So how was Vienna’s first woman’s opera?

So how was Vienna’s first woman’s opera?


norman lebrecht

December 09, 2019

Much fuss has been made around Olga Neuwirth’s Orlando as being the first opera composed by a woman to be staged at the Vienna State Opera.

It isn’t.

The house shop is busily selling this children’s opera, also by a woman composer.

That caveat aside, how was last night’s world premiere?

Our chap in the stalls says it went, over two and a half hours, from ‘spectacularly irritating’ to a ‘frankly irritating’ female lecture. But then he’s a chap.

The only reviews out so far, in Kurier, reports that is ends in platitudes but the applause was ‘surprisingly benevolent’.

Another chap.





  • .. says:

    the childrens ‘Opera’ by an anachronistic composer who tries to write a stylistic copy of former composers wasn t staged at the Wiener Staatsoper but in a rehearsal space.

    • John Borstlap says:

      An ‘anachronistic composer’, what could that be? And what is a ‘stylistic copy of former composers’? These merely sound as superficial slogans.

      • .. says:

        right- as superficial as the childrens opera we re talking about. Did you ever listen to some excerpts?

        • John Borstlap says:

          What could be wrong with an opera for children? A question distinct from the matter whether it is or is not good music. To address a children audience with more familiar sounds than the feminist sound art of Ms Neuwirth seems to be a perfectly normal consideration. One does not want one’s children traumatized by punk liberation before they come of the right age.

    • Marius Felix Lange says:

      Johanna Doderers opera Fatima was staged on the main stage of the Wiener Saatsoper.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Based on the video trailer, there is nothing wrong with that opera, it is a work for children and in the same time an educational community project. If Lachenmann or Neuwirth or Haas or Pintscher had received the commission for a children opera, that would have resulted in youth trauma and there is no longer a Dr Freud living in Vienna.

    • Vienna calling says:

      This is wrong. I saw Fatima by Johanna Doderer, and it was definitely on the main stage.

    • Suzelbuondi says:

      That is absolutely not true. I sang in the premiere of Fatima. It was indeed rehearsed in the main house and perfomed on the main stage of the Staatsoper.

  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    If Matthias Pintscher is involved in it with some degree of enthusiasm, it cannot be so bad. In Australia we have to put up with the likes of Elena Kats-Chernin. In comparison Olga Neuwirth is equivalent to Mozart.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Ms Neuwirth is a ‘punk composer’ – as she declares herself – writing ‘catastrophe music’ as a provocation of the ‘Bildungsbürgertum’. So, an artistic project to undermine, to disturb, to destroy existing structures, especially those of the bourgeoisie, the social class guilty of upholding the classical music culture, the opera as an art form, the museums, in short: everything that hinders a totally alternative and punky world view from realizing.

    Punk was a juvenile protest against adults, cultivated by – to put it mildly – the less sophisticated strata of youth without much else to do, the daughters and sons of the lower middle classes which provided a safe environment for such protests – there was always mamma’s kitchen to fall back upon. So, a bourgeois phenomenon, and one to fade in the light of mature reality.

    Ms Neuwirth does not seem to have outgrown such cushioned youth trauma: she finds that the opera system is totally petrified and stands before its downfall, so that she can offer something new:

    “Ein System wie die Oper, sagt sie, das schon völlig verkrustet sei, befinde sich kurz vor dem Zerfall: ‘Und dort, wo der Zerfall ist, kann man vielleicht damit ansetzen, etwas Neues zumindest vorzuschlagen.'”

    And what is this ‘new’ that Ms Neuwirth offers? Her ideal is the androgynous sound, which is impossible to classify, so that it represents the ultimate refusal – presumably a protest against those stupid adults who want to order things all the time, while it is so much more fun to break down structures and to create chaos:

    “Olga Neuwirths Ideal ist bis heute der androgyne Klang, der nicht mehr zugeordnet werden kann und der zum Schauplatz der ultimativen Verweigerung wird.”

    Feminism plays another important role in Ms Neuwirth’s mission to offer something new where things fall apart – she found role models with protesting females, fashion designers and Nobel Prized anti-bourgeois attacks:

    “Ich habe in den Achtzigerjahren in der Neuen Musik keine weiblichen Role-Models gesehen”, sagt die Komponistin heute, “und sie deshalb woanders gesucht und auch gefunden: bei Valie Export, Patti Smith, der Modeschöpferin Rei Kawakubo mit ihrem Label Comme des Garçons – und bei Elfriede Jelinek.”

