Tuesday, March 28, 2017

What a charade in Dubai


Money was doubtless the reason for franchising the BBC Proms to the oil-rich but ethically-challenged emirate of Dubai. However just one of many concerns about classical music's endorsement of the United Arab Emirates is the regime's overt homophobia, which makes demonised Russia look distinctly gay-friendly. As stated by UAE lawyer and government spokesperson Dr. Habib al-Mulla: "This is a conservative society. Homosexuality, conducted homosexuality is an illegal act*. And we are not ashamed of that”. Presumably BBC Radio 3 presenter Petroc Trelawny, who has publicly expressed support for LGBT+ causes and who travelled without demur to Dubai to present the franchised Proms, and BBC Proms controller Alan Davey who is also aligned with the LGBT+ community, are both well aware of the UAE's stance on homosexuality. But in classical music today money speaks louder words, and the Gulf media's critical appreciation of western classical music was clearly not the reason why Dubai was favoured with a Proms franchise; as this extract from the review of the first concert by the UAE's leading English language newspaper The National shows, :
In residence is the renowned BBC Symphony Orchestra which — under the baton of distinguished Proms veteran Edward Gardner — gave over the evening’s second half to William Walton’s Symphony No. 1, a formulaic assault of pomp, grandeur and cliché which, premiered in 1935, chimed a wantonly oblivious note of pride from an empire on the slow march towards collapse.
* Article 177 of the Penal Code of Dubai imposes imprisonment of up to 10 years on consensual sodomy. Before the twitterati complain about negative caricaturing of Emiratis I would point out that the serendipitous header cartoon depicts William Walton with Edith Sitwell in drag and is sampled from a YouTube video of Walton's Facade. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Also on Facebook and Twitter.

3 comments:

Philip Amos said...

When I think that Petroc Trelawny could have been jailed for ten years on a charge of working illegally in Zimbabwe...the saddest words the poet wrote: "What might have been". Anyway, for their next visit, I should suggest a concert performance of Britten's Billy Budd. A 'banner' translation, of course, and best to include the stage directions: "Clear the decks of seamen". And also, surely, a concert that includes Elgar's Symphony No.1 and all the Pomp and Circumstance Marches. If the Walton has the reviewer's imagination running riot, Elgar should induce an apoplectic diatribe of misunderstanding.

JMW said...

"...a wantonly oblivious note of pride from an empire on the slow march towards collapse." They could have played Vivaldi's Four Seasons and that jaundiced reviewer's blighted ears would have projected the same societal entropy upon it. When there is an agenda, one hears what one desires.

Graeme said...

I haven't heard the performance but was there no suggestion of malinconia?