Spengler discovers Beautiful Evil

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Spengler discovers Beautiful Evil

Postby Hoosiernorm » Mon May 07, 2012 3:18 pm

Beautiful Evil: Mozart's Don Giovanni at the Mannes Opera
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Global_Eco ... 8Dj01.html


Is it possible to thwart evil, when evil is rich, beautiful and clever? Western writers asked that question in the form of nearly two thousand variants of the "Don Juan" story, of which one - Wolfgang Mozart's opera Don Giovanni - holds modern audiences spellbound; it premiered in October 1787.

Mozart's masterpiece is a self-referential sort of problem, a foundational work of Western civilization whose subject is the inadequacy of Western civilization. It may seem a distraction to dwell on details of performance practice that speak to a minority within a minority of music listeners. But our capacity to perform and hear Mozart's opera as he intended it really is matter of existential importance for the West, and not only the West; if the small matter of containing talent and evil personalities seems remote, read the last month's news from Beijing.

Don Juan, by the time we encounter him in Mozart's version, has seduced more than 2,000 women and killed considerable numbers of their male relatives. The other personages in the opera, who represent all the estates of civil society, are powerless to stop him; he can outfight, or outwit, or (in the case of the women) seduce them. Finally the statue of one of his victims stops by for dinner and drags him to hell, which hardly is a solution. The remaining characters, noble, bourgeois and peasant, are as stupid and feckless as they were before.

By a quirk of programming, New York City this year saw three separate productions of the work, a pedestrian production at the Metropolitan Opera as well as student versions at the Julliard School and its smaller but more refined competitor, the Mannes College of Music.

And by one of those one-in-a-million confluences of talent and luck, the Mannes version under the baton of Joseph Colaneri came as close as possible to recreating the opera's opening night in Prague two and a quarter centuries ago. After seeing scores of versions over half a century, I finally feel that I have heard the opera the way Mozart's first-night audience did. Sadly, you cannot: the last of three Mannes performances occurred on May 6. Perhaps some philanthropist will sponsor a world tour.

Like an Old Master painting obscured by centuries of lacquer and dirt, Don Giovanni has become less accessible over time. Mozart draws caricatures in whom we should see ourselves. That demands an intimate setting rather than a steroidal modern opera house.

Mozart's singers, moreover, were young - his first Don Giovanni was the 21-year-old Luigi Bassi, as young as Suchan Kim or Ricardo Rivera, who sang on alternate nights in the Mannes version. Young people take musical as well as dramatic risks, and Mozart requires risk. Don Giovanni, moreover, is an ensemble opera first and foremost: it is the interaction of the characters and their responses to each other that keeps the electricity flowing.

It demands chamber-music skills and subordination to the ensemble of a kind that the professional music world does not foster. Singing superstars are not paid to enhance the contributions of their colleagues, but rather to upstage them.

That, paradoxically, explains why Colaneri's kindergarten did an incomparably better job than the Metropolitan Opera under the hapless Fabio Luisi earlier this year. Technical capacity no longer is a constraint among the top cut of music conservatories; Mannes' opera program has become such a sure springboard for professional careers that the small school rejects a dozen opera applicants for each one it accepts.

To qualify for the Mannes orchestra, moreover, young instrumentalists must be able to play anything in the repertoire flawlessly. Colaneri asked the strings for preternatural articulation at speed, and they followed him enthusiastically. Mozart is in some ways the edgiest of composers, with more compressions and expansions of phrase, endless extensions and sudden halts, than any other: he twists time into knots, because he can, and enjoys doing so. I have never heard a reading so consonant with Mozart's musical personality.

Colaneri conducts regularly at the Metropolitan Opera and other major venues (most recently he led the Met's Tosca broadcast performance). But he has worked miracles with the Mannes opera program [1] that he built from a bare foundation over the past decade.

These young people are not ego-driven divas or orchestral players punching a clock, but his students, whose enthusiasm made them follow the maestro over musical torrents and abysses, without ever crashing once.

Such crashes happen all the time. At the opening night of the Met's new production, [2] Fabio Luisi brought the strings into the Allegro section of the overture (measure 31) too fast; the Met players couldn't keep up with him, and were unable to finish the phrase before the woodwinds answered at measure 38, such that the two choirs crashed into each other (James Levine, the Metropolitan Opera's music director now sidelined by health problems, executes this perfectly at minute 1:40 in this version). [3] Conductorial mishaps abounded at the Met; the young Mannes players were nearly flawless by contrast.

The Met, to be sure, had bigger singers, but the cast was strong overall, and several of the young singers in the Mannes production should have big careers. I've waited half a century to hear the trill and appoggiatura executed correctly in measure 110 of Donna Anna's aria "Non mi dir," as Liana Guberman did. Adam Bonanni as Ottavio is a tenore di grazia who recalls Tito Schipa. As Giovanni, Ricardo Rivera combined a sinister magnetism with unerring vocal control.

