Mr. Neuenfels's version is Modern German--i.e., gratuitously offensive. It is more Neuenfels than Mozart. Instead of appearing as the harbinger of peace, Idomeneo ends the opera parading the severed heads of Poseidon, Jesus, Buddha and the Prophet Muhammad. How do you spell "anachronistic balderdash"?The production -- which has already been seen, back in 2003 -- seems to be a desecration of Mozart and quite hostile to three religions -- four if anyone's still into Poseidon -- but Deutsche Oper has cancelled the production specifically out of concern for how it will affect Muslims.
Poor Mozart. Mr. Neuenfels is one of those directors more interested in nurturing his own pathologies than in offering a faithful presentation of the geniuses with whose work he has been entrusted.
There is a certain irony in all this. Our avant-gardist artistic establishment preens itself on being "transgressive," "challenging," "provocative," etc. But it prefers to exercise its anti-bourgeois animus within the coddled purlieus of bourgeois security. It has discovered that there is a big difference between exhibiting photographs of Christ on the cross in a bottle of urine or Madonna having herself "crucified" on her current concert tour and poking fun at Muhammad. The former earns you the delicious obloquy of the Catholic establishment while shoring up your credentials as a brave artistic and moral pioneer. The latter sends murderous hordes into the streets looking for something, or someone, to destroy.This is a complex problem. Neuenfels's production takes the easy faux-daring route of "Piss Christ" and the Madonna crucifixion, but at least he had the nerve to hit all religions equality, and not to single out one religion. Perhaps he did that because it wouldn't have made any sense to go after the conventional target of Christianity when it's an opera about the Trojan War. It doesn't make all that much sense to drag Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad into that setting either, but bringing them all in to join their super best friend Poseidon made some kind of crazy sense.
There are plenty of good reasons to refrain from gratuitously insulting other people's religions. For one thing, it is bad manners. One should respect what is respectable in the habits, mores and beliefs of other people.
But this does not mean that we should allow ourselves to be blackmailed by militant fanatics who shelter under the authority of religion and employ the freedoms of Western democracy to attack and undermine those very freedoms.
Now that some Muslims have made it painfully obvious that religion-taunting is not an easy game anymore, abandoning it expresses fear, not respect for religion. And continuing to disrespect the religions that don't lash back only highlights that cowardice. Poor transgressive rebel artists! How are they to shock the middle class anymore?