Sunday, November 3, 2013

Ivan Fischer's Opera—'The Red Heifer'—Acts As A Stinging Rebuke Of Rising Anti-Semitism In Hungary

Ritural Purification

Ivan Fischer, who composed “The Red Heifer.”
Photo Credit: Marco Borggreve
Source: NYT

An article, by Rachel Donadio, in The New York Times says that an opera—“The Red Heifer”— by Ivan Fischer, a Hungarian conductor, serves as a rebuke for the increasing tolerance for anti-Semitism in Hungary.

Donadio writes:
Based on an infamous 19th-century case in which a group of Jews were wrongly accused in the death of a Hungarian peasant girl, Mr. Fischer’s opera, “The Red Heifer,” is a vivid display of how cultural figures have emerged as some of the most vocal critics of Hungary’s rightward and authoritarian drift under Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

At a time when the traditional left-wing political opposition is hobbled by corruption scandals and its Communist past, Mr. Fischer is among a growing group of artists challenging a government that has tested the ideals of the European Union. The others include the pianist Andras Schiff and a popular theater director, Robert Alfoldi, who was ridiculed by right-wing politicians for his homosexuality.
The tensions in Hungary come as many right-wing parties are on the rise across the Continent and cultural figures from France to Greece to Eastern Europe are starting to respond. At the same time, many former Soviet countries are wrestling with their identities, pulled between the market and social forces of the West and deeply rooted national tendencies.
True enough. In crisis, many nations tend to do the easiest thing and look for enemies and scapegoats. Jews have long been the traditional victims, and Hungary, which has had a long history of anti-Semitism, sadly continues on this well-worn path. You would think that the right-wing agitators would look at history, since such tactics and fear-mongering has never been successful, and in the case of  Hungary will not bring its people any prosperity or  better their lives in any significant way. It will only serve as a distraction and delay it dealing with, and delving into, the nation’s real problems.

The red heifer has biblical significance related to ritual purification. You can read the rest of the article at [NYT].