sam, or in day-glow pink Elvis costumes, slashed to the waist. Many, however, appear to spend their time on stage not wearing anything at all.
They include dozens local pensioners, recruited by the opera house in Erfurt, eastern Germany, to appear naked wearing nothing but plastic Mickey Mouse masks.
“Itâ€™s a very beautiful, poetic scene,” said Guy Montavon, the theatreâ€™s general manager.
He said that 60 eager amateurs were keen to appear naked before an audience for the premiere, but only 35 made the final cut.
The staging deliberately toys with images that are extremely sensitive both in the US and Germany.
Foreign audiences may find naked singers cavorting in front of the iconic ruined mesh of World Trade Centre metalwork most provocative.
In Germany however, a female singer with a painted on toothbrush moustache performing a straight arm Nazi salute appears particularly conceived to outrage.
The original 1859 production of the opera was sadly impacted by Roman censorship, which forced the change of the opera’s setting from 1793 Sweden to colonial Boston, and reduced the rank of the assassinated ruler from king to colonial governor. One has to hand it to Herr Kresnik. He succeeds in making one feel that there is a definite place in Europe these days for some old-time Roman censorship.