    Disguised as progressive, ultramodern, feminist creation, Ms Neuwirth’s work instead appears as a very conventional, no: outdated immature protest gesture as cultivated in the sixties, without realizing that the suffocating bourgeois society against which Schoenberg, Picasso and Freud aimed their arrows, has died-out very long ago, and entirely oblivious of the fact that the anti-bourgeois protest has already long ago entered the repetoire of established convention. Hence the Vienna State Opera commission – she is being paid by ‘the enemy’.

    Her new anti-opera opera may be a masterpiece of oldfashioned modernism, but her earlier work inspires some doubt:

    The negative critics may be wrong or right, in the first instance they are unhappily conservative, in the second they are happily immature. Meanwhile it may not be insignificant to realize that all the money spent on this production has been caughed-up by bourgeois society and one of its ‘petrified institutions close to their downfall’, in the city where Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Bruckner and Mahler lived and worked, and created a symbolic cultural centre from which classical music radiated the entire civilized world.

    • anon says:

      Reading between the lines we have “protesting females” (essentializing biological reductionism instead of the more human term women protesters) creating “outdated immature protest” (the old trope that women are inherently childish) polluting the “symbolic cultural center from which classical music radiated [to] the entire civilized world” (chest thumping trope of world salvation through through the superior racial genius of the white male.)

      His comments should play well to much of the usual crowd here.

      • John Borstlap says:

        It seems to me that you got that wrong….. Ms Neuwirth is not representative for all women, or for all women composers, and certainly not for all protesting women: there are so many different causes to protest against. It would be more admirable if Ms N would protest against a worthy cause instead of cultivating a trendy, superficial and immature gesture – which is wholeheartedly embraced by the very establishment she is supposed to protest against. It is play-acting, not serious.

        And such empty quasi-protest positions are entirely open to all available sexes, another nice example is Louis Andriessen who composed against the bourgeois establishment while happily receiving its accolades and money. In the sixties there was a whole class of artists and intellectuals who loudly proclaimed support for Che Guevarra (a killer) and Mao Tse Tung (an even more serious killer) and for the proletariat in general, wherever, while living the life of a quasi-intellectual elite on establishment money.

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        “Biological reductionism”? Sorry, isn’t that the issue de jour of the ‘progressive’ (read ‘regressive’) Left and all it’s myriad genders? Splicing people into identity categories and roles for strictly political purposes and not accepting their characteristics beyond that. And they’d all better bloody-well remain there in those categories – or be punished.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      As usual, intelligent, insightful – and brave – comments. Agree with MOST of it.

  • John Rook says:

    Ah, so if it’s by a woman, men aren’t allowed to say anything remotely negative, is that it?

    • John Borstlap says:

      Men may NEVER say something negative about women because they’ve done that already for thousands of years!


  • Claire46 says:

    I will get to Neuwirth in a moment but first a few comments.

    We are the result of over two hundred million years of mammalian evolution, and (effectively) only females lactate. Female mammals, unlike females of some bird species, have had virtually the sole responsibility for nurturing their offspring. Males, at best, defend or provision the females. Like it or not, we inherit this legacy. But we are also, to some extent, the products of our culture, which out of necessity or fashion, and within the constraints of biological imperatives, helps dictate how we behave. Men and women are disposed to have somewhat different interests, in general.

    Obviously, compared to our closest related species, men and women are more or less the same, with only rather subtle differences. However, there are, on average, measurable differences between the performance characteristics of men and women in some tasks. Consider, for instance, the task of parking a car. Men tend to be more adept than women at this. Nevertheless, the best women are better at parking than the worst men.

    I think that the bell curve explains part of the reason why there are relatively few good women composers. Any distribution of random variables (e.g. height of men) measured in an homogenous sample population has a characteristic bell shape. The IQ scores of randomly selected people would fit this type of distribution.

