kulturplease.com archive 2010

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Music

Wagner on Stage: Notable Productions of Summer 2010:
Placido Domingo and James Conlon "were not going to rest until L.A. Opera had become 'Ring'-worthy." In June 2010, they completed their mission. The Los Angeles Opera presented three complete cycles of Wagner's Ring des Nibelungen, accompanied by municipal fanfare, behind-the-scenes controversy, and (mostly) satisfied critics.  (The New York Times, 6/20/10; Opera Today, 6/21/10; Los Angeles Times, 6/28/10)

"Schland, oh Schland..." Heard enough of Lena? Now there's Uwu Lena, too. "A group of university students have remade Eurovision's winning song into an unofficial World Cup football anthem. But what started as a joke, has resulted in a cult hit -- and a record contract."  (Spiegel Online - International, 6/15/10)

Wagner on Stage: Notable Productions of Summer 2010:
In Günter Krämer's new staging of Die Walküre, Valkyrie nurses scrub up bloody cadavers on mortuary tables. The inscription GERMANIA dominates Valhalla's decor. Part 2 of the Paris Opera's first Ring cycle in more than 30 years, Die Walküre was loudly booed by its opening night audience.  (Financial Times, 6/3/10; The Wall Street Journal, 6/11/10; Bloomberg, 6/20/10)

Wagner on Stage: Notable Productions of Summer 2010:
"The hottest ticket this summer in the U.K. is the Welsh National Opera's 'Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.'" Bryn Terfel sings the role of Hans Sachs, and the production cleverly pays homage to four centuries of great German artists. (guardian.co.uk, 6/3/10; guardian.co.uk, 6/20/10; The Wall Street Journal, 6/25/10)

In memoriam: Anneliese Rothenberger (1924-2010), "whose charm, chic and polished technique made her one of Europe's most admired lyric-coloratura sopranos in the 1950 and '60s."  (Opera News, 5/26/10; The New York Times, 5/27/10; The Times, 5/27/10)

"Love, oh love..." After a 28-year drought, Lena Meyer-Landrut leads Germany to victory in the Eurovision Song Contest. Pundits agree: Lena is adorable, her pop song "Satellite" is infectious, and her English accent is "really, really weird."  (Spiegel Online - International, 5/21/10; Time, 5/30/10; Spiegel Online - International, 5/31/10, World Blog, 5/31/10)

Seeking "to create music without a past," German artists of the 1970s influenced the worlds of rock and pop for years to come. Check out Deutsche Elektronische Musik: Experimental German Rock and Electronic Musik 1972-83, a new compilation from Soul Jazz Records. (guardian.co.uk, 3/31/10; guardian.co.uk, 4/1/10)

In memoriam: Wolfgang Wagner (1919-2010). Grandson of composer Richard Wagner and director of the Bayreuth Festival for 57 years. "Autocratic, controversial and determined, Mr. Wagner retained power at the center of a maelstrom of family dispute for more than half a century."  (guardian.co.uk, 3/22/10; The Times, 3/23/10; The Washington Post, 3/23/10; Gramophone, 3/24/10)

The Los Angeles Opera will present its first complete Ring Cycle -- directed by Achim Freyer -- in May and June 2010. Included in the $32 million price tag: 46 weeks of rehearsal time, overtime pay for 169 singers and musicians, video projection equipment, flying gear, and 3000 feet of LED tubing.  (Los Angeles Times, 3/21/10)

The early 20th-century operas of Franz Schreker are "opulent, sensual, psychologically probing, self-indulgent and fascinatingly complex in text and music" -- and, alas, only rarely performed today. If you'd like to experience Der ferne Klang or Die Gezeichneten on stage, 2010 could be your year. (Newsweek, 3/15/10; The New York Times, 4/14/10)

Too young to have experienced Berlin's great dance orchestras of the 1920s and 30s? Max Raabe and his Palast Orchester are the next best thing, recreating an elegant Jazz Age sound with a playful touch of postmodern irony.  (The Wall Street Journal, 3/3/10)

"The incoming Intendant of Dresden's Semper Oper, Ulrike Hessler, probably thought she'd landed a major coup" by arranging for the Staatskapelle's next New Year's Eve concert -- under the direction of Christian Thielemann -- to be broadcast live on ZDF. Alas, she didn't consult the orchestra's current director, Fabio Luisi -- who promptly resigned.  (The New York Times, 2/5/10; The Washington Post, 2/5/10)

An extravagant new concert hall, well-behaved squatters, and Richard Florida's ideas on the "creative class" are fueling public debate over the future of Hamburg.  (The New York Times, 12/31/09; Spiegel Online - International, 1/7/10)

Hans Heinrich Eggebrecht (1919-1999) was among the Federal Republic's most esteemed musicologists. New historical investigations reveal that he previously belonged to the Wehrmacht's Feldgendarmerie division 683, which was responsible for the murder of 14,000 Crimean Jews in December 1941.  (signandsight.com, 12/28/09; signandsight.com, 1/5/10)




Art & Design

In memoriam: Günter Behnisch (1922-2010). "His radical modern designs, including the Munich Olympic Stadium, marked a departure from the bombastic architecture of the Nazi era and shaped the face of the new German democracy."  (Spiegel Online - International, 7/13/10)