This is the point at which the non-musical reader will interject, "And I am supposed to care because ...?"

There is a reason that the Don Juan story dominated the Western imagination for 200 years, from his first appearance in the 1630 play Trickster of Seville by the Spanish monk Tirso de Molina, to his farewell tour in Lord Byron's eponymous epic. Tirso, the descendant of Spanish Jews forcibly converted to Christianity, invented Juan as a theological paradox.

He is a brilliant and charming young man of the high nobility who happens to enjoy rape and murder. But he is a conventional Catholic who acknowledges the saving power of the Church and the attainability of salvation through the exercise of free will. "What a long time I have to pay it back!" is Juan's refrain ("Que largo me lo fiais," the play's alternate title): he is young and has years left in which to rape and murder before he repents.

Don Juan is a Jewish joke, I argued in a recent essay for Tablet magazine:
Don Juan exists to prove by construction that a devout Christian can be a sociopath, and by extension, that the Christian world can be ruled by sociopaths. The Enlightenment's most insidious attack on Catholic faith, then, came not from atheists like Voltaire, but from a Spanish monk with buried Jewish sensibilities.

A century and a half later, another converted Jew - Emmanuele Conegliano, known as Lorenzo da Ponte - reworked Tirso's play as a libretto for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and the result was an utterly unique work of art. It is pointless to argue about whether Don Giovanni is the best opera ever written, because it is a genre unto itself - the musical tragi-comedy, or "drama giocoso", as Da Ponte put it. Mozart's combination of tragic and comic elements turns the world inside out. From the first bars of the orchestra to the final note, we are unsure whether we should laugh, cry, or feel fear. If you don't leave the theater confused, you haven't been listening. [4]
We typically are entreated to regard Western civilization as a marble monument which we should contemplate in reverence. There are any number of marble monuments, to be sure, which one should contemplate in reverence, and some marvelous literature which presents the world in the orderly fashion - the Paradiso section of Dante's Divine Comedy, for example, which manages to combine the highest sublimity of language with the utmost tediousness of content.

But the definitive works of Western civilization are the self-referential ones, which expose the flaws in the underlying structure, starting with plays of Sophocles written after Athens' catastrophic defeat in the Peloponnesian War. Mozart does not ask you to sit back and contemplate Beauty: he pokes and pinches and tugs and teases, until he drags you into the midst of the comedy. It is a comedy, in that all of his characters deserve what they get; the tragedy is ours.

The trouble with Don Giovanni is that Mozart's librettist, the witty Lorenzo da Ponte, bungled important elements of the original Don Juan story, following the example of other 18th century Italian versions. Giovanni murders the father of one of his (prospective) rape victims, Donna Anna.

At the opera's conclusion the father's statue demands that Giovanni repent, and Giovanni refuses in a last expression of churlishness. Rather than the orthodox but sociopathic Catholic of Tirso de Molina, da Ponte gives us an Enlightenment villain who refuses to bow to divine will out of sheer spite. Tirso's Don Juan would have taken the statue's deal in a heartbeat, since he is a believing Catholic. The theological paradox at the center of the comedy is obscured (if we can save ourselves by free will, then we can postpone our salvation by free will and continue to do unspeakably evil things in the meantime).

In Tirso's original, what motivates Don Juan is not so much sex but evil. He enjoys killing the men as much as enjoys raping the women, and he gets as much pleasure by cheating prostitutes of their pay as he does by sleeping with them. Da Ponte too often reduces Tirso's theologically-informed lampoon to the clowning of the Venetian commedia dell'arte, the stylized buffoonery of stock characters.

What Da Ponte confuses, though, Mozart clarifies in a musical score that illumines his characters more vividly than words can. The devil in Mozart lies in the details, though, and the effect of the whole depends on control of countless nuances. He is like a god - not the God, of course, but a god.

There are no minor characters in his work, because any person whom Mozart chooses to characterize is endowed with an entire world of musical detail. Thanks to Mozart we relive the travails of his dramatic personages more intensively. Tirso's theological joke, in Mozart's hands, takes shape in our senses and becomes experiential as well as intellectual.

Mozart allows us to relive our past, to get inside the lives of the people who made the West what it was, and, too often, what it should not have been. When the young singers of the Mannes Opera threw themselves into their roles, we were back in the Prague of 1787, hearing Mozart's world through Mozart's ears.

There is nothing reassuring about it: Mozart was a ruthless critic of his world, but masterful at bringing out the beauty even in the silliest and nastiest of situations. We shall never make sense of where we are without looking back at where we came from, and we rely on institutions like Mannes to maintain a fragile, living link to the past. Apart from the fact that the music-making was delightful, it is also indispensable.
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Re: Beautiful Evil

Postby Apollonius » Mon May 07, 2012 5:13 pm

I know that our host has suggested that Spengler's essays might best be posted in 'Current Events', but surely this belongs in 'Art'.
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Don Juan like Napoleon & Hitler Over Reached....

