On elections eve, Israeli composer to stage ‘Drumf’ opera in NY
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On elections eve, Israeli composer to stage ‘Drumf’ opera in NY

Matti Kovler’s bawdy piece lampoons Republican candidate’s ‘mermaid’ wives; other Trump-inspired artists to perform three separate productions of 75-year-old play about Hitler

The New York City production of 'The Drumf and the Rhinegold,' October 31, 2016 (Courtesy: Floating Tower)
The New York City production of 'The Drumf and the Rhinegold,' October 31, 2016 (Courtesy: Floating Tower)

BOSTON, Massachusetts — Israeli-born composer Matti Kovler is not a United States citizen, but that didn’t stop him from lambasting presidential candidate Donald Trump in his new opera, called “The Drumf and the Rhinegold.”

The Trump-inspired production, which premiered in New York City the night before Halloween, made its way to Boston on Wednesday night. There, as part of the Boston New Music Festival presented by Juventas New Music Ensemble, Kovler set up the plot of his 15-minute opera for the audience.

“The Drumf surrounds himself with gold, and everything is concealed within that world of gold,” said Kovler. The opera, said Kovler, is about Trump’s current and third wife, Slovenian-born Melania Trump.

For much of the high-pitched production, a bathrobe-clad Melania sings about loving “shiny things,” often atop a bed. In the form of operatic mermaids, Trump’s first two wives — Ivana Trump and Marla Maples — appear as “Rheinmaidens” in search of the “Rhinegold,” a treasure hidden among the glitter of Trump’s gold-distorted world.

In addition to dealing with the arrival of Ivana and Marla, hanging over Melania’s well-coiffed head is the fact that “the Drumf changes wives every 15 years, and Melania is about to age-out,” as Kovler put it.

Unbeknownst to “Drumf” audiences in Manhattan and Boston, Kovler’s inspiration for the opera had a lot to do with anti-Semitism.

Kovler told The Times of Israel he has long wanted to produce a work in response to famed German composer Richard Wagner, a leading anti-Semite and posthumous mentor for Adolf Hitler. Using Wagner’s famed “Ring Cycle” as a framework, Kovler decided to come up with his own cycle related to the US election.

The New York City production of 'The Drumf and the Rhinegold,' October 31, 2016 (Courtesy: Floating Tower)
The New York City production of ‘The Drumf and the Rhinegold,’ October 31, 2016 (Courtesy: Floating Tower)

“I decided to mock a 15-hour opera in just 15-minutes,” said the prolific Kovler. “And within that cycle would be the 15-year cycles of the Drumf’s wives,” he said.

For Kovler, the connection between Wagner and Trump is the anti-Semitism flamed by each man. The composer said he was “very disturbed” by anti-Semitic imagery and messaging in some Trump campaign ads and messaging.

“The Jewish link to this production is that with Wagner, we are connecting one of history’s worst anti-Semites to a presidential candidate who has significant support from anti-Semites,” said the Brooklyn-based Kovler.

‘The most unprecedented election in US history’

 

For its New York premiere, “The Drumf” was staged in an empty, 7,000-square foot building near Manhattan’s Grand Central Station. Billed as an “immersive installation,” attendees and the production floated between four sets in the building, including the spa of Trump Tower.

The New York City production of 'The Drumf and the Rhinegold,' October 31, 2016 (Courtesy: Floating Tower)
The New York City production of ‘The Drumf and the Rhinegold,’ October 31, 2016 (Courtesy: Floating Tower)

During the opera’s frenzied finale, the Drumf was tossed into an inflatable pool representing the Rhine River. A small flood ensued as Trump’s ex-wives gathered around Melania, still clad in a white bathrobe and high heels.

“The Drumf was dumped nine times in the waters of the Rhine,” said Kovler with pride.

In the absence of a water-filled pool, the Boston production settled for Melania being chased around the venue by an orange wig standing in for Trump. Attendees struggled to capture the fast-moving spectacle on cellphones. Producers encouraged them to post pictures and share “Drumf” on social media.

“After the show I received dozens of emails from people,” said Kovler. “The one that stood out is a women telling me that ‘Drumf’ was a ‘cleansing experience’ for her following all the negativity of the campaign,” said the 36-year old composer, who will stage “Drumf” at Brooklyn’s Pioneer Works on Monday night, the day before the elections.

Israeli-born composer Matti Kovler introduces his Donald Trump-based opera in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as part of the Boston New Music Festival presented by Juventas New Music Ensemble, on November 2, 2016 (Matt Lebovic/The Times of Israel)
Israeli-born composer Matti Kovler introduces his Donald Trump-based opera in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as part of the Boston New Music Festival presented by Juventas New Music Ensemble, on November 2, 2016 (Matt Lebovic/The Times of Israel)

To tap into Trump Mania, not all productions need to be about the presidential candidate himself. At three separate theaters in New York City’s East Village, productions of the 1941 play, “The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui,” have resonated with Trump-allergic audiences in recent weeks. Without coordination, each company decided to produce Bertolt Brecht’s satirical allegory on the rise of Adolf Hitler.

In Brecht’s little-known play, the namesake antagonist is a Chicago mobster known for his misogyny, xenophobia, and ability to ruthlessly bully opponents off the field. With such a framework, The Lyra Theater’s Noam Shapiro told The New York Times he did not need to change a word of the 75-year-old play before producing it. Brecht based every scene on an historical event tied to the rise of Nazism, including the burning of the Reichstag, Germany’s annexation of Austria, and the mayhem induced by Hitler’s cronies.

Whether reviving “The Resistable Rise of Anthony Ui” or creating new productions, American Jews (think Jon Stewart) are at the forefront of satirizing Trump. Not all of these activists, however, are opposed to a Trump presidency.

Soprano opera singer Ariadne Greif appears as Melania Trump in the New York City production of 'The Drumf and the Rhinegold,' October 31, 2016 (Courtesy: Floating Tower)
Soprano opera singer Ariadne Greif appears as Melania Trump in the New York City production of ‘The Drumf and the Rhinegold,’ October 31, 2016 (Courtesy: Floating Tower)

Prominent Wall Street Journal columnist Daniel Henninger is a one-time Hillary Clinton supporter who now advocates for Trump. This week, Henninger published a pro-Trump “opera” complete with a “Crooked Hillary” character and gags about the Clinton power couple’s alleged “pay-to-play” antics, which Henninger believes will lead to years of Congressional investigations if Clinton wins.

Also, on Election Day in New York City, composer Gene Pritsker will premiere his 45-minute violin concerto, “Trump: A Theatrical Concerto,” at a multimedia art cabaret called (Le) Poisson Rouge. Unlike Henninger’s opera, Pritsker’s concerto and the artist himself are decidedly inspired by Hillary Clinton.

“The concerto will explore the insanity which has creeped into our political system causing the most unprecedented election in US history,” according to a production statement. The solo violinist will stand in for “the Devil, who is responsible for all of Trump’s bizarre outbursts,” according to Pritsker.

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