In memoriam: Sigmar Polke (1941-2010), "an artist of infinite, often ravishing pictorial jest." Always unpredictable, Polke defied artistic labels and "left an indelible mark on the last four decades of contemporary painting."  (The New York Times, 6/11/10; The Washington Post, 6/13/10; guardian.co.uk, 6/16/10)

Less is more at the Morgan Library & Museum's intimate exhibition of works by Albrecht Dürer. "Defining Beauty" is on display now through September 12, 2010.  (The Wall Street Journal, 5/26/10; Old Masters + New Perspectives, 6/9/10)

"With classic German literalness, clarity and a lexicographer's ambition to categorise," August Sander sought to "provide a true psychology of our time" with his early 20th-century photographic portraits -- now on display at the Tate Modern.  (Financial Times, 5/8/10)

"Benedikt Taschen is an anachronistic freak in the modern world of books: an autocrat, a tycoon, a highly visible figurehead whose surname appears in capital letters on the billions of volumes that Taschen churns out...High art, low art, respectable or rude: it's all good business" to the company that bears his name.  (The Sunday Times, 5/2/10)

Franz Erhard Walther's interactive canvas sculptures "resemble L.L. Bean products gone awry." A recent exhibition at Peter Freeman Inc. was the artist's first solo show in NYC in nearly 20 years.  (The New York Times, 4/27/10)

The Galerie Thaddeaeus Ropac is hosting an exhibition of Georg Baselitz's monumental sculptures, paintings, and aquarelles now through May 29, 2010. "If you only know Mr. Baselitz's paintings, then it is the two giant new sculptures that will shock you at his Paris show."   (The Wall Street Journal, 4/23/10)

The hottest contemporary art exhibition in Germany "is a birthday cake sliced in half," a double retrospective in Leipzig and Munich honoring 50-year-old artist Neo Rauch. Rauch's paintings "lodge somewhere between neo-realism and surrealism, speaking a pop-art language with a distinct East German slur."  (Art Knowledge News, 4/14/10; Bloomberg.com, 4/19/10; UPI.com, 5/4/10)

"More than any other artist, Dix made every stop on the itinerary of German modernism...and he managed it all in one decade, the Roaring '20s." See them all at NYC's Neue Galerie, now hosting the first North American retrospective of Otto Dix's disturbing, fascinating work.  (The New York Times, 3/12/10; Financial Times, 3/19/10; The New York Times Style Magazine, 3/19/10)

The Bauhaus turns 90:
Witold Rybczynski shows why we're still fascinated by the Bauhaus.  (Slate, 3/10/10)

With an upcoming retrospective sponsored by the Dia Art Foundation and Bard College, abstract painter Blinky Palermo (1943-1977) is finally "getting his posthumous American moment." (The New York Times, 2/26/10)

Looking for the Berlin Wall? Pieces of the Cold War relic can be found in the Microsoft cafeteria in Redmond, Washington, in the men's room of a Las Vegas casino, on Ronald Reagan's ranch, at Fort Knox -- and other sites recently documented by photographer Hartmut Jahn. (guardian.co.uk, 2/14/10) 

Dresden: New confrontations with the past
Daniel Libeskind's redesign of the Military History Museum in Dresden breaks dramatically with the 19th-century building's neoclassical facade, creating "a question mark about the continuity of history and what it means." (Spiegel Online - International, 2/13/10)

Brush up on your great German painters of the 20th century: Jackie Wullschlager reviews four new books on Gerhard Richter, Otto Dix, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, and Lovis Corinth.  (Financial Times, 2/11/10)

Just months after the opening of the Neues Museum in Berlin, British architect David Chipperfield has redesigned yet another monument of the German art world, the Folkwang Museum in Essen -- and response is equally enthusiastic. (guardian.co.uk, 1/29/10; Spiegel Online - International, 1/29/10; guardian.co.uk, 2/3/10)

"Why do artists go to Berlin?" asks Rafael Jablonka. "Because the rents are low. But there is no other business there, there is no other reason to be in Berlin." Germany's capital city attracts young artists from all over the world, but its high-end commercial galleries are struggling.  (ARTINFO, 1/19/10; The Art Newspaper, 3/3/10)

Designed by Peter Behrens in 1909, the AEG Turbine Hall "marked the arrival of a new, minimalist industrial aesthetic" in Imperial Berlin. One century later, the hall remains an active site of production. "There have been other felicitous confluences of money, corporate ambition and design talent in history, but few have proved so enduring as the one forged by Mr. Behrens, Mr. Rathenau, and AEG."  (The New York Times, 1/19/10)

The Bauhaus turns 90:
"Bauhaus Confidential"? Just in time for the design school's 90th anniversary, comes Nicholas Fox's The Bauhaus Group: Six Masters of Modernism. Look here for colorful personal details you won't find at the recent museum retrospectives.  (ARTnews, 10/09; The New York Times, 12/27/09; HuntingtonNews.net, 1/17/10)