Postby monster_gardener » Mon May 07, 2012 5:43 pm

Hoosiernorm wrote:Beautiful Evil: Mozart's Don Giovanni at the Mannes Opera
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Global_Eco ... 8Dj01.html


Is it possible to thwart evil, when evil is rich, beautiful and clever? Western writers asked that question in the form of nearly two thousand variants of the "Don Juan" story, of which one - Wolfgang Mozart's opera Don Giovanni - holds modern audiences spellbound; it premiered in October 1787.

Mozart's masterpiece is a self-referential sort of problem, a foundational work of Western civilization whose subject is the inadequacy of Western civilization. It may seem a distraction to dwell on details of performance practice that speak to a minority within a minority of music listeners. But our capacity to perform and hear Mozart's opera as he intended it really is matter of existential importance for the West, and not only the West; if the small matter of containing talent and evil personalities seems remote, read the last month's news from Beijing.

Don Juan, by the time we encounter him in Mozart's version, has seduced more than 2,000 women and killed considerable numbers of their male relatives. The other personages in the opera, who represent all the estates of civil society, are powerless to stop him; he can outfight, or outwit, or (in the case of the women) seduce them. Finally the statue of one of his victims stops by for dinner and drags him to hell, which hardly is a solution. The remaining characters, noble, bourgeois and peasant, are as stupid and feckless as they were before.

By a quirk of programming, New York City this year saw three separate productions of the work, a pedestrian production at the Metropolitan Opera as well as student versions at the Julliard School and its smaller but more refined competitor, the Mannes College of Music.

And by one of those one-in-a-million confluences of talent and luck, the Mannes version under the baton of Joseph Colaneri came as close as possible to recreating the opera's opening night in Prague two and a quarter centuries ago. After seeing scores of versions over half a century, I finally feel that I have heard the opera the way Mozart's first-night audience did. Sadly, you cannot: the last of three Mannes performances occurred on May 6. Perhaps some philanthropist will sponsor a world tour.

Like an Old Master painting obscured by centuries of lacquer and dirt, Don Giovanni has become less accessible over time. Mozart draws caricatures in whom we should see ourselves. That demands an intimate setting rather than a steroidal modern opera house.

Mozart's singers, moreover, were young - his first Don Giovanni was the 21-year-old Luigi Bassi, as young as Suchan Kim or Ricardo Rivera, who sang on alternate nights in the Mannes version. Young people take musical as well as dramatic risks, and Mozart requires risk. Don Giovanni, moreover, is an ensemble opera first and foremost: it is the interaction of the characters and their responses to each other that keeps the electricity flowing.

It demands chamber-music skills and subordination to the ensemble of a kind that the professional music world does not foster. Singing superstars are not paid to enhance the contributions of their colleagues, but rather to upstage them.

That, paradoxically, explains why Colaneri's kindergarten did an incomparably better job than the Metropolitan Opera under the hapless Fabio Luisi earlier this year. Technical capacity no longer is a constraint among the top cut of music conservatories; Mannes' opera program has become such a sure springboard for professional careers that the small school rejects a dozen opera applicants for each one it accepts.

To qualify for the Mannes orchestra, moreover, young instrumentalists must be able to play anything in the repertoire flawlessly. Colaneri asked the strings for preternatural articulation at speed, and they followed him enthusiastically. Mozart is in some ways the edgiest of composers, with more compressions and expansions of phrase, endless extensions and sudden halts, than any other: he twists time into knots, because he can, and enjoys doing so. I have never heard a reading so consonant with Mozart's musical personality.

Colaneri conducts regularly at the Metropolitan Opera and other major venues (most recently he led the Met's Tosca broadcast performance). But he has worked miracles with the Mannes opera program [1] that he built from a bare foundation over the past decade.

These young people are not ego-driven divas or orchestral players punching a clock, but his students, whose enthusiasm made them follow the maestro over musical torrents and abysses, without ever crashing once.

Such crashes happen all the time. At the opening night of the Met's new production, [2] Fabio Luisi brought the strings into the Allegro section of the overture (measure 31) too fast; the Met players couldn't keep up with him, and were unable to finish the phrase before the woodwinds answered at measure 38, such that the two choirs crashed into each other (James Levine, the Metropolitan Opera's music director now sidelined by health problems, executes this perfectly at minute 1:40 in this version). [3] Conductorial mishaps abounded at the Met; the young Mannes players were nearly flawless by contrast.

The Met, to be sure, had bigger singers, but the cast was strong overall, and several of the young singers in the Mannes production should have big careers. I've waited half a century to hear the trill and appoggiatura executed correctly in measure 110 of Donna Anna's aria "Non mi dir," as Liana Guberman did. Adam Bonanni as Ottavio is a tenore di grazia who recalls Tito Schipa. As Giovanni, Ricardo Rivera combined a sinister magnetism with unerring vocal control.

This is the point at which the non-musical reader will interject, "And I am supposed to care because ...?"

