Olivia Giovetti

16 April 2024

In Berlin

Last Friday afternoon, shortly after the Palestinian writer and researcher Salman Abu Sitta had said that ‘the voice of the victim is silenced, denied, condemned and vilified,’ the German police cut the power to the Palästina-Kongress in Berlin.

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25 October 2023

In Berlin

Demonstrations by Jews critical of Israel have also been banned. In response to this, Iris Hefets, a board member of Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East, stood alone on Hermannplatz on 14 October, holding up a sign that said: ‘As a Jew and as an Israeli, stop the genocide in Gaza.’ She was taken into police custody.

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20 June 2023

Berlusconi at the Opera

It’s rare to go to a performance of Verdi’s Nabucco where the Act 3 chorus, ‘Va pensiero,’ doesn’t stop the show with an ovation. The opera was composed during the Risorgimento, and the chorus of Hebrew slaves lamenting their homeland, ‘so beautiful and so lost,’ became the unofficial anthem for a unified Italy. When I saw Nabucco at the Metropolitan Opera in 2004, a voice from the upper rafters of the audience bellowed ‘Viva l’Italia!’ before the applause began. The chorus of Silvio Berlusconi’s personal anthem, the preposterously fawning ‘Meno male che Silvio c’è’ (‘Thank goodness for Silvio’), begins with the words ‘Viva l’Italia’. But they come with a qualification that Verdi would never have accepted: long live the Italy that has chosen Berlusconi as its leader. But then Berlusconi, a former cruise ship crooner who pushed even television news to its pornographic limits, never had much use for opera.

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10 December 2021

Verdi’s Ghosts

The spirit of Charles V hovers over Don Carlo. The four-act version of Verdi’s opera (it has a complicated production history) opens at the Holy Roman Emperor’s tomb. ‘He wanted to rule the world,’ a monk sings, ‘but forgot who assigns the stars their path in the sky. His pride was great, his madness immeasurable.’ In the finale, Charles V rises from the tomb to drag his grandson, the Infante Don Carlos, off to death.

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