Oral History

School Children in the Woodland, by Carl Spitzweg

Oral History

Hansel and Gretel; märchenspiel (fairy tale) in three acts, music by Engelbert Humperdinck, libretto in German by Adelheid Wette, after the fairy tale Hänsel und Gretel by the Brothers Grimm, directed and designed by Antony McDonald, orchestra conducted by Sebastian Weigle, Royal Opera, Thursday 13th December 2018, reviewed by Leslie Jones

Hansel and Gretel was premiered at Weimar on 23rd December 1893, with Richard Strauss, no less, conducting. As Antony McDonald observes, it is ubiquitous in German opera houses at this time of the year (Opera interview, Hugh Canning, The Sunday Times, Dec 9th 2018). McDonald’s new production is conceived as “an enchanting piece” for families, particularly for “first-time opera goers” (Official Programme). Several commentators think that it should therefore be sung in English.

This latest version of the fairy tale opera has its sinister side. The opening setting is ostensibly idyllic. We behold a mountain chalet with an oven and a chimney emitting smoke. It is supper time. Hansel and Gretel and their parents Gertrud and Peter are gathered round the kitchen table. The Little White House and the Little Red House at Birkenau, former farmhouses, came to mind. Continue reading

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ENDNOTES, December 2018

Gerald Finzi

ENDNOTES, December 2018

Endnotes, December 2018; in this edition, orchestral works by Gerald Finzi and Kenneth Hesketh, reviewed by Stuart Millson

The longing which infuses Vaughan Williams’s Fifth Symphony and the mysterious romanticism of John Ireland combine in the music of Gerald Finzi (1901-56). Newly issued from Chandos Records comes a Finzi collection – the Cello Concerto, Op. 40 written at the end of the composer’s life, but contrasted with three other notable pieces, the gentle, pastoral Eclogue,Op. 10 (with Louis Lortie performing the piano part of this miniature concerto), the Nocturne, and the Grand Fantasia and Toccata from 1928. For the Cello Concerto, we have the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Sir Andrew Davis in splendid form; providing the delicate sighs and interplay between orchestral principals and sections, and the cello soloist, Paul Watkins, the former lead cello of that orchestra.

The first movement of the work is a lengthy, endearing dialogue between soloist and ensemble, tinged by a soft evening glow of English impressionism. There is a dramatic, purposeful section close to the end, with its sense of striding across down land or looking out on a magnificent, but disturbing landscape. Continue reading

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Let’s Mobilize Stone Throwers

Israel Defense Forces, Nachshol Reconnaissance Company

Let’s Mobilize Stone Throwers

By Ilana Mercer

In the United States, even Customs and Border Protection apologizes for doing its job. CBP is supposed to “protect[s] the public from dangerous people and materials attempting to cross the border …”

On one of the networks that wants all people, dangerous or not, to cross the southern border into the U.S., if they so desire, a CBP officer was bending over backwards to appear like a “global force for good.” That, believe it or not, was the U.S. Navy’s motto, between 2009 and 2015!

Tear-gassing rubble-rousing migrants, who were charging his officers and breaching the U.S.-Mexico border, was in the service of protecting … the migrants, especially The Children. Perhaps that’s in the oath of office a CBP officer now takes? Continue reading

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The Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement

Brian Mulroney (centre) November 1988 Federal Election Rally

The Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement

by Mark Wegierski

It seemed, in the summer of 1987, that Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservative federal government was headed for one of the worst defeats in Canadian political history. In many of the 1986 and 1987 polls, the federal P.C. party stood at about a quarter of committed popular support, behind both the Liberals and the New Democratic Party (NDP), Canada’s social democrats. Indeed, the NDP had temporarily surged into first place.

Despite the early hopes placed in him, and an overwhelming majority won in 1984, Mulroney was constantly beset by crises and scandals and had arguably failed to develop any coherent or consistent policies, apart that is from strengthening the status-quo of the previous federal Liberal governments. It appeared that virtually every region, province, or interest group in Canada had in some way been alienated from, or offended by, Mulroney. Sometimes, it seemed that his only true supporters were his business pals, for whose benefit he appeared to make most of his exertions. Continue reading

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Rebarbarisation

Head of Hitler, by Arno Breker

Rebarbarisation

Robert Gellately, The Oxford Illustrated History of the Third Reich, Oxford University Press, New York, 2018, pp. 383, reviewed by Gregory Slysz

The number of books on the Third Reich or the Second World War could fill several libraries. So overdone has the subject become that one’s lack of excitement at the appearance of another “History” is surely excused. Anything other than the exposure of remaining epic secrets like who killed Poland’s war-time Prime Minister in exile and Commander of its Armed Forces, General Władysław Sikorski, could possibly excite. Or the delivery of a killer blow to the intriguing, yet faintly annoying conspiracy theories concerning Hitler’s whereabouts after the Third Reich’s capitulation. In the event, The Oxford Illustrated History of the Third Reich, in providing a chronological “history” across a range of selected themes, did what it said on the tin; but alas, no nuggets or killer blows.