There is a reason that the Don Juan story dominated the Western imagination for 200 years, from his first appearance in the 1630 play Trickster of Seville by the Spanish monk Tirso de Molina, to his farewell tour in Lord Byron's eponymous epic. Tirso, the descendant of Spanish Jews forcibly converted to Christianity, invented Juan as a theological paradox.

He is a brilliant and charming young man of the high nobility who happens to enjoy rape and murder. But he is a conventional Catholic who acknowledges the saving power of the Church and the attainability of salvation through the exercise of free will. "What a long time I have to pay it back!" is Juan's refrain ("Que largo me lo fiais," the play's alternate title): he is young and has years left in which to rape and murder before he repents.

Don Juan is a Jewish joke, I argued in a recent essay for Tablet magazine:
Don Juan exists to prove by construction that a devout Christian can be a sociopath, and by extension, that the Christian world can be ruled by sociopaths. The Enlightenment's most insidious attack on Catholic faith, then, came not from atheists like Voltaire, but from a Spanish monk with buried Jewish sensibilities.

A century and a half later, another converted Jew - Emmanuele Conegliano, known as Lorenzo da Ponte - reworked Tirso's play as a libretto for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and the result was an utterly unique work of art. It is pointless to argue about whether Don Giovanni is the best opera ever written, because it is a genre unto itself - the musical tragi-comedy, or "drama giocoso", as Da Ponte put it. Mozart's combination of tragic and comic elements turns the world inside out. From the first bars of the orchestra to the final note, we are unsure whether we should laugh, cry, or feel fear. If you don't leave the theater confused, you haven't been listening. [4]
We typically are entreated to regard Western civilization as a marble monument which we should contemplate in reverence. There are any number of marble monuments, to be sure, which one should contemplate in reverence, and some marvelous literature which presents the world in the orderly fashion - the Paradiso section of Dante's Divine Comedy, for example, which manages to combine the highest sublimity of language with the utmost tediousness of content.

But the definitive works of Western civilization are the self-referential ones, which expose the flaws in the underlying structure, starting with plays of Sophocles written after Athens' catastrophic defeat in the Peloponnesian War. Mozart does not ask you to sit back and contemplate Beauty: he pokes and pinches and tugs and teases, until he drags you into the midst of the comedy. It is a comedy, in that all of his characters deserve what they get; the tragedy is ours.

The trouble with Don Giovanni is that Mozart's librettist, the witty Lorenzo da Ponte, bungled important elements of the original Don Juan story, following the example of other 18th century Italian versions. Giovanni murders the father of one of his (prospective) rape victims, Donna Anna.

At the opera's conclusion the father's statue demands that Giovanni repent, and Giovanni refuses in a last expression of churlishness. Rather than the orthodox but sociopathic Catholic of Tirso de Molina, da Ponte gives us an Enlightenment villain who refuses to bow to divine will out of sheer spite. Tirso's Don Juan would have taken the statue's deal in a heartbeat, since he is a believing Catholic. The theological paradox at the center of the comedy is obscured (if we can save ourselves by free will, then we can postpone our salvation by free will and continue to do unspeakably evil things in the meantime).

In Tirso's original, what motivates Don Juan is not so much sex but evil. He enjoys killing the men as much as enjoys raping the women, and he gets as much pleasure by cheating prostitutes of their pay as he does by sleeping with them. Da Ponte too often reduces Tirso's theologically-informed lampoon to the clowning of the Venetian commedia dell'arte, the stylized buffoonery of stock characters.

What Da Ponte confuses, though, Mozart clarifies in a musical score that illumines his characters more vividly than words can. The devil in Mozart lies in the details, though, and the effect of the whole depends on control of countless nuances. He is like a god - not the God, of course, but a god.

There are no minor characters in his work, because any person whom Mozart chooses to characterize is endowed with an entire world of musical detail. Thanks to Mozart we relive the travails of his dramatic personages more intensively. Tirso's theological joke, in Mozart's hands, takes shape in our senses and becomes experiential as well as intellectual.

Mozart allows us to relive our past, to get inside the lives of the people who made the West what it was, and, too often, what it should not have been. When the young singers of the Mannes Opera threw themselves into their roles, we were back in the Prague of 1787, hearing Mozart's world through Mozart's ears.

There is nothing reassuring about it: Mozart was a ruthless critic of his world, but masterful at bringing out the beauty even in the silliest and nastiest of situations. We shall never make sense of where we are without looking back at where we came from, and we rely on institutions like Mannes to maintain a fragile, living link to the past. Apart from the fact that the music-making was delightful, it is also indispensable.



Thank you Very Much for your post, Hoosier Norm

Finally the statue of one of his victims stops by for dinner and drags him to hell, which hardly is a solution.


Incorrect in detail and then missing an important point: Don Juan like many villains over reaches.........

And that is his downfall/solution........

The Statue does NOT come on its own to get Don Juan.