Art critics, take note: "By all means, do your duty, if only because it might turn out to be a greater pleasure than you ever expected." Barry Schwabsky explains why Gerhard Richter's exhibition at the Marian Goodman Gallery is a pleasant surprise.  (The Nation, 1/14/10)

Albrecht Altdorfer's rendition of The Battle of Issus "is vast in ambition, sweeping in scope, vivid in imagery, rich in symbols, and obviously heroic." Read Judith Dobrzynksi's appreciation of the Northern Renaissance masterpiece that was dubbed "the Iliad of painting" by Romantic critic Friedrich Schlegel.  (The Wall Street Journal, 1/8/10)


 
Books & Ideas

Heil Heidegger? A new round of debate on the philosopher and his politics
Does the 1933/34 Freiburg University seminar, "On the Essence and Concepts of Nature, History and the State," reveal the extent of Martin Heidegger's allegiance to Nazism? Read newly published student transcripts and decide for yourself.  (signandsight.com, 5/19/10)  

Decades after its first publication, Hans Fallada's Jeder stirbt für sich allein has become an unexpected bestseller in English translation (Every Man Dies Alone / Alone in Berlin). "All the paranoia and suspicion of the Nazi era is conveyed in this most human of novels, and shaped by Fallada's abiding theme, the revolt of the ordinary man."  (The New York Times, 5/4/10; guardian.co.uk, 6/1/10; The Irish Times, 6/7/10)

"Benedikt Taschen is an anachronistic freak in the modern world of books: an autocrat, a tycoon, a highly visible figurehead whose surname appears in capital letters on the billions of volumes that Taschen churns out...High art, low art, respectable or rude: it's all good business" to the company that bears his name.  (The Sunday Times, 5/2/10)

Heinrich von Kleist wrote sophisticated comedies and adventure tales during an era of political and cultural revolution, "in between the episodes of a life rapidly unraveling." Geoffrey O'Brien explains why Kleist's stories are among the best ever written.  (bookforum.com, Apr/May 2010)

"Whether we acknowledge it or not," writes Francis Fukuyama, "we continue to live within the intellectual shadow cast by Nietzsche." Read more about the seminal philosopher in Julian Young's Friedrich Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography.  (The New York Times, 4/29/10)

Could Heidi, the beloved Swiss storybook heroine, really be the creation of a German author?
Johanna Spryi's Heidi may have been inspired by Adelaide, das Mädchen vom Alpengebirge, a little known short story by Hermann Adam von Kamp.  (The Local, 4/29/10; The Times, 4/30/10)

"Humorous, whimsical, outrageous, and bursting with wild exaggeration as well as with an undeniable and notorious streak of terror, Struwwelpeter is in truth a delight." Read Ellen Handler Spitz's appreciation of the 1844 children's classic by Heinrich Hoffmann.  (The Book, 4/15/10)

"'German history is nothing more than a series of ridiculous moustaches,' grumbles Bernie Gunther
, the sardonic cop-turned-private-detective who narrates Philip Kerr's latest novel, 'If the Dead Rise Not.'"  (Los Angeles Times, 3/20/10; The Washington Post, 3/22/10; boston.com, 3/23/10)

The Axolotl Roadkill literary debate:

The simplest assessment of Axolotl Roadkill may be the most apt: "Here we have a book which contains bits copied directly from other writers with no thought for poetology. No intertext, no material aesthetics, just plain plagiarism."  (signandsight.com, 3/4/10)

The Axolotl Roadkill literary debate:

In defense of Helene Hegemann, Durs Grünbein slyly lifts the words of fellow poet Gottfried Benn. The title of Grünbein's piece? The same as Benn's, published 84 years before: "Plagiat".  (FAZ.NET, 2/23/10; Dialog International, 2/25/10)

"The German Digital Library wants to make millions of books, films, images and audio recordings accessible online. More than 30,000 libraries, museums, and archives are expected to contribute their digitized cultural artifacts. The idea, in part, is to compete with Google Books. But will it work?"  (Spiegel Online - International, 2/19/10)

The Axolotl Roadkill literary debate:

"There's no such thing as originality anyway, just authenticity," asserts Helene Hegemann, the 17-year-old bestselling author of Axolotl Roadkill. But just how authentic is a novel that relies upon unattributed passages from the work of another writer?  (love german books, 1/28/10; love german books, 2/8/10; The New York Times, 2/11/10; Presseurop, 2/11/10; Spiegel Online - International, 2/17/10)

"If Bill Bryson had collaborated with W.G. Sebald to write a book about Germany, they might have wound up with something like this." Simon Winder's Germania: A Personal History of Germans Ancient and Modern is short on scholarly rigor, but full of passion: "an enthralling weave of travelogue, anecdote, and historical mock-epic."  (The Sunday Times, 2/7/10; Financial Times, 2/8/10; The Guardian, 2/27/10)

United States of America, meet Durs Grünbein. "Germany's most successful poet" is gaining a higher profile across the Atlantic with an essay in Poetry magazine, English-language editions of Bars of Atlantis and Descartes Devil, and an East Coast book-signing and reading tour.  (The Wall Street Journal, 1/15/10; The Atlantic Times, 2/10; Poetry, 2/10; Little Star, 4/16/10)  