    Firstly, I understand that males and females have exactly the same average general IQ (which may be an artefact of testing procedures), but that the standard deviation of male IQ’s is greater than that of female IQ’s. In other words, the base of the bell (low IQ to the left, high IQ to the right), is wider for men than it is for women, so that there are less female geniuses than male geniuses, and less female idiots than male idiots. (And surely no one would argue with the latter, at least). If ability as a composer is strongly correlated to IQ, or to particular facets of general IQ, it is statistically improbable that the best women would be as good as the best men, (and the worst women would not be as bad as the worst men). Even if the bell curves are centred one upon the other, the reach of the men’s bell curve would exceed that of the women’s. As only a vanishingly small percentage of the population makes it as a ‘great composer’, they all exist at the extreme reach of the men’s bell curve, & few women are likely to be so far from the mean.

    Secondly, men may have, on average, a biologically and/or culturally engendered superior ability at composing music, especially if it involves similar skills to those required for planning hunting, or making a usable tool from a piece of flint. Also, composing is a pursuit that demands highly focused behaviour, and males are more likely to exhibit this, (and have Asperger’s Syndrome), whereas females tend to be more socially orientated.

    Thirdly, throughout history, women and men have not had equal opportunities to become composers, and this will also be a factor in that there is likely to be a smaller pool of women composers to draw upon.

    If the above is true, (as I strongly believe it is), it is statistically improbable that there will ever be any women amongst the ‘great composers’. Even if men stop composing, and women take to it in great numbers, it is still unlikely that there will ever be a female composer equal to Beethoven. The above arguments probably also explain, in part anyway, why women often encounter the ‘glass ceiling’ in other activities.

    • James says:

      There were so many shocking moments in 2019, but your decision to post this has topped them all.

    • anon says:

      This is a load of twaddle and social science has thoroughly debunked it. Shame on you for perpetuating this bigotry.

      • Anon says:

        How has social science debunked it? (Hint it hasn’t)

      • Tamino says:

        Social science has debunked it? Show us.
        It hasn‘t debunked it.
        Claire46‘s post above pretty much represents the science, as far as our anthropological evolution and its cultural implications today are concerned.

    • Genius or Idiot says:

      The dislikes on the post above are absolutely ridiculous. What is said is absolutely true. I unfortunately can’t find any more the great online essay from which most of the ideas in the above post are derived from. In the meantime, I challenge any of the dislikers to refute any of the arguments made above by Claire! Or did you dislike just by political correctness?

      • John Borstlap says:

        The exposition in Claire’s comment are based upon statistics and may give the impression, even to scientists, that it must be true. But statistics only measure the average. The ‘really great artists / composers’, a category already hard to precisely substantiate, are ALWAYS the exception to any average measurement. They are, from the point of view of the average and the normal, the ‘freaks’, not because they are burdened with psychological afflictions (some are, others not), but because their psychological make-up and inborn talents don’t fit into any category which is defined by statistical evidence. So, such statistics as referring to composers can have only a residu of truth except for the couple of people sticking-out, the so-called ‘geniusses’.

        The genius freaks have been male, but that says nothing about genius restricted to males. The relative absence of genius women is easily explained by culture and social mores. On that point, statistics with their bells and curves have nothing meaningful to say. I’m sure that it is entirely possible that in some future, a female genius appears in serious music – if that genre still exists. And she will be a one-off freak, in comparison to her environment. It is MORE peculiar that since, say, Bartok, Ravel and Stravinsky, there have not appeared comparable ‘geniusses’ since WW II, in spite of the enormous increase of information, educational opportunities, support programs, a wide network of funding support for new music, even composers unions, state-funded subsidy systems, libraries filled to the brim with propaganda material, festivals, and so much polite goodwill from opera companies (including the Vienna State Opera), orchestras, and the emerging of specialized ensembles – there NEVER ever was such a fertile breeding ground for budding musical geniusses. And yet, there does not seem to be any composer of that oldfashioned curious odd one-off personality and talent. Maybe in 100 years it will appear there were a couple and we just did not notice, but for the time being the difference between opportunity and achievement seems to be abyssmal. My suspicion is that it is exactly the average nature of all those support programs and systems which are designed for the average, not for the one talent sticking-out; so maybe the current geniusses, male of female, are simply filtered-out of the system which is geared to the average, like statistic bells and curves.

      • hsy says:

        “I challenge any of the dislikers to refute any of the arguments made above by Claire!” Refute the arguments? LOL. Let’s start with the basics.

