A conceptual opera with a ravaged finale

Wandering around the internet, one can make some quite unexpected encounters. My most recent one has been with German composer Johannes Kreidler. I had never heard of him, despite the fact that he seems to be quite accomplished. What captured my attention was the video of his Music Theatre piece Audioguide III, which you can find here in its entirety.

Now, I confess, it took all my good will and then some to listen to the whole thing, but I honestly wanted to give it a chance to see if the end of the piece was somewhat justified. After all, you don’t get to see that kind of spectacle every day. As the author describes it on his website, this is a conceptual opera, a collage of the present built on small and large modules, different every time. Infused with philosophical essence, the climax should be a cathartic destruction of 66 violins.

This is where I have a problem: how is it cathartic to demolish a work of art? I’m sure these were inexpensive factory instruments, but even those hold, at their very core, 300 years of expertise, science and craftsmanship. Let’s pretend that this was not a relevant issue; another question I have is: what kind of message is passing on with this piece?

Emotional forces, trauma and revenge lead to these actions, associating the ravages with a mix of pleasure and pain. One could argue that the history of opera is full of ambiguous models and that, after all, this is just one more to add to the pile. However, Kant, who seems to be a fil rouge throughout the piece, is, in my opinion, distorted to support the composer’s thoughts – or, worse, to justify intellectually a pure spectacle that otherwise could not be backed up by any logic.

The feelings of the beauty, cited by Mr. Kreidler, are for Kant always joyous and smiling. Maybe he is referring to the feelings of the sublime, which can provoke enjoyment but with horror. And this is where he falls short in his association of beauty or sublime and catharsis: given the day-to-day horror show running under our eyes in the news, who could enjoy or take any more of this destruction orgy? Since when violence became cathartic?

Perhaps I am too naive, but destruction only makes me sad or angry, I do not find beauty and certainly not catharsis in it and I surely hope other people do not either.


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