Jewish outrage at Samson opera
The Jewish community in Belgium last week lashed out at Flanders Opera – over a production that will not take place until the end of the month.
The bone of contention is the production of Samson et Dalila (photo) by French composer Camille Saint-Saëns, directed by Israeli-Palestinian duo Omri Nitzan and Amir Nizar-Zuabi. Although details of the exact plans for the performance are not yet known outside of the company, they have already said that they regard the Samson story as an allegory for the current situation in the Middle East. The opera production will also be accompanied by debates and film screenings.
In the latest issue of the Flemish magazine Joods Actueel, editorialist Guido Joris attacks the inclusion of films he says are anti-Israeli, such as Arna’s Children, which describes the 2002 attack on the Palestinian refugee camp Jenin as “a bloodbath”. He also expressed concern that the décor and costumes of the opera might be provocative, including the burning of an Israeli flag “as has happened before in Belgium”.
“Flanders Opera is absolutely not an anti-Israeli organisation,” said opera spokesman Wilfried Eetezonne. “We are very disturbed by this premature criticism.” The company manager, Aviel Cahn, who is Jewish, said in a statement: “It is the duty of art in our time to look at trends and society in a critical manner. Our challenge with the production of Samson et Dalila is to cast a critical eye on an extremely complex situation in which the struggle between oppressors and oppressed provokes an explosion of violence.”
The production has the support of the EU’s commissioner for foreign affairs, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, and will also be presented in Tel Aviv. Cahn invited Joods Actueel to a performance and to take part in a debate. The magazine has yet to reply.