        “the reach of the men’s bell curve would exceed that of the women’s” Claire should research what a bell curve looks like before she speaks. Hint: it extends to infinity at both ends. Did Claire even pass high school mathematics?

        To claim that the maximum of a sampling of one normal distribution is going to be greater than the max of a sampling of a marginally different normal distribution is beyond idiotic. But then we all know being idiotic is kind of a prerequisite to believe and peddle such pseudoscience.

        • Tamino says:

          No… while theoretically a bell curve like in a gaussian function approaches zero in infinity, in application to a finite sample size (humanity) it approaches zero (humans) in practical reality.

          Your second rebuttal is confused and false, ad hominem insults aside.

          • hsy says:

            “in application to a finite sample size (humanity) it approaches zero (humans) in practical reality.” You are not clear what “it” refers to here. You need to be more specific. Does “it” refer to gaussian functions? If so gaussian functions already approach zero as we move away from the mean and there is no need to invoke the finite size of samples to make this point. Indeed you pointed this out yourself. Please reread your first paragraph. You wrote “while … a gaussian function approaches zero …, in application … it approaches zero …”. Does that read like a sensible sentence to you?

            If I understood you correctly, you stated that the values of a finite sample must have a finite range — an obvious and true statement but that is neither here nor there.

            “Your second rebuttal is confused and false”

            Clearly the content of my “second rebuttal” is totally lost on you, because I didn’t write a second rebuttal. The third paragraph is a continuation of the second, and what I wrote is perfectly clear.

          • Tamino says:

            OK, now we try helping with elementary school grammar… Angry and ignorant people on high horses, tssss…

            My “it” refers to your “it”. And to the subject of my sentence, obviously…

            Your second rebuttal is in your third paragraph (in case you forgot what you wrote), obviously.

            And it makes no sense whatsoever. And it is mildly funny, that someone not understanding the Gaussian function calls others who cite it as idiotic. Try to humble yourself.

          • hsy says:

            Ah I see. You still have no idea what I wrote in paragraph 3. As I’ve said already, paragraph 3 is not a separate point but a continuation of paragraph 2, so please don’t repeat the “second rebuttal” nonsense again. Perhaps your confusion lies in the fact that you do not know what a “normal distribution” is? Try look it up. And I know what a Gaussian function is, thank you. You do not want to start an argument with me on mathematics.

    • anon says:

      The ignorant bigotry that shows up in classical music discussions remains as astounding as ever.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Yes, it seems that the art form attracts that sort of thing. It must be something embedded in the repertoire’s scores, but I have not been able to detect it.

      • John Borstlap says:

        A review from a naive someone who bought the nonsensical ideology of the work. Such production should be judged on the basis of musical quality.

        • I assume you are referring to Bernd Feuchtner’s review in Klasskinfo so you should be aware that the reviewer is the former editor in chief of opernwelt, former intendant of several important opera houses including salzburg and heidelberg and author of several books on music including a book on shostakovich. so your post shows how uninformed and biased your posts usually are…at least to my taste.

          • John Borstlap says:

            I’m not impressed by any status of anybody who expresses his/her opinion, I have my own and deliver the fitting arguments with it. In my experience, even the most experienced Intendant, orchestral artistic executive, any performer, any author of any book, can be wrong. History demonstrates this obvious truth overwhelmingly. The only thing that counts is argument. How could a reviewer NOT be mistaken or biassed? He should show it by argument. The arguments in this review are very weak and superficial, just not thought-through. That’s all.

          • At the very least Feuchtner talks about an opera he has seen while your so called comments and opinions is the usual preconceived rhetoric similar to Mein Kampf

          • John Borstlap says:

            True, I read Mein Kampf every evening to prepare for visiting Slipped Disc.

          • John Borstlap says:

            Thank you, that was very helpful. I had never, ever heard of that thing ‘Holocaust’. I tried to look it up in Mein Kampf but it was not mentioned there.

          • In all seriousness, given your penchant for poor English spelling and grammar as well as a lack of grasp for the English language, perhaps you should snuggle up to your bedside copy of “Das Judenthum in der Musik” by R.Wagner for Holocaust comprehension. That should be even more helpful.