Don Juan insults the statue and then accepts its invitation to dine with him on the statue's home territory.......

Arrogant yes........ Brave maybe......... Smart...... NOT!

Reminds me a bit of when Napoleon or Hitler invaded Russia while still having enemies behind them.........
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Re: Spengler discovers Beautiful Evil

Postby Ibrahim » Mon May 07, 2012 8:33 pm

Great essay. :roll:

"Don Giovanni is a classic, but also Jewish invention, and the most famous versions got the story wrong, but are still great. Also, he was a rapist."
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Re: Spengler discovers Beautiful Evil

Postby Demon of Undoing » Mon May 07, 2012 9:06 pm

Nobody is everything. A thought exercise by intellectuals, for intellectuals, about intellectuals. In the real world, Bill Hickock got shot in the back by a punk kid while holding aces and eights. What Spengie dismisses as " no solution" is in fact the solution that occurs. Eventually, the absurdity in whose face the Don flies rises up and throtles him. Hitler had Barbarossa, Napoleon his Waterloo, and Musashi had mad eczema. All of them room temperature.

You call it the futility of the human condition. I say it's Murphy leveling the scales once every funeral. Nobody beats Murph forever. Or even for long.
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Boo . . . hiss . . .

Postby Marcus » Mon May 07, 2012 9:48 pm

Don Juan is a Jewish joke, I argued in a recent essay for Tablet magazine:
Don Juan exists to prove by construction that a devout Christian can be a sociopath, and by extension, that the Christian world can be ruled by sociopaths. The Enlightenment's most insidious attack on Catholic faith, then, came not from atheists like Voltaire, but from a Spanish monk with buried Jewish sensibilities.

Who reads, and more to the point, takes such posturing seriously? They deserve what they get.

And there, it would seem, goes the love affair between Goldman and the Roman Catholics. A Jewish joke indeed. No, a devout Christian—Roman Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant—cannot be a sociopath even though parts of Christendom can be and have been ruled by sociopaths. Let the Jews speak for themselves . . how would they know what constitutes a devout Christian of any denomination?

Beyond that, Goldman's "Christian world" and "Catholic faith" are products of his imagination. By the time Mozart wrote the opera, there were no such things—Christendom was splintered, not only between east and west as it had been for the previous five centuries, but also in the west between what was left of the Roman Catholic Church and the churches of the Reformation.

More pompous nonsense in my opinion . . whatever point he might be trying to make.
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Re: Spengler discovers Beautiful Evil

Postby Ibrahim » Mon May 07, 2012 10:02 pm

Demon of Undoing wrote:Nobody is everything. A thought exercise by intellectuals, for intellectuals, about intellectuals. In the real world, Bill Hickock got shot in the back by a punk kid while holding aces and eights. What Spengie dismisses as " no solution" is in fact the solution that occurs. Eventually, the absurdity in whose face the Don flies rises up and throtles him. Hitler had Barbarossa, Napoleon his Waterloo, and Musashi had mad eczema. All of them room temperature.



In the opera at least the Don is dragged to Hell, which Spengler says is "no solution" but when you think about it its the only solution. Justice is erratic in this life (though we try) but theoretically people gets their just desserts in the end. His preferred "original" version in which the Don plans to recant on his death bed isn't so much a "theological paradox" as an attempt to game God's system that has been mocked by Christian writers since the earliest churches. My advice for anyone who thinks God operates in this way is "try it and see."

As for the conclusion of the Mozart version, the idea of Don Giovanni refusing salvation through an act of free will is actually more interesting that the "original" game-the-system version. Free will is used not just to exploit a perceived legal loophole, but to challenge the entire notion that God has any right to judge at all. Certainly an Enlightenment idea, but one of the more interesting ones, philosophically speaking.
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Nicely noted, nicely said . . .

Postby Marcus » Mon May 07, 2012 10:30 pm

Ibrahim wrote:In the opera at least the Don is dragged to Hell, which Spengler says is "no solution" but when you think about it its the only solution. Justice is erratic in this life (though we try) but theoretically people gets their just desserts in the end. His preferred "original" version in which the Don plans to recant on his death bed isn't so much a "theological paradox" as an attempt to game God's system that has been mocked by Christian writers since the earliest churches. My advice for anyone who thinks God operates in this way is "try it and see."

As for the conclusion of the Mozart version, the idea of Don Giovanni refusing salvation through an act of free will is actually more interesting that the "original" game-the-system version. Free will is used not just to exploit a perceived legal loophole, but to challenge the entire notion that God has any right to judge at all. Certainly an Enlightenment idea, but one of the more interesting ones, philosophically speaking.


