Ligeti’s masterpiece gets a Trump-era treatment

Ligeti’s masterpiece gets a Trump-era treatment


norman lebrecht

January 20, 2018

This is Sara Hershkowitz, an American soprano in Berlin, giving the full DJT treatment – followed by a full Melania shakedown – to Mysteries of the Macabre.


Where does she get that orange makeup?


  • Anon says:

    Americans who criticize their president and country abroad commit an act of treason and should be subject to extreme vetting at the US border and be denied entry except to be prosecuted.

    • CJPT says:

      Lol – you might want to take a moment and read the legal definition of treason (I doubt you will, since that would likely inconvenience your self-righteous ranting). That said, why stop there? Never mind prosecuting people outside the country who criticize their president, how about extending the dictum to anyone inside the country? In fact, why even bother with prosecution? Let’s go straight for summary judgement and execution by anyone within earshot who is exercising their Jesus-given 2nd Ammendment rights. Double-plus Good!

    • nimitta says:

      As Mark Twain observed, patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.

      If you equate criticism with treason, you’re no American, ANON – that’s what people believe under dictatorships. I hope you’re vetted very carefully before admission to my beloved United States – we don’t need any more trolls under our bridges!

    • William Safford says:

      Have you read the U.S. Constitution?

      If so, then you know how foolish your comment is.

      If not, then I recommend that you do so, then correct yourself.

      Or are you just a troll?

    • MacroV says:

      If you’re an American you really need to study up on the Constitution. The First Amendment protects speech – at home and abroad – including criticism of our elected officials. And Americans are also allowed back into the US – no vetting involved – though they can always be arrested. And treason involves a bit more than criticizing government officials.

    • anon says:

      To the critics above, no American is protected by the Constitution outside of the borders of the United States, that is why your laptop and cellphone can be seized and searched without probable cause at the border, that is why Guantanamo Bay exists to hold Americans indefinitely without trial.

      Now who needs to read the Constitution?

      The problem with you guys is that you underestimate the Right. You think we are a bunch of bonehead nationalists, but we run the White House, the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security.

      Yes, we run the Supreme Court as well. We decide where the Constitution applies or not.

      And, as our ambassador to the UN said, we are taking names.

      • Pianofortissimo says:

        You’re not “Rigth”, you’re damn wrong.

      • nimitta says:

        ANON: “Yes, we run the Supreme Court as well. We decide where the Constitution applies or not. And, as our ambassador to the UN said, we are taking names.”

        You can’t even quote Nikki Haley correctly: she was referring to the names of COUNTRIES who opposed the decision to base the American embassy in Jerusalem.

        Altogether, your ugly comments suggest you’d be comfortable in a dictatorship – your hopes for the US are exactly what the Founding Fathers were trying to prevent. I suspect you’re a foreign-born, and there’s no doubt you’re a troll.

      • William Safford says:

        Thank you for doubling down on your ignorance for all to read.

        You wrote:

        “Americans who criticize their president and country abroad commit an act of treason.”

        Go read the U.S. Constitution. (Have you ever done so?)

        Read the definition of “treason.” (Article III, Section 3)

        It is one of the only (maybe the only) word that the Founding Fathers felt needed to be defined in the Constitution.

        Then come back and correct yourself. Or disappear, as trolls should.

      • Lucy Dells says:

        Threatened much, anon? Sara Hershkowitz is nothing short of sensational. She sings the living crap out of this notoriously difficult piece and manages a hilarious and courageous interpretation. The artists job is to provoke dialogue and provoke she did. A country that cannot handle satire is….a dictatorship!!! So take your pitchfork someplace else. Oh, and read the constitution while your at it.

    • Bruce says:

      Oh yes, I remember the countless super-intolerant liberals who said this about people bad-mouthing Obama… /eyeroll

    • Anon says:

      Ho ho, gotten inspired by Stalin?

  • Gordon Freeman says:

    OK then, Slipped Disc Conservative Commenter’s Alliance – over to you!

    *opens three bags of popcorn*

  • Ketzel says:

    I’ll admit I don’t like modern music, but the infantile presentation made it impossible for me to give this my usual dutiful attempt. I outgrew Saturday Night Live many years ago. If a classical audience can really sit through this insult to their intelligence, it sort of explains a lot of modern music, too.

    • Mike Schachter says:

      SNL is all about the rich and over privileged telling is how clever they are, especially compared to the stupid people who voted for Trump. But stupid a they may be most of them still do work of greater utility than being so-called satirists. Amusing and nauseating that some of these individuals call themselves the Resistance. As some of us will recall the real Resistance were extraordinary brave men and women. Their so-called successors are fearless in the absence of risk.

