Medea, opera in London


This video is about the opera Medea, playing in London, England.

By Anna Chen in Britain:

Medea

Coliseum, London WC2

Tuesday 12 March 2013

An ENO version of Medea ignores its subversive possibilities as a vision of imperial plunder and betrayal

It’s curious how many operas feature women who are outcasts in some way.

Carmen, Turandot, Violetta in La Traviata and Cho Cho San in Madam Butterfly transgress social norms and have to be punished for it.

ENO presents the first British production of Marc-Antoine Charpentier‘s 17th-century French baroque opera Medea, which has perhaps the ballsiest tragic outcast heroine of them all, bringing intellect and magical powers to the mix.

The action opens in the sanctuary of Corinth after Medea (mezzo-soprano Susan Connelly), princess of Colchis, has helped Jason (Jeffrey Francis) steal the golden fleece in order to restore him to his rightful place as king of Iolcos. She has betrayed her father, killed her own brother and escaped with Jason, bearing him two sons.

Having thus burnt her bridges spectacularly, she is in turn betrayed by the ambitious Jason who falls for Creusa, daughter of King Creon of Corinth.

Thomas Corneille‘s libretto echoes Euripides’s play of the Jason myth, which painted Medea as an archetypal woman scorned, her white-hot fury destroying not only her love rival but also her own sons in order to punish an errant husband.

Its misogynistic message – that powerful women are a devilish disturbance in the cosmic balance – demands questioning.

Coming from the edge of the ancient Hellenic world in what is now modern Georgia, where Asia and “barbarism” begin, Medea would have been a dark-skinned “other” compared to the fair Corinthians.

Mistrusted for the very powers that fulfil Jason’s ambitions and then, as a shamed, humiliated and displaced queen with nowhere to go, her sons would have been no better than slaves. Was killing them an act of mad revenge or one of mercy when all was lost?

The only hint of the latter is in the line buried in Euripides: “If I hesitate now someone else will murder them more cruelly.” Medea’s dilemma is fascinating and beyond any mere domestic upset.

It is therefore a pity that ENO’s production ignores those dramatic possibilities, sticking to the cliche of wrathful harpy aided by the demons of jealousy and vengeance.

Having timidly distilled conflict into blonde versus brunette, the designers stick Medea in a dowdy knee-length skirt suit with white tights that undermine her transformation into a supernatural force. This is a queen of somewhere very dark, not a bank manager.

Played by awesome house-shaking bass Brindley Sharratt, Creon’s fascist impulses (“We must silence all discontent”) are linked to his depraved incestuous desire for Creusa.

But, although the setting is updated to World War II, by failing to subvert the traditional reading of Medea’s motivations, this production misses the chance to do something exciting and different with a murderous tale of imperialist conquest, theft and betrayal.

Runs until March 16. Box office: (0207) 845-9300.

Antigone, Lysistrata and Medea: Feminism in Classical Greece: here.

Georgian president’s anti-Armenian prejudice


This video from when Mikheil Saakashvili still had dictatorial power in Georgia, is called The police tortured prisoners in Georgia.

Mikheil Saakashvili, contrary to his former colleague Mubarak of Egypt, is still president of Georgia.

Even though his party lost the parliamentary elections. Indignation among Georgian voters about horrible sexual torture of prisoners was so big, that even Saakashvili’s electoral fraud could not help him to win.

Saakashvili has a record of stirring up hatred against South Ossetians and Abkhazians. He started a bloody war to reconquer South Ossetia and Abkhazia. He counted on his chum George W Bush in the White House in the USA to help him in that war. However, not even George W Bush was that crazy to go all the way to a nuclear world war against Russia. Saakashvili lost the war. The war which cost the impoverished Georgian people many dead, many wounded and much money.

If Saakashvili was not stirring up hatred against South Ossetians or Abkhazians, then he was stirring up hatred against gay people, or against opposition party supporters.

Or he was stirring up hatred against Armenians. Unfortunately, not was, but is.