Good comments, good insights . . . :)

We can, it would seem, agree on some things . . . ;)
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Re: Spengler discovers Beautiful Evil

Postby Azrael » Tue May 08, 2012 12:12 am

Ibrahim wrote:
Demon of Undoing wrote:Nobody is everything. A thought exercise by intellectuals, for intellectuals, about intellectuals. In the real world, Bill Hickock got shot in the back by a punk kid while holding aces and eights. What Spengie dismisses as " no solution" is in fact the solution that occurs. Eventually, the absurdity in whose face the Don flies rises up and throtles him. Hitler had Barbarossa, Napoleon his Waterloo, and Musashi had mad eczema. All of them room temperature.



In the opera at least the Don is dragged to Hell, which Spengler says is "no solution" but when you think about it its the only solution. Justice is erratic in this life (though we try) but theoretically people gets their just desserts in the end. His preferred "original" version in which the Don plans to recant on his death bed isn't so much a "theological paradox" as an attempt to game God's system that has been mocked by Christian writers since the earliest churches.

Indeed. And certainly evidence that Don Juan is not a devout Christian, which knocks down Spengler's thesis.

I agree that the Mozart version sounds more interesting than the original, who, according to Spengler's telling, sounds like a mere con-artist.

My advice for anyone who thinks God operates in this way is "try it and see."

The Dirty Harry approach. I like it.

As for the conclusion of the Mozart version, the idea of Don Giovanni refusing salvation through an act of free will is actually more interesting that the "original" game-the-system version. Free will is used not just to exploit a perceived legal loophole, but to challenge the entire notion that God has any right to judge at all. Certainly an Enlightenment idea, but one of the more interesting ones, philosophically speaking.

Indeed. Perhaps Nietzsche was influenced by the opera.

It's also quite interesting that, according to Spengler, Mannes is a better music school than Julliard. Who knew!
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Re: Spengler discovers Beautiful Evil

Postby Ibrahim » Tue May 08, 2012 12:33 am

Azrael wrote:Perhaps Nietzsche was influenced by the opera.


I don't know about Nietzsche, but Kierkegaard famously was, and wrote about Mozart's opera extensively. Nietzsche was, like most existentialists, influenced by Kierkegaard in turn.


Nietzsche was friends, and then enemies, with Wagner. Spengler and Nietzsche both hate Wagner for the same reason: that he turned his back on Classicism (Nietzsche) and Judeo-Christianity (Spengler) in favor of Germanic myth. But I think Wagner has the last laugh, since the modern equivalent of his Gesamtkunstwerk is ruling the box office right now, featuring Thor no less.


Wagner's Tannhauser is an interesting variation on the Don Juan that Spengler is trying to talk about:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tannhäuser_(opera)
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Re: Spengler discovers Beautiful Evil

Postby Azrael » Tue May 08, 2012 12:48 am

Ibrahim wrote:
Azrael wrote:Perhaps Nietzsche was influenced by the opera.


I don't know about Nietzsche, but Kierkegaard famously was, and wrote about Mozart's opera extensively. Nietzsche was, like most existentialists, influenced by Kierkegaard in turn.

Interesting. I suppose that if Nietzsche was influenced by Kierkegaard, that might make him particularly interested in the Opera.


Nietzsche was friends, and then enemies, with Wagner. Spengler and Nietzsche both hate Wagner for the same reason: that he turned his back on Classicism (Nietzsche) and Judeo-Christianity (Spengler) in favor of Germanic myth. But I think Wagner has the last laugh, since the modern equivalent of his Gesamtkunstwerk is ruling the box office right now, featuring Thor no less.

:lol: Even worse, the guy who wrote the comic books was Jewish. He really should have known better. Don't tell Spengler. :wink:

Wagner's Tannhauser is an interesting variation on the Don Juan that Spengler is trying to talk about:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tannhäuser_(opera)

Quite different, though. Here the hero is basically a good person, is seduced, then works very hard at redemption, rather than an evil person trying to game the system, or reject the system entirely. They both sound like interesting stories. I haven't seen either opera, though. The only opera I've seen is this.
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Re: Spengler discovers Beautiful Evil

Postby Typhoon » Tue May 08, 2012 1:18 am

Spenglerman wrote: At the opera's conclusion the father's statue demands that Giovanni repent, and Giovanni refuses in a last expression of churlishness. Rather than the orthodox but sociopathic Catholic of Tirso de Molina, da Ponte gives us an Enlightenment villain who refuses to bow to divine will out of sheer spite.


Don Giovanni's refusal to repent is what makes him heroic and along with Mozart's music raises the opera above the level of a conventional medieval morality play.

Spenglerman wrote: Tirso's Don Juan would have taken the statue's deal in a heartbeat, since he is a believing Catholic. The theological paradox at the center of the comedy is obscured (if we can save ourselves by free will, then we can postpone our salvation by free will and continue to do unspeakably evil things in the meantime).


Rather, we can do unspeakable evil as long as we repent at some point.
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Re: Beautiful Evil

Postby Typhoon » Tue May 08, 2012 1:23 am

Apollonius wrote:I know that our host has suggested that Spengler's essays might best be posted in 'Current Events', but surely this belongs in 'Art'.


