The Corner


Dances, Dunces, and Others

The Nutcracker at the Royal Ballet, London, December 9, 2020 (Toby Melville / Reuters)

Impromptus today begins with The Nutcracker — the cancellation of. In Berlin. Why? Because the Chinese and Arab dances give offense — allegedly. In reality, “they give delight and enchantment,” as I say in my column.

Until now, I’ve thought that “wokeness” was an American affair. We see that it has hopped over to Europe — which is tragic.

Other topics in Impromptus today include Russia and Ukraine; the nuttiness of the Women’s March; and the sheer, wonderful spine of J. K. Rowling, the best-selling author in history. (Even the best-selling author in history needs spine, if she wants to speak out, despite the death threats and all.)

Stephen Sondheim passed away last Friday. I’ve written an appreciation of him, here. But back to Impromptus.

One of my items concerns an opera company in Britain — which has fired half of its musicians, for the sake of “increased diversity in the orchestra,” according to the company itself. I have a memory, which I’d like to relate, here in the Corner.

In fact, I will quote a piece I wrote in 1996, when I was at The Weekly Standard. Here goes:

The issue of race intruded on the music world in a big way in 1989. The venue, appropriately, was Detroit, than which no city is more race-obsessed and race-driven. Two state legislators threatened to block $2.5 million in funds for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra unless it breached its policy of blind auditions and hired a black musician. They also threatened a boycott.

The orchestra’s management convened an emergency meeting and quickly capitulated. Within days, it hired a black bassist without benefit of competition, blind or otherwise.

The executive director told the press, “The Detroit Symphony was in a weakened financial situation. If we had not hired a black musician, it would have meant immediate bankruptcy.” The musician himself said, “I would rather have auditioned like everybody else.”

It was a big story at the time, at least in the little world of music (classical music).

Also in today’s Impromptus, I quote a tweet from Josh Mandel, the Ohio Republican:

We’re not fighting the Nazis anymore, so why do we have these enormous military bases all over Europe?

The mission of our military is to protect the AMERICAN people — not to subsidize European socialism or to prop up the military industrial complex.

My impression, as I say in the column, is that this view is very popular in America, on both right and left. In any event, I would like to offer a link, here in the Corner — to a piece I wrote in 2014: “Ike as Weapon: The use and abuse of Eisenhower’s Farewell Address, with its warning about the ‘military-industrial complex.’” Kind of interesting.

In an Impromptus earlier this month, I took note of a Lebanese-American author and artist: Etel Adnan, who had passed away at 96. I quoted part of her New York Times obit:

In addition to her taut yet cheerful paintings, Ms. Adnan also drew praise for her leporellos, books folded like an accordion on which she combined drawings, splashes of color and Arabic words and numbers. After discovering leporellos, which were popular with Japanese artists, she decided to appropriate the format for her own work.

“Yes,” I commented. “Nothing wrong with ‘appropriating.’ Nothing wrong with human connections.”

My friend and colleague Jason Steorts informs me that a “leporello” comes from Leporello, the manservant in Don Giovanni. When he sings the Catalogue Aria, he unfolds a long list of his master’s conquests.

I’ll be damned. An opera, based on a Spanish tale, by an Austrian composer and an Italian-Jewish librettist. A Japanese art enthusiasm, caught by an American of Lebanese background.

The arts leap boundaries, and nobody, of any political color, can stop them (I hope).

Hang on — I should have said that, on top of everything else, Don Giovanni premiered in . . . Prague.

Okay, enough of my Cornering. Today’s Impromptus, again, is here.


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