Thursday, February 4, 2016

When Will the SJWs Catch Up With "Turandot?"

Lady Marjorie and I went to the movie theater last night to see the Metropolitan Opera HD encore of Puccini's Turandot. A grand time was had by all, except that the tenor, Marco Berti, playing Calaf, the unknown prince, was very mediocre.

This Turandot is a 1987 monumental production of Franco Zeffirelli, so it is showing its age. But I started to think about how much longer the SJWs will leave the "orientalism" of Puccini in peace. We are talking about the immensely successful Orientalism of Edward Said. Just in case you hadn't heard of this lefty trope,
[Orientalism is] a patronizing Western attitude towards Middle Eastern, Asian and North African societies. In Said's analysis, the West essentializes these societies as static and undeveloped—thereby fabricating a view of Oriental culture that can be studied, depicted, and reproduced. 
Well, Turandot certainly does that in spades. The story is about an unknown prince, Calaf, that shows up in Beijing and learns that anyone may marry the emperor's daughter, Turandot, if he can answer three riddles. But if he fails to answer, he gets beheaded. Of course Calaf is really a stand-in for rootin' tootin' westerners that can run rings around those inscrutable and insanely cruel Asiatics. On top of that there are three officials, Ping, Pang, and Pong, that interact with Calaf and shamelessly burlesque the tradition of Mandarin bureaucracy.

The opera is really about Liu, a slave girl upon whom Calaf once "smiled" and who holds a hopeless but pure love for the lunk that takes one look at Turandot and then wants to possess her. Of course she eventually kills herself rather than divulge Calaf's name to the cruel Orientals, thereby demonstrating to the barbaric Orientals the superiority of western romantic love over their crude dynastic blood rites.

But where are the SJWs? Where are the denunciations of this crude "cultural appropriation?" Where are the namers and the shamers? Where are the safe spaces for those microaggressed by the naked orientalism and the cultural colonialism of Zeffirelli's production which is chock-a-block with western stereotypes about the inscrutable Orient?

And why stop with Turandot? There's Madama Butterfly about an underage Japanese girl sacrificed by her grasping family to be the concubine of a visiting US Navy lieutenant. What about Verdi's Aida, which makes a mockery of Egypt and Ethiopia? Maybe we could make an exception for Aida because the transcendent black soprano Leontyne Price made it into her calling card. But what about Mozart's Abduction from the Seraglio which makes fun of the Barbary pirates and the whole wonderful North African Muslim harem culture. And don't get me started on Wagner's Ring cycle which makes a dog's breakfast of the ancient Nibelungenlied myths by overlaying the purity of the bourgeois woman's love on top of the usual crude politics in heaven of the pre-Christian gods.

So why haven't our lefty friends started in on opera? Is it because they don't give a damn about opera? Is it because the opera establishment is liberal and gay, so there would be no racist, sexist, homophobe conservatives to kick around? Is it just that opera wouldn't make a good soft target for the SJWs because you are immediately dealing with big liberal money?

I don't know. I'm just glad that they haven't come for opera yet. So, for now, we can all bawl our eyes out as Liu declares her undying love for a dumb Italian tenor before plunging in the knife and ending her innocent life until next time.

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