Although it is opera, the issues raised strike as more appropriate for the "Philosophy" section.
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Re: Spengler discovers Beautiful Evil

Postby Apollonius » Tue May 08, 2012 1:48 am

Although it is opera, the issues raised strike as more appropriate for the "Philosophy" section.




That is true, but it's also true of a lot of really great art.


Well, doesn't matter to me. I'm just telling you where I'd put it. But I admit, I'm more interested in the music of the opera than the story or any message the story might have.
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Re: Spengler discovers Beautiful Evil

Postby Azrael » Tue May 08, 2012 2:01 am

Typhoon wrote:
Spenglerman wrote: At the opera's conclusion the father's statue demands that Giovanni repent, and Giovanni refuses in a last expression of churlishness. Rather than the orthodox but sociopathic Catholic of Tirso de Molina, da Ponte gives us an Enlightenment villain who refuses to bow to divine will out of sheer spite.


Don Giovanni's refusal to repent is what makes him heroic and along with Mozart's music raises the opera above the level of a conventional medieval morality play.

Perhaps Mozart is celebrating the rejection of traditional Catholic morality and making fun of Catholicism -- the talking statue taking Don Giovanni to hell could be Mozart poking fun of the veneration of religious statues. Perhaps the ending was supposed to be ridiculous, in order to imply that Catholicism is ridiculous. It's like Galileo writing a dialogue where his opponent, who favors a more orthodox view of astronomy, "wins" the argument, but his opponent's arguments are ridiculous. Mozart was, after all, a Freemason. He made the point that Catholicism is ridiculous more clearly in the Magic Flute.
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Re: Spengler discovers Beautiful Evil

Postby Typhoon » Tue May 08, 2012 2:44 am

Azrael wrote:
Typhoon wrote:
Spenglerman wrote: At the opera's conclusion the father's statue demands that Giovanni repent, and Giovanni refuses in a last expression of churlishness. Rather than the orthodox but sociopathic Catholic of Tirso de Molina, da Ponte gives us an Enlightenment villain who refuses to bow to divine will out of sheer spite.


Don Giovanni's refusal to repent is what makes him heroic and along with Mozart's music raises the opera above the level of a conventional medieval morality play.

Perhaps Mozart is celebrating the rejection of traditional Catholic morality and making fun of Catholicism -- the talking statue taking Don Giovanni to hell could be Mozart poking fun of the veneration of religious statues. Perhaps the ending was supposed to be ridiculous, in order to imply that Catholicism is ridiculous. It's like Galileo writing a dialogue where his opponent, who favors a more orthodox view of astronomy, "wins" the argument, but his opponent's arguments are ridiculous. Mozart was, after all, a Freemason. He made the point that Catholicism is ridiculous more clearly in the Magic Flute.


A very interesting interpretation which, unlike Spenglerman's piece, takes into account what is known about Mozart.

Don Giovanni is revolutionary. Spenglerman is bemoaning that it's not yet another trite bit of fluff.
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Re: Spengler discovers Beautiful Evil

Postby noddy » Tue May 08, 2012 2:53 am

.
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Re: Spengler discovers Beautiful Evil

Postby Ibrahim » Tue May 08, 2012 3:13 am

Typhoon wrote:
Azrael wrote:
Typhoon wrote:
Spenglerman wrote: At the opera's conclusion the father's statue demands that Giovanni repent, and Giovanni refuses in a last expression of churlishness. Rather than the orthodox but sociopathic Catholic of Tirso de Molina, da Ponte gives us an Enlightenment villain who refuses to bow to divine will out of sheer spite.


Don Giovanni's refusal to repent is what makes him heroic and along with Mozart's music raises the opera above the level of a conventional medieval morality play.

Perhaps Mozart is celebrating the rejection of traditional Catholic morality and making fun of Catholicism -- the talking statue taking Don Giovanni to hell could be Mozart poking fun of the veneration of religious statues. Perhaps the ending was supposed to be ridiculous, in order to imply that Catholicism is ridiculous. It's like Galileo writing a dialogue where his opponent, who favors a more orthodox view of astronomy, "wins" the argument, but his opponent's arguments are ridiculous. Mozart was, after all, a Freemason. He made the point that Catholicism is ridiculous more clearly in the Magic Flute.


A very interesting interpretation which, unlike Spenglerman's piece, takes into account what is known about Mozart.

Don Giovanni is revolutionary. Spenglerman is bemoaning that it's not yet another trite bit of fluff.


He's actually saying it's inferior to some obscure and allegedly Jewish-inspired version, which is essentially a "hipster" position. I mean everyone has heard of Don Giovanni, but Spengler prefers the earlier stuff. You probably haven't heard of it.

He even saw Don Giovanni by the Mannes school players. "Totally different show in the smaller venue, dude. You really 'get it' there," said Spenger in between sips of PBR in a "totally working class" Brooklyn pub.
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Re: Spengler discovers Beautiful Evil

Postby Miss_Faucie_Fishtits » Tue May 08, 2012 5:51 am

Spengler discovers.......