From the Civil.ge site in Georgia:

Armenian Church in Georgia ‘Condemns’ Saakashvili’s Statement on Chakhalyan

Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 27 Jan.’13 / 18:57

President Saakashvili’s “incorrect” statements on the release of Vahagn Chakhalyan, an activist from Georgia’s pre-dominantly ethnic Armenian populated region, who was serving a prison term for charges related to weapons, armed hooliganism and acts against public order, are contributing to “dissemination of anti-Armenian sentiments,” Armenian Church in Georgia said in a statement on January 26.

Chakhalyan was released on January 24 as a result of a broad amnesty passed by the Georgian Parliament late last year after serving four and half years of his ten-year prison term.

President Saakashvili condemned release of Chakhalyan and described him as “the enemy of the Georgian state”. He said that Chakhalyan was released upon the request of head of the Armenian Apostolic Church Karekin II to Georgian PM Bidzina Ivanishvili; he also said that PM Ivanishvili “committed a grave misconduct” by allowing Chakhalyan’s release and added that the PM did so in order “to please” Russia.

UNM [Saakashvili’s party] secretary general Vano Merabishvili, who was the interior minister when Chakhalyan was arrested, also condemned Chakhalyan’s release and described him as “a symbol of struggle against the Georgian statehood”, “inspirer of separatism in Javakheti”, “emissary of Russian military intelligence” and “major enemy of the Georgian statehood in Javakheti”.

The Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Georgia released a statement on January 26 saying that it “condemns” remarks of this kind by the President and other UNM leaders.

With such statements, it said, the President and former interior minister acknowledged that “there actually was no justice when UNM was in power”.

“If Chakhalyan was really a separatist and an agent, why was not he convicted under relevant articles of the criminal code? There is one explanation to this paradox: the previous authorities used the justice system against their political opponents,” the statement reads.

“Moreover, President Saakashvili allowed himself to mention the name of His Holiness, Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II, saying that Vahagn Chakhalyan was released upon His Holiness’ request. We would like to highlight that this request was based on humanistic beliefs and had originated from Chakhalyan’s parents’ appeal which could not have remained without the attention of the Spiritual Pastor of All Armenians,” the statement reads, adding that Chakhalyan was released because the law on amnesty applied to him.

It called on politicians “not to use for their short-term political objectives issues, which directly concern peace and calmness in our multiethnic homeland, as well as relationship between our brotherly people of Georgia and Armenia.”

“We are convinced that despite all political or other circumstances, our nations will continue strengthening and deepening good-neighborly and fraternal relations. Ethnically Armenian citizens of Georgia were and will continue to be devoted sons of Georgia,” the Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Georgia said.

Chakhalyan, who was with one of the Akhalkalaki-based groups which staged several protest rallies in 2005 against withdrawal of the Russian military base from Akhalkalaki and which was calling for an autonomy for the Javakheti region, was arrested in July, 2008 and initially charged with illegal keeping of weapons; later more charges were added involving hooliganism, acts against public order and resisting officials for incidents dating back for 2005 and 2006 including the one when protesters stormed a court chamber and a building of the Tbilisi State University’s local branch in Akhalkalaki. His supporters condemned Chakhalyan’s arrest and consequent conviction as politically motivated.

Georgian bird migration and bird killing


People study bird migration not only in Sweden, or in the Netherlands, but also in many other countries like Georgia.

This video says about itself:

Batumi Raptor Count (www.batumiraptorcount.org) is an international project for the study and conservation of a critically concentrated autumn migration of birds of prey in the Old World.

From 2008 till 2010, for two months every autumn an international group of volunteers from over 10 countries has conducted a pioneering work in raptor migration monitoring at the eastern Black Sea coast. This compilation gives an impression of day to day life in the BRC project. Long days of counting 10,000´s of migrating raptors on a hilltop near the subtropical forest, meeting local people, working in an international team …

Some traditional Georgian music and Shantel set some atmosphere for the imagery of this international project in the Caucasus.

Especially the Adjara region in western Georgia is important for migrating raptors and other birds (rollers, black storks, etc. etc.). A narrow strip of land of a few kilometer is there, with on one side the Black Sea, across which many birds don’t like to fly, and on the other side the foothills of the Caucasus mountains, which migrating birds don’t like either.

So, this small coastal area in Adjara is excellent to see the migrating birds pass.