Are new media cheapening the value of the written word, pandering to the basest instincts of the reading public? Theodor Fontane feels your pain.  (guardian.co.uk, 1/15/10)

W.G. Sebald, states Will Self, "is rightly seen as the non-Jewish German author who through his works did most to mourn the murder of the Jews." Furthermore, "for the English-speaking world - and the English in particular - Sebald is the longed-for 'Good German'; he is everything Speer wanted to become but never could." Sebald would be troubled by this reputation...  (Independent Minds, 1/15/10; The Times Literary Supplement, 1/26/10)

Editor, poet, political gadfly -- Hans Magnus Enzensberger has occupied a leading position among German literati for more than 50 years. His latest work, The Silences of Hammerstein, explores the choices of Kurt von Hammerstein and family before, during, and after the Nazi rise to power.  (The Observer, 1/10/10; The Guardian, 5/15/10)




Film

Florian Gallenberger's new film recounts how a German businessman rescued more than 200,000 Chinese civilians in 1937 Nanking. "But for a story not often told, John Rabe feels awfully familiar...There are good Germans and bad Germans (the latter sporting a nasty scar), good Japanese and bad Japanese (snorting and glowering like dragons), a crack team of hardy heroes, whiffs of romance among the ruins, and somehow just one lead Chinese character."  (Slant Magazine, 5/17/10; The Village Voice, 5/18/10; The New York Times, 5/21/10)

It's a "ciné constellation," not a documentary, according to writer and director Amie Siegel. DDR/DDR is an idiosyncratic meditation on the surveillance culture of the bygone GDR.  (The Village Voice, 5/4/10; j.b. spins, 5/7/10; BOMBlog, 5/12/10)

"The best film of the year is easily the newly restored version of Fritz Lang's science-fiction masterpiece, Metropolis."  (The New York Times, 5/4/10; Cinefanastique, 5/15/10; salon.com, 5/15/10)

No subtitles please, we're German -- most foreign films released in the Federal Republic are dubbed. Successful dubbers once built decades-long careers as the German voices of stars such as Robert De Niro or Woody Allen. But times change: dubbers now worry "their profession is in decline, a victim of both technology and persistent cost cutting."  (The Wall Street Journal, 4/19/10)

In memoriam: Werner Schroeter (1945-2010), "radical experimentalist and prominent auteur filmmaker of New German Cinema."  (Variety, 4/14/10; The New York Times, 4/20/10; guardian.co.uk, 4/22/10)

"Suddenly: a virtually unknown, newly restored, two-part tele-film directed by long-gone wunderkind R.W. Fassbinder at the height of its powers."
The dystopian plot prefigures Avatar and The Matrix; the ultra-mod production design is anchored in the 1970s. "There are movies that make news and movies that are new. World on a Wire is one of the latter."  (The New York Times, 4/4/10; C-MONSTER.net, 4/12/10 The Village Voice, 4/13/10; Hint, 4/15/10)

Everyone Else
won two Silver Bears at the 2009 Berlinale -- but "unless you are looking for a quick, low-budget way to break up," don't see it with a date. Maren Ade's second film "functions as a fearsome seismograph, charting not just the major quakes in a relationship but also the barest tremors."  (The Village Voice, 4/6/10; The New York Times, 4/9/10; The New Yorker, 4/12/10

Jud S
üss returns to movie screens:
Veit Harlan transformed Lion Feuchtwanger's historical novel Jud Süss into an anti-Semitic propaganda piece -- and one of the most widely seen movies in Nazi Germany. Nearly 70 years later, two new films explore the long shadow cast by Jud Süss over Harlan, Harlan's descendants, and leading actor Ferdinand Marian. (the auteurs, 3/3/10; The New Yorker, 3/3/10)

Jud Süss returns to movie screens:
The focus of Harlan: In the Shadow of Jew Suss is not Veit Harlan himself, but rather his descendants. Directed by Felix Moeller (himself the son of prominent German filmmakers), the documentary "is a brilliant exposé of the way history resonates through the generations, of the ripples that continue to emanate from one man's nefarious actions." (The New York Review of Books, 3/1/10; The New York Times, 3/2/10; The New York Times, 3/3/10; Tablet, 3/3/10)

Jud Süss returns to movie screens:
The 60th Berlin International Film Festival:
Booed at its Berlinale screening, Jew Suss: Rise and Fall tells the story -- with much embellishment -- of Ferdinand Marian's decision to star in the now-infamous Nazi propaganda film Jud Süss.  Faustian tragedy, comic melodrama, or political satire? The 21st-century filmmakers couldn't decide.  (Bloomberg.com, 2/18/10; Variety, 2/18/10; Spiegel Online - International, 2/19/10)

The 60th Berlin International Film Festival:
"Throw away your Metropolis DVD!" A freshly restored version of Fritz Lang's 1927 sci-fi epic premiered at this year's Berlin film festival. "For years audiences have wondered how good this film might have been had it not been edited. It turns out that it's better than anyone could ever have expected."  (The Independent, 2/13/10; Spiegel Online - International, 2/13/10; The Wall Street Journal, 2/19/10)