      • Sue says:

        It was hard to decipher exactly what you meant! But calling a huge tranch of the American public stupid and comedians (allegedly) ridiculing them on late night TV is a disturbing turn of events in the USA which was recently discussed here in Australia by our ambassador to the USA. He displayed great concern about the nation ‘having the capacity to tear itself to bits”. One civil war wasn’t enough, apparently. Enter the hugely divisive cult of identity politics and then accuse the person who wants to rid everyone of it of being divisive. That’s just sheer projection and nothing more.

        The working class of the USA, just like their allies in WW2, mostly did all the fighting an dying. It appalls me to hear that demographic spoken of as ‘deplorable’ or ‘stupid’. They are human beings and they’ve shown their bravery in war countless times to save the bony hides of the ‘elite’. The only thing which is ‘deplorable’ in the USA right now is the raging Left and its repressive thought control and resentment. Any piece of theatre which seeks to demonstrate that is destined for the scrap heap.

        When you want to trash your President please consider the alternatives in a huge number of other country and exhibit a tiny bit of gratitude.

        • Petros Linardos says:

          The deplorables are the racists, xenophobes, neonazis etc. The current president’s rhetoric consistently caters to them.

          The poor are those who least benefit from the current economy. The recent tax reform benefits disproportionally the well off, while actively undermining the healthcare system.

          Personally, I’ve seen my health insurance rate rise by ~20% this year. Yes, I am grateful to the government for that.

          Where do you get your news?

        • Janet P. says:

          Sue, respectfully, your comment here is absurd. Sara Hershkowitz is not “trashing” her president. She is using her considerable talent to bring humor, light and musicality to draw attention to the horror show of her so-called leader of her country. There is something in democratic countries called FREEDOM of SPEECH. Furthermore, if you consider it offensive that SNL artists mock the president/insinuate half of the US are idiots but you DONT find Trumps racist rhethorc, deporting law-abiding doctors, or pussy-grabbing, or validation of neo-Nazi’s offensive, then maybe its time to re-examine your beliefs?

      • jonathan black says:

        Gosh Mike, aren’t you brave, trashing artists and comedians from the safety of your armchair in your moms basement? Comedians and artists–such as the outstanding soprano, Sara Hershkowitz, featured here–who do use satire are actually engaged in the best kind of non-violent resistance. You could never do what any of them do in a million years and your comment reeks of sour grapes.

    • Cardoso Peres says:

      Cue another weepy post on Slipped Disc about how opera companies are shutting down and need state funding to survive. Who in their right mind would watch this rubbish?!

  • Yuri Bahgerov says:

    This forms the base of a a new cultural scale in which bottom-of-the-barrel material is the apogee.

  • Charles Clark-Maxwell says:

    Trump is far too easy to impersonate. I guess Alex Baldwin does it best but really anybody can do it. What the media should consider now is *who will be the best Democratic candidate in 2020* ?

    Time passes quickly and it won’t be long before there’s the next beauty contest and does the voting population want to look back and see it wasted 4 years watching satires ?

    Re: the Ligeti – it sounds terribly dated now.

  • Brian says:

    Lol. Only in Berlin…

  • harold braun says:

    Fantastic Opera.The production….well,pandering to the obvious….

  • harold braun says:

    But Sara Hershkowitz is stunning!

  • Bruce says:

    Wow, she’s incredible!

    The “comedy” is, shall we say, not sophisticated; but this is (a) an outdoor concert so hardly a highbrow setting, and (b) Germany, where humor is mostly centered around poo and watching people fall down.

    • William Osborne says:

      This is a Dutch orchestra. Are they on tour in Germany in this video?

      • Bruce says:

        Ah – I saw “American soprano in Berlin” and didn’t look for further details.

        I stick to my assessment of German humor. I have no information about the Dutch sense of humor, never having heard of such a thing before.

        • Martin says:

          no, as usual Norman did not check the facts. This open-air concert took place months ago in the Netherlands with a Dutch orchestra and an American soprano. It has absolutly nothing to do with Germany. But hey, what are facts?

          • Max Grimm says:

            While his fact checking could improve, in this case it is his wording that could most use some improvement. A better wording would have been “This is Sara Hershkowitz, an American soprano [living/who lives] in Berlin, … “

          • John Borstlap says:

            As far as heavy-handed humor is concerned, the Dutch are invincible.

        • Max Grimm says:

          What, if I may ask, made you form such an absurd assessment of German humour?
          (Please, don’t let the answer be “South Park” or “Michael Lewis”)

          • Bruce says:

            Actually interacting with people here on Slipped Disc is what’s done it :-/

          • Bruce says:

            ^ (Also, various actual German people I have known)

          • Max Grimm says:

            Personally, I can’t see how you could get that impression by interacting with people on SD, considering that very few here strive for humour and the overwhelming majority of commenters are from the US and the UK.
            As for the “various actual German people [you] have known”, may I be so bold to suggest that it is perhaps time for you to meet some more (optimally in Germany and not the US) for a more accurate and legitimate assessment of German humour?

          • Bruce says:

            No you may not.