‘A new assessment of the history of the Third Reich’, as its publisher claims, it certainly is not. Nevertheless, we are presented with a perfectly readable account of Nazi Germany from its inception to its demise. After an informative introductory overview of the topics by the editor, Robert Gellately, which is worthy of being a stand-alone essay, there is a chronological history, organised along a set on ten selected chapters, each written by experts in their field. The text is interspersed with numerous photographs, illustrations and other sources which trace Germany’s route from electoral successes, economic ‘miracles’, military triumphs to ultimate defeat at the hands of the Allies. Continue reading

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Carmen Review – Dance of Death

Manolete

Carmen Review – Dance of Death

Carmen; opéra comique in three acts, music composed by Georges Bizet, conducted by Keri-Lynn Wilson, libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy after Prosper Mérimée’s novella Carmen, directed by Barrie Kosky, Royal Opera 30th November 2018, reviewed by Leslie Jones 

Carmen, as Richard Langham Smith points out, is essentially an opéra comique, a historical genre in which musical numbers were inserted into a spoken libretto (“Carmen’s Rocky Road to Success”, Official Programme). Acting, not just singing, was at a premium therein. In director Barrie Kosky’s production, accordingly, sections of the text, drawn from Prosper Mérimée’s 1845 novella and from the libretto, including stage directions, are not sung but recited offstage by a recorded narrator.

Millie Taylor notes that this production is informed by theatre history and “contains multiple reference points” (“Playing with Meaning in the Opera House”). The minimalist set, dominated by a massive stairway, is highly effective and remains unchanged throughout the performance. It brings to mind both the ancient Greek theatre and the Hollywood musical. Continue reading

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The Left Wants America to go Borderless

Image from Infowars

The Left Wants America to go Borderless

By Ilana Mercer

That’s the law. Nothing can be done about it. And that’s the left-liberal reaction to any rational action to stop the stampede of uneducated and unruly masses toward and over the U.S. southern border. Leftists call law-enforcement unlawful. Or, they shoehorn the act of holding the line into the unlawful category.

Prevent uninvited masses from entering the country: unlawful. Tear gas marauding migrants for stoning Border Patrol personnel: illegal, immoral, possibly even criminal. Illegal. Unconstitutional. Immoral. Un-American. These are some of the refrains deployed by wily pitchmen, Democrats and some Republicans, to stigmatize and end any action to stop and summarily deport caravans of grifters, bound for the U.S. in their thousands and currently  rushing the port of entry in San Ysidro, California.

Our avatars of morality and legality seldom cite legal chapter-and-verse in support of their case for an immigration free-for-all. To go by the law, as professed by the liberal cognoscenti, claims-makers must be allowed to make their claims. Continue reading

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Joseph Bonomi’s Temple of Horus

Temple Works, Holbeck, Leeds, picture by Tim Green

Joseph Bonomi’s Temple of Horus

By Bill Hartley

Travelling west out of Leeds railway station the traveller can see three towers close to the tracks. They bring a touch of the Italian renaissance to a Yorkshire city and are all that remains of the aptly named Tower Works. The largest dates back to the 1860s and was designed by the architect Thomas Shaw, modelled on Giotto’s Campanile in Florence. The smallest of the three is a copy of the Torre Dei Lamberti in Verona and the third, added in 1919, is thought to resemble a Tuscan tower house. Taken together they perfectly reflect the Victorian idea of making even the most functional structures look pleasing. The factory they served is long gone, leaving the towers like moorings without ships but they are still a striking part of the cityscape. Generally, wool barons didn’t adorn their mills since size alone was enough to make an impression, meaning the Tower Works was unusual in that respect. Even more remarkable though is a building hidden up a side street not far away.

The Bonomi’s were a family of architects who came from Italy. Joseph Bonomi senior (1739-1808) was best known as a country house designer, famous enough to get a passing mention in one of Jane Austen’s novels. He had two sons: Ignatius (1787-1870) who did a good deal of work in County Durham, ranging from buildings on the Stockton & Darlington Railway to the local prison; he is remembered as the first railway architect. The second son Joseph Bonomi junior (1796-1878) was an artist and an Egyptologist who went on an expedition there in 1824. He sketched many antiquities with great accuracy and subsequently the time spent in Egypt influenced his designs. Bonomi went on to undertake a few minor building commissions such as the entrance to Abrey Park Cemetery in Stoke Newington, London but it was in Leeds that he was able to create something truly memorable. Continue reading

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A Thought Experiment

A Thought Experiment

By Mark Wegierski

The thought-experiment is a recognized form of obtaining insight, even in the hard sciences. Aldous Huxley, who died on November 22, 1963, would probably have appreciated a hypothetical situation like the one below.

Let us suppose that Herbert Marcuse, the Frankfurt School theorist, often considered as one of the intellectual progenitors of the Sixties’ revolutions, is re-awakened several hundred years hence, in Huxley’s Brave New World. What sort of critique would he make of that society? It would presumably focus on the “masked nature” of the social order in question. What appears as a happy, free-loving society is in fact the product of continuous and thoroughgoing genetic engineering, which imposes class distinctions and barriers from the moment of (artificial) conception. The hierarchy of Brave New World is more rigid than that of any formerly existing society, as it is utterly predetermined. There is no rising even from the Beta class to the Alpha class. It is a society in which everyone is enveloped in an all-permeating “false consciousness”. Continue reading

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Public Flogging, a Modest Proposal

Public Flogging, a Modest Proposal

By Ilana Mercer

In the title of his magisterial novel, Fyodor Dostoevsky paired “Crime and Punishment,” not crime and pardons, or crime and “Civics lessons,” amnesty and asylum. Punishment must closely follow a crime in order to be both effective as a deterrent, as well as to serve as a public declaration of values and norms.

In explaining Texas justice and its attendant values, stand-up satirist Ron White performed the public service no politician is prepared to perform. “In Texas, we have the death penalty and we use it. If you come to Texas and kill somebody, we will kill you back.”

So, where’s such clarity when you need it? Something has gotten into the country’s lymphatic system. The infection is becoming more apparent by the day, not least in the way matters of life-and-death are debated (or not). Continue reading

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