Surely Provocative – The Staging of ‘Rusalka’

A Retrospect – surely provocative (and from my side I mean it quite positive) – the staging of ‘Rusalka

by Marin Kušej, part of this year’s Munich Opera Festival.

And joining the guided exhibition on Rusalka – ‘watch and listen’ – the afternoon brought me into a specific mood to take up the provocation.

Generally it is seen and emphasised as a kind of psychodrama, focusing on the incestual rape as such. Surely a serious enough topic.

1901 is the year of the first staging – in Prague. It would take less than 15 years that in that region the first world war would find its point of departure: initiated by the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, the heir to the thrown of Austria-Hungary. Here is not the space to discuss details – as for instance the meaning of initiating the war by the deed of a Yugoslav nationalist. A bit more interesting is that it had been the first war that had been explicitly called world war, thus understood as ‘global’. It took about 13 years from the rape to the war – a ‘bewitched rape’ if one wants: the husband of the witch, with the knowledge of his life, had been the perpetrator. Rusalka became speechless, mute – and debarred: after having been exposed to, touch by a human being the other mermaid did not allow her to return. The division between worlds clear-cut, rigid and becoming more rigid again: the political and more: the economic opening, emerging from the young industrializing, capitalist world smothered by the new nationalism. More and stronger again than before.

– The son of the emperor dead …

Much earlier stood a ‘divine rape’ – the abducted young Europe, taken and raped by Zeus:

According to the Greek myth, Zeus, the Thunder-God residing on the Olympus, in the shape of a bull abducted Europa, the daughter of the Phoenician king Agenor and carried her over the sea to Crete. Agenor sent his sons out to search for their sister. One of them, Kadmos, landed in Greece and was told by the oracle of Delphi that he should wander around, armed with his spear till he reached the cowherd Pelagon in the land of Phokis. He should kill Pelagon – the man of earth, “born to die” – and choose the cow with the sign of the moon on both her flanks and follow her, till she would lie down, with her horns on the ground. On this hill he should kill and sacrifice her to the earth Goddess and then found a big city on this spot, Thebes.

Kadmos followed the oracle and became the founder of Thebes. He married Harmonia, the daughter of Ares, the War God, and Aphrodite (…). It is not clear from the myths whether he killed the moon-cow, obviously his sister Europa, or not. In any case, one does not hear of her again. She, the raped and abducted woman was only the means to lead the warrior and new culture hero into the foreign land and to his greatness.

(Maria Mies: Europe in the Global Economy or the Need to De-Colonize Europe; in: Peter Herrmann (Ed.): Challenges for a Global Welfare System: Commack, New York: Nova Science Publishers, Inc.; 1999: 153-171; here: 160 f.)

A ‘divine rape’ – bringing unity: by exclusion and oppression and division. It is in some way the emergence of the world system that finds its roots here – also in some way of ‘the other’. Please note: the other within which is different to the total exclusion: the slave as ‘non-being’, ‘non-human’ gained (though surely not absolutely) a new status: being human and gaining a quasi-citizen status. Of course, all this needs qualification – the US maintained slavery (in historical terms) until recently; the ‘total exclusion’ had not been overcome just by establishing the then new European order …. – but it surely had been a ‘divine rape’ with the major consequence of establishing a new world order.

– The emperor, not yet born, had been conceived.

So far raped individuals, generations to suffer. This reversed: a generation had been raped – it had been a purely secular rape, and one that tried to disguise itself: seductive promises after WWII: reconstruction (sic!) at least in the Western hemisphere, development at least as promise. On the other hand, demon and Lord standing outside: actually already after WWI the emperor had to go – Dr. Franz Matfried had been born; at birth his name had been different: Seine Kaiserliche und Königliche Hoheit Franz Joseph Otto Robert Maria Anton Karl Max Heinrich Sixtus Xaver Felix Renatus Ludwig Gaetan Pius Ignatius, Kaiserlicher Prinz, Erzherzog von Österreich, Königlicher Prinz von Ungarn (His imperial and Royal Highness Franz Joseph Otto Robert Maria Anton Karl Max Heinrich Sixtus Xaver Felix Renatus Ludwig Gaetan Pius Ignatius, imperial prince, archduke of Austria, royal prince of Hungary).

Had he been god or demon? On the other side, the constructed god or demon: communism as danger of becoming real, playing at least as such an important role as incitement: “we” have to be better – we the West, we, the capitalist, now striving for what had been advertised as social market economy and welfare state (somewhat a contradiction in terms as the welfare state had been a child of Mr. Keynes, whereas Ludwig Erhard and Alfred Mueller-Armack had been children of Mr. Smith, their children and grand-children fro instance Mr. Friedman and Mrs. Thatcher.

With latest with the succession of those mentioned just before, the debauchery mutated, became pure self-rape. For some possibly and for a while bearing the virtual pleasure of masturbation on form of consumerism, the success of ‘young-egomaniac professionals’ and masochist self-exposure of a new mannerism oft post-modernist freedom without democracy, without society. After a while – and from the beginning for most people a real self-exploitation: alienation, loss of confidence and moreover: loss of any foundation on which confidence could be erected. ‘There is no such thing as society …

In analytical terms surely not entirely wrong …

 – The emperor, chased out of office after WWII … – his son is buried now, and hopefully his spirit left.

Rusalka – A Lyric Fairy-Tale. Let us be that … – a provocation in its positive sense, encouraging to a new Kandinsky, a new Composition V.

Sure, much can be discussed on Kandinsky, the Blue rider and The Almanac and the transcendence (actually I did this today during a couple of hours in the Sammlung Schack attending a course. But equally sure is the need of courage to look in a constructive way forward rather than moaning about past and presence.

Friday, after the afternoon’s exhibition I talked on the way back to the guide – she asked me what I am doing – I told her a bit about this and that: economics, law, social policy and occasionally traveling  a bit here and there. “Such a variety. And then you still go to such an exhibition -make such a distinct step into an entirely different world …” – Not really though it looks at first glance – it allows me to look upon the forest – the vast area and array – and I step back then into the forrest, its different parts, touching the single trees. Don’t believe if anybody wants to tell you: “You cannot have it all.” It is the other way round: You cannot have one only, without taking all, without delving into the entirety.

Yes, she asked me what I am doing – the shorter answer: just enjoying life of work – just working through life ….


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