Dodgy Dresden Ball honours a military dictator

Dodgy Dresden Ball honours a military dictator


norman lebrecht

January 26, 2020

The Dresden Semper Opera Ball, shadowed by recent allegations of fomenting hatred, will today award the Order of St. George in Cairo to the Egyptian dictator Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

The Ball’s artistic director Hans-Joachim Frey said: ‘Our motto for the St. George’s order is ‘Adverso Flumine – Gegen den Strom’. That means we also make decisions that are very important for future developments.’ Apparently, bankrupt Egypt is building a new opera house.

Saxony’s Economics Minister Martin Dulig (SPD) called the decision shameful. He said: ‘Those who want to honour an autocrat and oppressor like Al-Sisi for PR reasons are acting irresponsibly.’


  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    If true, a very strange decision. Anything is preferable to an Islamist government, but it is still a very brutal dictatorship & does not deserve an award by a western institution.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Indeed. This sinks the reputation of the Semperoper considerably, and adds to the problems East Germany has with rightwing extremism and neonazis.

      • Tamino says:

        The Semperoper has nothing to do with that. Hans-Joachim Frey is not associated with Semperoper. He rents the venue for a ball.

        • John Borstlap says:

          Nonetheless, the Semperoper will be tainted by association.

        • Tiredofitall says:

          True, but the Semperoper made the decision to rent out the opera house. They made a conscious decision to profit from this debacle and now share in the fallout. It’s called responsibility.

          • Tamino says:

            True, but I give them the benefit of the doubt, for this time, that their contract lawyers were not imaginative enough, to include provisions like „no dictators shall be honored“ and „no Armenian singers shall be excluded, based on nationalistic hatred“.

      • Alviano says:

        The Semperoper Ball is, I believe, a separate organization, although the Semperoper is clearly tarnished by this story, even if technically innocent.

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        You are talking about a perception of Dresden (since East Germany no longer exists). Remember that every action has an opposite re-action and if you don’t want extremism consult the people before moving 1 million aliens into your country, inviting them to walk across the borders of sovereign nations to get there. Tramp, tramp, tramp along the hi-way. And then criticize those countries when they complain because your nation alone holds the monopoly on international virtue.

        Pass me the bucket – and make it a BIG one.

        • V.Lind says:

          Maybe a nation that marched so many people out of its country, figuratively speaking, has a deep-seeded need to make sure its borders are open rather than closed to people in need of refuge. Yes, perhaps mistakes have been made in administering this policy, but it was a policy conceived in something for which you appear to have little understanding: human kindness.

        • willymh says:

          As you are so able to explain the rise of extremism today could you explain then the extremism of the mid-20th century in the same region?

  • fflambeau says:

    Note these noted democrats who are past winners of the same award: Previous winners of the Order of St. George include Russia’s head of state Vladimir Putin and Saudi Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz.

    Hans-Joachim Frey defended his decision basically by saying that it was based on financial reasons: “But it is not a political order in the sense that it is a cultural event, says Frey. Rather, a large national museum on Egyptian history was opened in Cairo. An opera house will also open at the end of the year. “This is where culture arises. And we want to build cultural bridges to create a mediating language between regions, and that’s the reason why we want to honor al-Sisi.”ut to Egypt for financial reasons: “And we want to build cultural bridges to create a mediating language between regions, and that’s the reason why we want to honor al-Sisi.”


  • Sharon says:

    If I recall al-Sisi overthrew the democratically elected Islamists who were allowing for freedom of speech, I believe. Is anything preferable to an Islamist government? Not the “very brutal” al -Sisi

    • Saxon Broken says:

      While democratically elected, the Islamist government were not in any way a bastion for freedom-of-speech and liberal values. They viewed their victory as an opportunity for revenge.

  • Giobaba says:

    Many thanks from Italy
    Giulio Regeni 15 January 1988–25 January 2016
    was an Italian Cambridge University graduate who was abducted and tortured to death in Egypt

  • willymh says:

    Why does Cairo need a new opera house – the current one is only thirty years old? And I recall from our time living there wasn’t much happening on a regular basis.

    And what exactly were the “Financial considerations”?