The 60th Berlin International Film Festival:
Once a western cultural showcase on the frontlines of the Cold War, the Berlinale is now celebrating its 60th year. The 2010 festival features a jury headed by Werner Herzog, the restored silent classic Metropolis, and the newest film by a conspicuously absent Roman Polanski.  (Variety, 2/7/10; Spiegel Online - International, 2/11/10; guardian.co.uk, 2/15/10; The New York Times, 2/17/10; Spiegel Online - International, 2/19/10; Financial Times, 2/21/10)

Bernd Eichinger has produced nearly 70 films in the past 30 years, including The Name of the Rose, The House of Spirits, Downfall, and The Baader Meinhof Complex. "His films have received several Oscar nominations and he is well-known in Hollywood. So why is there so little love for him at home?"  (Spiegel Online - International, 2/5/10)

A Bergfilm for the 21st century: Philipp Stölzl's North Face is a gripping, fictionalized account of a 1936 expedition to scale the Eiger Nordwand. North Face features "an awkward, under-nourished love story and half-baked politics," but also thrilling scenes of suspense set amid breathtaking Alpine scenery.  (The New York Times, 1/29/10; Chicago Reader, 2/25/10; The Washington Post, 2/26/10)  

Reflections on the RAF and the legacy of 1968:
Critics everywhere have compiled their 10-best lists of 2009 films, but Richard Cohen's is a list of 1: The Baader Meinhof Complex. To Cohen, "it is only incidentally about the 1970s-style radicalism of Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof, and more about how wrong I was when I was young."  (The Washington Post, 1/12/10)

Josef Vilsmaier's new film, Nanga Parbat, recounts the ill-fated bid of Reinhold and Günther Messner to climb one of the world's most dangerous mountains. Told from the perspective of surviving brother (and now world-famous mountaineer) Reinhold, the film has reignited a 40-year dispute about the circumstances that led to Günther's death.  (guardian.co.uk, 1/19/10; Spiegel Online - International, 1/19/10)

A new exhibition at the Deutsche Kinemathek documents the turbulent life and career of actress Romy Schneider, who sprung to stardom with her portrayal of Habsburg Empress Elizabeth ("Sissi") in 1955.  (The Wall Street Journal, 1/8/10)





Theater

Wagner on Stage: Notable Productions of Summer 2010:
Placido Domingo and James Conlon "were not going to rest until L.A. Opera had become 'Ring'-worthy." In June 2010, they completed their mission. The Los Angeles Opera presented three complete cycles of Wagner's Ring des Nibelungen, accompanied by municipal fanfare, behind-the-scenes controversy, and (mostly) satisfied critics.  (The New York Times, 6/20/10; Opera Today, 6/21/10; Los Angeles Times, 6/28/10)

Wagner on Stage: Notable Productions of Summer 2010:
In Günter Krämer's new staging of Die Walküre, Valkyrie nurses scrub up bloody cadavers on mortuary tables. The inscription GERMANIA dominates Valhalla's decor. Part 2 of the Paris Opera's first Ring cycle in more than 30 years, Die Walküre was loudly booed by its opening night audience.  (Financial Times, 6/3/10; The Wall Street Journal, 6/11/10; Bloomberg, 6/20/10)

Wagner on Stage: Notable Productions of Summer 2010:
"The hottest ticket this summer in the U.K. is the Welsh National Opera's 'Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.'" Bryn Terfel sings the role of Hans Sachs, and the production cleverly pays homage to four centuries of great German artists. (guardian.co.uk, 6/3/10; guardian.co.uk, 6/20/10; The Wall Street Journal, 6/25/10)

Oberammergau and its renowned Passion Play attract the world's attention once every 10 years. In 2010, director Christian Stückl "has brought the modern age to the Catholic village, complete with modernity's doubt and questions." Unsurprisingly, not everyone is pleased...  (The New York Times, 5/14/10; Spiegel Online - International, 5/14/10; Presseurop, 6/2/10)

Her Tanztheater was "profoundly troubling and occasionally beautiful," but always unforgettable. "No one had a greater influence on postwar European dance than the German choreographer Pina Bausch."  (The Observer, 3/28/10; guardian.co.uk, 3/30/10)

In memoriam: Wolfgang Wagner (1919-2010). Grandson of composer Richard Wagner and director of the Bayreuth Festival for 57 years. "Autocratic, controversial and determined, Mr. Wagner retained power at the center of a maelstrom of family dispute for more than half a century."  (guardian.co.uk, 3/22/10; The Times, 3/23/10; The Washington Post, 3/23/10; Gramophone, 3/24/10)

The Los Angeles Opera will present its first complete Ring Cycle -- directed by Achim Freyer -- in May and June 2010. Included in the $32 million price tag: 46 weeks of rehearsal time, overtime pay for 169 singers and musicians, video projection equipment, flying gear, and 3000 feet of LED tubing.  (Los Angeles Times, 3/21/10)

The early 20th-century operas of Franz Schreker are "opulent, sensual, psychologically probing, self-indulgent and fascinatingly complex in text and music" -- and, alas, only rarely performed today. If you'd like to experience Der ferne Klang or Die Gezeichneten on stage, 2010 could be your year. (Newsweek, 3/15/10; The New York Times, 4/14/10)