          • John Borstlap says:

            ‘Wenn man nicht mehr weiter kann, fängt man mit dem Schimpfen an’.

            Poor English spelling and grammar? Lack of grasp for the English language? I’m befuddled…. my English is puffectly correct. Therefore, I repudiate your petulant expostulations.

            I have all my correspondence and these SD comments checked by my PA, maybe she added her own mistakes – although she’s very British, she is a blond.

            And then, the racist themes about RW are always dug-up with the intention to feel morally reassured, and these themes are so easy. But they are not so clear-cut as it may seem. Even Joachim Kohler, who wrote the accusing ‘Wagner’s Hitler’, dropped his ‘charges’:


    • JB says:

      Your mention and use of the bell curve in your argument is sadly defective – more study required.The conclusion ” it is statistically improbable there will ever be any great women composers” is simply unjustified. Being a composer involves many abilities and is not a single trait.
      You ignore how “greatness as a composer” does not just depend on the talents of the individual but depends on some social construction by others.

      • Tamino says:

        Agreed that the conclusion is unjustified. Genius personalities are rare anecdotal exceptions. So even if statistically more unlikely, it still can happen.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        There are plenty of “genius writers”. Lets name some: Jane Austin, George Elliot, the Bronte sisters etc. In fact, in literature it would be possible to claim there are as many great female writers as great male writers.

        Why would music composition fail to produce great female composers when literature has produced great female writers?

        • John Borstlap says:

          I have also to think of Marguerite Yourcenar, a fabulous writer and first women to be invited at the Académie Française.

          A factor for the absence of Great Female Composers may be that for writing a great book, one needs imagination, pen and paper, and a publisher. For writing a great musical work, one needs imagination, pen and paper, a publisher, and performers. Only when performers are prepared to spend effort and time on a score, its qualities may become apparent – qualities which cannot be assessed merely on inspecting the score. But a text is immediately completely present in its finite form. The trajectory with music is much longer.

  • Dennis says:

    The hype and marketing virtually ensures a climate that makes judging the work on its own merits (or demerits as the case may be) impossible. Women will praise it merely because it is written by a woman, and will claim it as breakthrough of some kind merely for that fact. Any men who criticize it will simply be accused of misogyny and attacked by social media lynch mobs.

  • Caranome says:

    This too, like 90% of modern “music”, will end up in the trash heap of history starting now.

    • John Borstlap says:

      But that does not matter, since ALL artistic production is average and most of it, in most periods and places, is not very good. It is the best and the precious that is preserved after it is noticed.

    • Tamino says:

      Was no different centuries ago. Only the best survived the test of times, more or less.

  • ... says:

    You have very little to say old chap so why did you bother?

  • Old Timer says:

    Any chance of a mute button on this website, to save me from having to scroll through acre after acre of 12th rate composers’ pompous and irritating ramblings..?

    • John Borstlap says:

      I proposed this already to Mr Lebrecht! There are more than one button I would like to have installed here!


  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    Yes, ‘he’s a chap’. Ergo, no intelligence, right or entitlement to comment. I’m sure you’re right: he would have been there thinking “I’m going to find fault with this because women should be at home in the kitchen”.

    Stop with the projections, already!!

  • Vienna calling says:

    I don’t care who wrote this. The music gave me a headache and the second act was a heap of plotless platitudes that went on forever. They just aimlessly stumbled around the stage and screamed empty slogans.

    • John Borstlap says:

      That is what progress means since WW II.

      • What a disgusting statement and very telling.

        • John Borstlap says:

          I know, it is difficult. Maybe this could clarify: the ONLY form of progress is improvement. But in the last century, for obvious reasons, the notion of progress became a value in itself, in the sense of: if something is new, it must be progress, and thus it must be improvement. It is a confusion of concepts and meaning, with people looking at science as a standard. The arts, and especially music, have been driven by such wrongheaded ideas about progress since WW II, with the result that finding something new became more important – because of being new – than finding something meaningful. And the notion of improvement disappeared and the result of such developments is, logically, THIS (official work at one of the famous establishment hubs for new music):

          The relationship with MS Neuwirth’s work seems clear. And the Vienna opera wants to be seen as welcoming the new, and its staff seem to think that she writes something new and progressive.