Whose gonna do the illustrations for this delightful group of children's readers?........

Western civilisation as inadequate...... from David. hrrmn...... De-e-e-e-e-ep........no?.........
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Wagner:... Ride of the Valkyries / Kill da Wabbit......

Postby monster_gardener » Tue May 08, 2012 6:21 am

Ibrahim wrote:
Azrael wrote:Perhaps Nietzsche was influenced by the opera.


I don't know about Nietzsche, but Kierkegaard famously was, and wrote about Mozart's opera extensively. Nietzsche was, like most existentialists, influenced by Kierkegaard in turn.


Nietzsche was friends, and then enemies, with Wagner. Spengler and Nietzsche both hate Wagner for the same reason: that he turned his back on Classicism (Nietzsche) and Judeo-Christianity (Spengler) in favor of Germanic myth. But I think Wagner has the last laugh, since the modern equivalent of his Gesamtkunstwerk is ruling the box office right now, featuring Thor no less.


Wagner's Tannhauser is an interesting variation on the Don Juan that Spengler is trying to talk about:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tannhäuser_(opera)



Thank You Very Much for your post, Ibrahim.

My favorite version of Wagner........



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Re: Spengler discovers Beautiful Evil

Postby Typhoon » Tue May 08, 2012 8:49 am

Miss_Faucie_Fishtits wrote:
Spengler discovers.......


Whose gonna do the illustrations for this delightful group of children's readers?........

Western civilisation as inadequate...... from David. hrrmn...... De-e-e-e-e-ep........no?.........


I think that you can do better than that, Missy.

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Contemnite dolorem: aut soluetur aut soluet.
Contemnite mortem: quae uos aut finit aut transfert.
Contemnite fortunam: nullum illi telum quo feriret animum dedi.
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Re: Wagner:... Ride of the Valkyries / Kill the Wabbit......

Postby Typhoon » Tue May 08, 2012 8:53 am

monster_gardener wrote:
Ibrahim wrote:
Azrael wrote:Perhaps Nietzsche was influenced by the opera.


I don't know about Nietzsche, but Kierkegaard famously was, and wrote about Mozart's opera extensively. Nietzsche was, like most existentialists, influenced by Kierkegaard in turn.


Nietzsche was friends, and then enemies, with Wagner. Spengler and Nietzsche both hate Wagner for the same reason: that he turned his back on Classicism (Nietzsche) and Judeo-Christianity (Spengler) in favor of Germanic myth. But I think Wagner has the last laugh, since the modern equivalent of his Gesamtkunstwerk is ruling the box office right now, featuring Thor no less.


Wagner's Tannhauser is an interesting variation on the Don Juan that Spengler is trying to talk about:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tannhäuser_(opera)



Thank You Very Much for your post, Ibrahim.

My favorite version of Wagner........





I prefer the Opera Buffa

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Contemnite dolorem: aut soluetur aut soluet.
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Re: Spengler discovers Beautiful Evil

Postby Parodite » Tue May 08, 2012 11:28 am

I found this piece very enlightening. Makes a very sensible analysis of Mozart and his music in the context of his time. Also refers to the opera Don Giovanni.

Mozart and Enlightenment Thought

James Donelan
Karpeles Library
September 26, 1999


Good afternoon. I’m delighted to see that you have come to hear about Mozart, but that’s really no surprise—he has been one of the most compelling figures in music for over two hundred years, and his short life—from 1756 to 1791, only thirty-six years—and his extraordinary talent have made him into one of only two dominant images of the genius/composer. The other image, of course, is that of Beethoven, the Romantic, tormented, deaf composer, unappreciated in his time, able to hear only the music of his imagination. Mozart, on the other hand, was the naïve genius, to whom everything came so easily, and for whom music was the triumph of the mind. Peter Shaffer’s play, Amadeus, along with Milos Forman’s film version, is only one of many examples of this image of Mozart, which, while not exactly false, was not exactly true either.

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Too deep for me . . . ??

Postby Marcus » Tue May 08, 2012 3:16 pm

Miss_Faucie_Fishtits wrote:
Spengler discovers.......
Whose gonna do the illustrations for this delightful group of children's readers?........
Western civilisation as inadequate...... from David. hrrmn...... De-e-e-e-e-ep........no?.........

What does this mean, Lizz? Does Goldman/someone think Western Civilization is "inadequate"? If so, inadequate for what?

What are you saying?

Start a new thread?
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Re: Spengler discovers Beautiful Evil

Postby Parodite » Tue May 08, 2012 4:58 pm

Mozart, humor, musical satire, paradox of free will in the face of God. Hmm..

If thou asketh me, Speng's problem consists in demanding a serieus reason for artistic humor. As if there has to be a tragedy behind every joke. It seems like for Mozart it was more the Magic Flute in and of itself that mattered. Plus maybe the belief that it has the power to change the world; but that is speculation.
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