Berlin boasts three major opera companies, offering 81 productions and 470 performances in a single season. All three opera houses are awaiting new intendants; two are about to undergo major renovations. "Every aspect of Berlin's opera life is spinning."  (The Wall Street Journal, 3/5/10; The Observer, 4/4/10)

John Doyle's new staging of The Caucasian Chalk Circle at the American Contemporary Theater is impressive, problematic, abrasive, inventive, emotionally compelling, and/or humorously bleak -- depending on whom you consult. This sounds appropriately Brechtian to us... (Los Angeles Times, 2/25/10; The New York Times, 3/2/10; The Daily Californian, 3/4/10; EDGE San Francisco, 3/4/10)

Angela Merkel's re-election campaign didn't exactly inspire song and dance. Instead, German audiences have "HOPE -- Die Obama Musical Story." This "off-off Broadway" tribute to the Germans' favorite head of state doesn't look like a theatrical masterpiece -- but it is attracting attention in the international media. (Spiegel Online - International, 1/8/10; The Daily Beast, 1/10/10; guardian.co.uk, 1/17/10; The Wall Street Journal, 1/19/10)





History

A new book by Sean McMeekin explores the WWI-era alliance of the German and Ottoman Empires, including plans to unite their capital cities with a 1600-km railway. The Berlin-Baghdad Express is "a tale of high adventure, ambition and political chicanery with a cast of colourful, brave and sometimes ruthless characters."  (Literary Review, 6/10; The Independent, 6/25/10)

"Forgotten for decades, a trove of post-war photographs from 1945 has recently been unearthed. The snapshots illustrate the devastation of the German capital and capture the desperation of the city in the weeks after the end of World War II. They also show glimpses of Berlin's resilience." (Spiegel Online - International, 5/7/10)

Martin Sandberger (1911-2010) held high-ranking positions in the SS throughout Nazi-occupied Europe. "Is it possible that someone like Sandberger, guilty of the mass murder of Jews, Roma and communists, could have disappeared for half a century, undisturbed and unquestioned, in the middle of a country where there are 270 accredited journalists at the trial of John Demjanjuk, a presumed guard at the Sobibor death camp?"  (Spiegel Online - International, 4/15/10)

An update on Berlin memorials: A new documentation center has joined the Topography of Terror, located on the former site of Gestapo and SS headquarters. Just blocks away, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe isn't aging well. 5 years after the memorial's unveiling, deep cracks have formed in its signature concrete slabs.  (The Times, 4/2/10;  Associated Press, 5/3/10; signandsight.com, 5/7/10)

Dresden: New confrontations with the past
How many people died in the Allied firebombing of Dresden on February 13-15, 1945? 25,000, according to a new report by the Dresden Historians' Commission. Far-right groups remain unconvinced, arguing that the death toll was far higher.  (The Times, 3/18/10; The Observer, 3/21/10)

Washington DC's German-American Heritage Museum celebrates the achievements of America's largest immigrant group, but Marc Fisher is wary of its approach: "When each ethnic group creates its own museum, visitors are left without the tools to put each ethnicity's take on history in any useful context."  (The Washington Post, 3/20/10)

Reflections on the RAF and the legacy of 1968:
Diego Gambetta concludes that the Red Army Faction's attitude "was reminiscent of a teen tantrum" -- emotional, self-righteous, and ultimately ineffective. "The one thing the RAF did somehow accomplish, all the more puzzling given its tiny number and gangsterlike lethality, was to strike fear into the heart of the Federal Republic."  (The Nation, 3/4/10)

"Gabriele Köpp was repeatedly raped by Russian soldiers in 1945, when she was just 15. Now, at the age of 80, she has become the first German woman to write a book under her own name about the sexual violence she experienced during World War II."  (Spiegel Online - International, 2/26/10)

Greco-German relations take a turn for the worse. "As Greece struggles to avoid default, and Germans debate whether to bail out their spendthrift neighbor, the question of what, if anything, Germany owes Greece for the past has become a topic of bitter debate."  (The Wall Street Journal, 2/25/10; Time, 2/26/10; The Observer, 2/28/10, Presseurop, 3/1/10; Slate, 3/8/10)

Did Nazi ideology play a role in the development of radical Islam? "The toxic mixture of religious and secular themes forged in Nazi-era Berlin, and disseminated to the Middle East, continues to shape the extreme politics of that region," argues historian Jeffrey Herf. Other scholars are less convinced...  (The Chronicle Review, 11/22/09; Tablet, 2/16/10; The Independent, 3/12/10)

Athletes competing for the GDR claimed their final Olympic medals in 1988. More than 20 years later, the legacy of the infamous East German sports machine is still present at the Vancouver Winter Olympics.  (The New York Times, 2/14/10)

Dresden: New confrontations with the past
Daniel Libeskind's redesign of the Military History Museum in Dresden breaks dramatically with the 19th-century building's neoclassical facade, creating "a question mark about the continuity of history and what it means." (Spiegel Online - International, 2/13/10)