  • Larry L. Lash says:

    At the risk of turning the conversation to “Orlando,” how many of you listened to the broadcast of the premiere on Sunday night?

    It began a few minutes after 19:00 and lasted till 22:20, with the opera itself taking up about two hours and 40 minutes.

    (PLEASE NOTE: I am not in any way prejudiced against Neuwirth and her work. I totally love her opera of “Lost Highway” and have given great reviews to other works premiered at the annual Wien Modern festival.)

    I have to say that “Orlando” can’t be considered an opera, and will unlikely be produced again beyond the five performances given this month by Staatsoper: there are 25 soloists (some performing as many as three roles) of which some are actors, and some are singers whose performances have been recorded on video and are inserted into the live show. There is also a lot of live video (according to the information given by Staatsoper), a chorus of over 100 (in addition to the full Staatsoper chorus two additional choruses plus a children’s chorus had to be brought in), an onstage orchestra, and all kinds of live electronics. Large sections are spoken. Some of the spoken sections are pre-recorded – I could hear the echo in the auditorium on the broadcast.

    I gather that to be appreciated it must be seen: I can’t imagine anyone getting anything from just listening to it. The text (in English) is mostly indiscernible (the fact that they use a non-native-English-speaking actress in the large role of The Narrator doesn’t help), whether sung, spoken, chanted, in Sprechstimme, or screamed. Music and text rarely meet. There is a great deal of what I can call only sounds and sound effects, and quotes from every genre and composer from Early Music to Bach, Stravinsky, Berg, and other “classical composers” to 1960s rock and present day rap.

    There is very little of what we think of as singing, and most of it is assigned to the countertenor Guardian Angel, some of it rather punishing coloratura.

    The story goes beyond the 1928 Virginia Woolf novel and brings it into World War II, Vietnam, the hippie era, the Iraq War, computers and the internet, and a kind of parody of #MeToo and MAGA called “Us First!”

    Among the credits (of live performers) are a percussion soloist and an electric guitarist.

    Among the production crew credits are a director, set designer, video, costume designer, hair designer, mask creator, lights, movement director, live electronics and sound design, sound director, video programming, assistant director, video assistant, video animation, and finally, a dramaturg.

    I think it would have to be categorized as performance art, or music theatre, or multi-media art, but not opera (unless you want to take a real Dadaist interpretation of it).

    Polite applause mixed with booing at the immediate end; very loud boos mixed with bravos for Neuwirth and her co-librettist at their solo bows.

    I have no plans to see it live, but will watch the Livestream performance on 18 December.

    Maybe I will better understand Neuwirth’s intentions once I can have a look at what’s going on.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Now think about all the money being spent on such production, and the punky anti-bourgeois protest vision of the composer, and the need to get something (?) across with such mass of means and people, and compare it with the real genre of opera, which can even do with a handful of people and a minimum of means. A composer can say anything with only a few means at her/his disposal if she/he has enough musical and dramaturgical talent. Wagner’s Ring (another big scale attempt) has not put all other operas in the shadow, and its survival is not due to its scale and massive requirements, but to the parts of it which contain brilliant and expressive music. I think Ms Neuwirth should study the operas of Wagner, Debussy and Berg if she would want to write an opera.

      • Your accusatory sentiments are so bourgeois. Neuwirth’s main point was Fuck the patriarch’s

        • John Borstlap says:

          She said herself she was a punk composer. And indeed punks wanted to ‘f*** the p********’, but who are the p********’s? It is too vage and too wide a label to be really applicable. It is very ignorant and petty bourgeois to merely scream a slogan to feel to be on the right side of history, because one protests. It is also important to know where one is protesting against.

  • Bruce says:

    The NY Times critic loved the orchestral writing but thought the vocal writing was treated like an afterthought, and also the 2nd act went on had too much in the way of protest slogans and not enough plot.

    • John Borstlap says:

      A rather confused review, all about politics, people who boo’d the thing were inevitably fascists, all that talk about the predicaments of suppression etc. etc… the impression is that it is not at all about opera as a meaningful musical genre but about political gestures. There is nothing against political mesages in opera, or social messages, the point is that the music should reveal the human-all-too-human of what is seen on the stage. Such review merely describes a nonsensical, misconceived monstrum inspired by punk, not a serious work of art. Which is, of course, not very surprising.