    • Andreas B. says:

      (b) is a bold claim – even more so that you got this impression by “interacting with people” about specifically those two topics “here on SD” !?

      but perhaps you could be right – may I suggest this example of German humour also about bodily functions and things falling down accidentally (and it’s even with the Berlin Philharmonic!):

  • William Osborne says:

    I enjoyed the video and entirely agree with the political sentiments. But there’s also a problem. Why are we not seeing a similar treatment of Geert Wilders there in Holland.
    To say nothing of the leaders of many other far right parties like France’s National Front, Finland’s True Finns, Estonia’s Conservative People’s Party, Italy’s Lega Nord, Austria’s Freedom Party of Austria, Hungary’s Jobbik, Turkey’s MHP, Greece’s Golden Dawn, Armenia’s Armenian Revolutionary Federation, the United Kingdom’s UK Independence Party, Poland’s Party of Law and Justice, Slovakia’s Slovak National Party, and Denmark’s Danish People’s Party.

    In fact, Trump’s arrival seemed so familiar to me after years a watching Bavarian politicians like Franz Joseph Strauss and Edmund Stoiber, among many others.

    This is where the EU’s admirable state owned and operated arts organizations seem to hit the wall. A solution needs to be found that keeps the support, but allows for more pointed political commentary.

    • Leo says:

      I think audiences in Europe are sick and tired of all sorts of state funded political commentary in place of art – they’d just be happy with art, for a change.

      • william osborne says:

        In place of art, or part of art?

        • Leo says:

          I stay with my choice of words.

          As (contemporary) art has become discourse rather than experience, making a point in this or that discussion through te presentation of catalysts in the place of artworks (the place is important) has become the norm.
          In this manner, Regietheater is derived (among other things) from the basic ideas of conceptual art.
          A production such as linked here (making an existing work “actual” through the staging elements in order to express a concept) is in line with this “conceptual opera” way of thinking.

          • John Borstlap says:

            All true. Annexation of art for political ends. Political satire is better done in the way SNL does with DT.

      • Francesca Lin says:

        Uh, no. Audiences are sick of dusty, musty old park-and-bark productions that are the same Traviata that their Nan saw in 1965. The art form will die without exactly this sort of innovation.

        • Leo says:

          I don’t think innovation has to do with art in the same way it has to do with science or the economy.

          Yet I believe we agree about the problem, yet differ about the solution:

          The problem is that there are no new works gaining a significant place in the repertoire, through encaptivating both public and artists.
          The commonly offered solution is this sort of “innovation” (which has been similarly “innovative” for the past 50 years or so): “updating” old works by staging them differently.

          In my opinion, putting new make-up on an old corpse won’t make it new. It would make it an old corpse with new make up.
          What I believe is really needed, and would be the solution to the aforementioned problem is NEW WORKS. The only way these new works could get anywhere, is by dropping modernist and post-modernist perceptions and pretentions, and going back (also aesthetically) to periods where (some) new works managed to genuinely captivate audiences persistently.
          In 2018, opera is an OLD art form, no new staging of any piece would change it.
          Yet as an old form, it shows remarkable survival capacities – it has been dying for almost 100 years now.
          When one understands how and why the Traviatas and Cosi fan tuttes stayed around so long in the first place, one might be able to come up with something new and meaningful.
          Part of understanding it, I believe, is going beneath what you call “park and bark”: the reason they didn’t do much acting back in the day, was that it was all done in the musical performance. The music had inside it all the effects which are often today externalised visually. Making music in this way demands intense concentration, which is impossible while doing all sorts of acrobatics.
          Does it mean that we have became desensitized to music? Yes. Unfortunately.
          Major artists today have not the ears to notice the difference, and the musical level of performance in the major stages of the world is going from bad to worse. Singers keep burning out. This is not a single person’s fault, this is a systemic problem: the system is cutting the branch of the tree upon which it is sitting, simply by its own structure and function.

          • John Borstlap says:

            I’m not sure about the last paragraph, but for the rest I entirely agree. Good music does not age, that is the revelation so many people simply don’t want to understand, because they are blinded by the idea that everything has to be ‘progressive’. But that is a historical category, not a cultural one. The only ‘progress’ there is in culture – which indeed is fundamentally different from science – is the accumulation of available means and works. Artistic meaning is something universal.

            And then, the increasing dependence upon visuals in our modern world reduces perceptivity for non-visual stimuli like reading texts and listening to art music, creating an ever widening inner void. In the end people will come back to the things that can fill that void, because the human being does not change, in spite of internet, smartphone, or mars travelling.


  • Anthony Green says:

    Politics aside, Sara Hershkowitz is clearly an artist to be reckoned with. Her singing and musicianship here are nothing short of astonishing. We will be hearing much more from her.

  • Mark says:

    SCARY BRILLIANT singing and musicianship here by Sara Hershkowitz who is that rare gem: a beautiful coloratura with more brains, courage and talent in her left pinky then any of the smug Trump troll apologists on here could ever dream of.