Film rights have already been optioned for a just-published biography of Hitler's girlfriend Eva Braun. Seeking to revise Braun's dumb-blonde image, author Heike Görtemaker restyles Braun as "a capricious, uncompromising proponent of unconditional loyalty to the dictator." (Spiegel Online - International, 2/12/10; Foreign Policy, 2/18/10; Lost in Berlin, 2/19/10; The New Yorker, 3/2/10)

Reflections on the RAF and the legacy of 1968:
Hans Kundnani argues that Germany's "1968 generation" was defined by its reaction against the Nazi past.
In Utopia or Auschwitz, Kundnani traces the political maturation of this generation through the student protests of the 1960s, the left-wing terrorism of the 1970s, the rise of the Green Party in the 1980s, and the Red-Green coalition of the 1990s.  (The Observer, 11/1/09; New Statesman, 11/19/09; The Book, 2/9/10)

"If Bill Bryson had collaborated with W.G. Sebald to write a book about Germany, they might have wound up with something like this." Simon Winder's Germania: A Personal History of Germans Ancient and Modern is short on scholarly rigor, but full of passion: "an enthralling weave of travelogue, anecdote, and historical mock-epic."  (The Sunday Times, 2/7/10; Financial Times, 2/8/10; The Guardian, 2/27/10)

Dresden: New confrontations with the past
"Dresden is the Blanche DuBois of German cities," writes George Packer, " -- violated, complicit in its violation, desperate to recover its innocence."  (The New Yorker, 2/1/10)

Anna and Richard Wagner had a photograph taken by their Christmas tree every year between 1900 and 1942. Their household changed immensely over four decades, as did Germany. Fascinating!  (Retronaut, 2/2010; The Atlantic, 12/25/12)

"Once the largest political party in Europe and the leader of the international non-communist left, the SPD rang in at just 23 percent of the vote" in the 2009 elections. Clay Risen examines the historic accomplishments and uncertain future of Germany's Social Democratic Party.  (Boston Review, Jan/Feb 2010)

Wernher von Braun was hardly "an innocent visionary who took Nazi money in order to pursue his dream." A new book by Wayne Biddle reminds us that the famed rocket scientist was once a trusted participant in the German war effort, as well as a member of the Nazi party and the SS.  (The New York Times, 1/8/10)

In memoriam: Freya von Moltke (1911-2010). During WWII, Gräfin von Moltke supported the resistance against Hitler and hosted meetings to discuss a post-Nazi Germany at her family's Kreisau estate.  (Associated Press, 1/3/10; The Times, 1/5/10; The Wall Street Journal, 1/5/10)

Hans Heinrich Eggebrecht (1919-1999) was among the Federal Republic's most esteemed musicologists. New historical investigations reveal that he previously belonged to the Wehrmacht's Feldgendarmerie division 683, which was responsible for the murder of 14,000 Crimean Jews in December 1941.  (signandsight.com, 12/28/09; signandsight.com, 1/5/10)




Et Cetera

So what if Germany lost to Spain in the World Cup semifinals? Cultural critics adore this year's German national team, "which is sinuous and brilliant and fluid and youthful" -- and multi-ethnic too. "They are not merely sparkling football players, but cultural revolutionaries of high order."  (The Daily Beast, 7/7/10; Spiegel Online - International, 7/13/10)

Has Germany abandoned Europe? -- and other German Questions of 2010
If an ever closer Europe is no longer central to German interests, what will guide the Federal Republic's foreign policy in years to come? "Germany's European problem doesn't stem today from a longing for some neo-Wilheminism," writes Gazeta Wyborcza, "but from a conceptual weakness that makes it difficult for Germany to play the role of leader."  (Presseurop, 5/19/10)

Has Germany abandoned Europe? -- and other German Questions of 2010
Has the Berlin Republic foolishly turned its back on Verfassungspatriotismus in order to claim a "place in the sun"? The revival of German nationalism is "nothing more than a deliberate break with the only successful period in recent German history," writes Thomas Klau. "It represents a release of the most stupid and destructive impulses in politics."  (Dialog International, 5/11/10)

Has Germany abandoned Europe? -- and other German Questions of 2010
According to John Vinocur, "the new, most pertinent German Question flows from this reality: How can the rest of the Europeans manage an unabashedly self-interested Germany....that they hardly imagined would emerge from the deal they signed in 1992 as the Maastricht Treaty."  (The New York Times, 5/3/10)

Jürgen Habermas speaks! Germany's foremost public intellectual discusses the future of the European Union, the internet's deficiencies in promoting communicative rationality, and why "the current phase of financial market-driven globalisation should also be followed by a strengthening of the international community."  (Financial Times, 4/30/10)

Now Hitler (as portrayed by Bruno Ganz) has one more thing to rave about: "Owners of the rights to Downfall, the acclaimed 2004 film about Hitler's last days, have ordered spoofs to be removed from internet websites, reinforcing the stereotypes of Germans lacking a sense of humor."  (The Sunday Times, 4/25/10; Slate, 4/27/10)

