They go naked except for shoes, and live on milk, which is red. They are rarely more than 18 inches high, and their horror of drunkenness is such that a sleeping drunk may be robbed with impunity. They have a vocabulary of 30,000 words, they venerate serpents, and there are penalties for lying, yawning and immoderate laughter

December 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

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Belgian independence arguably owes its very fact to an opera – or to a single aria, “Amour sacré de la patrie”, sung at a performance of La Muette de Portici in honour of the Belgians’ Dutch overlord, William I. Ah, the 1830s! When even Belgium was an exciting place and a fine tenor voice could provoke a revolution. Now, the screaming death chants of the most frenzied shock rockers provoke entire stadia of narcotised face-metal-wearers to… buy merchandise.

But opera riots provoked by nationalism scarcely count – nothing could be more infra dig than the 1919 Times Square demonstrations-turned-nasty against a production of Wagner’s Die Meistersinger, which was staged despite the mayoral ban on German opera productions then in place. Servicemen and civilians battled the NYPD’s finest and the whole fracas was reported in the Los Angeles Times under the teasing headline “Crossfire of bricks”.

After all, if you want to riot against a Wagner opera, at least go for Parsifal or The Ring Cycle. I go to the opera quite a lot, almost always equipped with the makings of a Molotov cocktail in the hope that Bryn Terfel will spark it off and the scores of suits slumbering on corporate freebies will get torched but somehow it’s always a bit of a damp squib.  read more

PHOTOGRAPH: Tara Violet Niami

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You are currently reading They go naked except for shoes, and live on milk, which is red. They are rarely more than 18 inches high, and their horror of drunkenness is such that a sleeping drunk may be robbed with impunity. They have a vocabulary of 30,000 words, they venerate serpents, and there are penalties for lying, yawning and immoderate laughter at my nerves are bad to-night.

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