Has Germany abandoned Europe? -- and other German Questions of 2010
Stability, respectability, and peace have been keystones of the Federal Republic's foreign policy since the end of WWII. This hasn't changed, argues John Kornblum, but "the growing gap between Germany's aspirations and the perceived needs of other members of the E.U. is beginning to burden both sides....Without a more flexible sense of common purpose, the project to build a democratic Europe could stop dead in the water."  (The New York Times, 4/23/10)

When William Cook first heard that the Ruhr was tapped to be the European Capital of Culture in 2010, "it sounded like a particularly unfunny joke." Read why he's changed his mind.  (The Spectator, 4/21/10)

Has Germany abandoned Europe? -- and other German Questions of 2010
20 years after reunification, the Federal Republic of Germany's "unquestioning adherence to the Atlantic alliance is no longer unquestioned"; its commitment to European integration is less passionate than pragmatic. Quentin Peel considers the consequences of Germany's shifting Weltanschauung.  (Financial Times, 4/7/10)

Has Germany abandoned Europe? -- and other German Questions of 2010
"Twenty years ago Eurosceptic British Conservatives shrieked with alarm at the prospect of a united Germany imposing a federal European superstate upon us." How ironic, notes Timothy Garton Ash, "that the unintended result of German unification has actually been the emergence of a more British Europe: dramatically enlarged to the east, inter-governmental rather than federal, with Germany too calmly pursuing its own national interests in its own national way, like Britain and France."  (guardian.co.uk, 3/31/10)

Sure, kulturplease.com is handy, but Guido Westerwelle would like you to read German (the "language of ideas," according to the Federal Republic's foreign ministry.)  (Associated Press, 2/25/10; The Economist, 5/27/10)

Greco-German relations take a turn for the worse. "As Greece struggles to avoid default, and Germans debate whether to bail out their spendthrift neighbor, the question of what, if anything, Germany owes Greece for the past has become a topic of bitter debate."  (The Wall Street Journal, 2/25/10; Time, 2/26/10; The Observer, 2/28/10, Presseurop, 3/1/10; Slate, 3/8/10)

Has Germany abandoned Europe? -- and other German Questions of 2010
According to Jacob Heilbrunn, there's a new German Problem: "Instead of resembling the martial country of yore...Germany has begun to reach even further back into its history, mirroring the provincial and musty duchies of the eighteenth century that vexed the German romantics who preached unification and national greatness. It has achieved the first, but it's no longer interested in the latter for itself or, indeed, for Europe."  (The National Interest, 2/23/10)

Looking for the Berlin Wall? Pieces of the Cold War relic can be found in the Microsoft cafeteria in Redmond, Washington, in the men's room of a Las Vegas casino, on Ronald Reagan's ranch, at Fort Knox -- and other sites recently documented by photographer Hartmut Jahn. (guardian.co.uk, 2/14/10) 

Athletes competing for the GDR claimed their final Olympic medals in 1988. More than 20 years later, the legacy of the infamous East German sports machine is still present at the Vancouver Winter Olympics.  (The New York Times, 2/14/10)

Just how many Hitler videos does the world need? A 4-minute scene from the 2004 film Downfall -- featuring the raving dictator at his regime's end -- has provided source material for dozens of online parodies. With new English subtitles, the Führer lashes out at everything from Xbox Live to the breakup of Oasis to election of Republican Senator Scott Brown.  (guardian.co.uk, 2/2/10; The Wall Street Journal, 2/23/10; The New York Times, 2/25/10)

Jürgen Habermas is on Twitter!  Or so it seemed, until @JHabermas turned out to be "just an elaborate cyber-ruse." Too bad -- we were looking forward to ruminations on The Theory of Communicative Action in 140 characters or less...  (The Guardian, 2/2/10)

Once a model community of the GDR, Hoyerswerda has become an aging ghost town. Fred Pearce explains why Hoyerswerda's decaying and abandoned infrastructure may provide us with an early glimpse into the future of all European cities. (The Guardian, 2/1/10)

"Dresden is the Blanche DuBois of German cities," writes George Packer, " -- violated, complicit in its violation, desperate to recover its innocence."  (The New Yorker, 2/1/10)

"Once the largest political party in Europe and the leader of the international non-communist left, the SPD rang in at just 23 percent of the vote" in the 2009 elections. Clay Risen examines the historic accomplishments and uncertain future of Germany's Social Democratic Party.  (Boston Review, Jan/Feb 2010)

Berlin -- "poor but sexy," and full of expats who love to write about it.  (guardian.co.uk, 1/22/10; n+1, 5/24/10; cafebabel.com, 6/7/10; cafebabel.com, 6/29/10)

What if filmmaker Werner Herzog interpreted the story of Curious George? It might sound something like this.  (The Daily Beast, 1/18/10)

An extravagant new concert hall, well-behaved squatters, and Richard Florida's ideas on the "creative class" are fueling public debate over the future of Hamburg.  (The New York Times, 12/31/09; Spiegel Online - International, 1/7/10)

Same procedure as every year, James. Little known outside the Federal Republic, a 1963 English comedy sketch called "Dinner for One" has become as essential to German New Year's Eve celebrations as fireworks and champagne.  (The Local, 12/31/09; guardian.co.uk, 1/5/10)