In 2008, the Batumi Raptor Count was founded there, to observe the migration. They found that every autumn, over 850,000 birds of prey, not counting other birds, pass through the narrow coastal corridor. Many more birds than people presumed before the counting started. Saghalvasho village is a good point for observation.

Unfortunately, poachers know about this bird migration as well. They shoot honey buzzards and steppe buzzards for food (there is much poverty in Georgia), and other, inedible, raptor species for “fun”. Many of these shooters do not have any licence to hunt. Many others do. However, according to laws in Georgia, licensed hunters can shoot songbirds and quail; but killing raptors is illegal.

What does Georgian police do against this bird crime? Hardly anything, according to Dutch Vroege Vogels radio on Sunday 7 October 2012. It seems that Georgian President Saakashvili needs too much police for violence against peaceful anti-government demonstrators, and for torturing prisoners sexually. Now that Saakashvili’s party has lost the recent parliamentary elections in spite of government election rigging, one should hope that things will become better for people, and for birds, in Georgia.

Batumi raptor update, August 2013: here.

October 2012. A flock of Greater Flamingos were shot by at least one illegal hunter standing on Malta’s shoreline at Qawra in full view of passers by, as the flock flew overhead across Salina Bay. Three are thought to have been killed, falling into the sea and two others were injured. A third injured flamingo was also seen flying very low around another bay: here.

October 2012. As the hen harrier teeters on the brink of extinction as a breeding bird in England, Coalition and Welsh Government Ministers have a once in a lifetime opportunity to tackle the illegal killing of birds of prey in England and Wales, and must not waste it: here.

Georgians demonstrate against sexual abuse scandal


This video is called Torture Tape Rage: Thousands protest Georgian prison horror.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Protesters demand justice in shocking prison abuse scandal

Sunday 23 September 2012

Thousands rallied again on Friday in Georgia to demand the prosecution of ministers fired in a prison abuse scandal.

The protests, sparked by graphic videos showing guards in the Gldani prison in Tbilisi brutally beating prisoners and raping them with truncheons and broom handles, have ratcheted up the pressure on President Mikhail Saakashvili.

He has sought to contain the damage by sacking prison bosses but, despite that, protesters increased their demands as rallies went into a third day.

They inisted that Interior Minister Bacho Akhalaya and others be brought to justice.

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered overnight outside Gldani, stopping several prison vans and asking prisoners inside whether they had been abused.

Protesters also gathered outside another prison in the city of Rustavi.

See also here.

Georgian prison sexual abuse


This video from TV9 in Georgia is called Georgian prisoners rape in Tbilisi 2012.

From Human Rights Watch:

Georgia: Investigate Sexual Abuse in Prison

Graphic Video Material Points to Need for Accountability

September 19, 2012

(Berlin) – Video footage broadcast on Georgian television on September 18, 2012, depicts sexual and other abuse of inmates in a notorious prison in Georgia, which should be subject to criminal investigation, Human Rights Watch said today. The government of Georgia should conduct a prompt, thorough, and independent investigation into the abuse, hold those found responsible accountable, and ensure the victims a remedy.

A Georgian corrections official stated publicly that the head of the penitentiary department has been dismissed as a result of the abuse and that several other officials have been arrested. Acts of a criminal nature, such as assault and including sexual assault, should be subject to criminal investigations and prosecutions, and not simply disciplinary sanctions, Human Rights Watch said.

“The abuse captured in this footage is profoundly disturbing,” said Giorgi Gogia, senior Europe and Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities need to ensure full accountability—including criminal accountability—for this abuse and take measures to prevent it from ever happening again.”

Human Rights Watch also said that those under suspicion for involvement in the abuse should be suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.

On September 18, the Interior Ministry issued a statement saying it had opened an investigation into ill-treatment in Gldani Prison No.8 against prisoners by “certain penitentiary department employees.” The statement included a link to video footage allegedly taken by one of the former employees of the prison administration depicting physical assault on prisoners by members of the prison administration.

That evening, a talk show on Maestro television station broadcast further video materials depicting Gldani prison officials beating, insulting, and humiliating newly arrived inmates at Gldani prison No. 8. Shortly afterward, another TV station, TV9, aired further video footage vividly and graphically depicting rape of prisoners by prison staff.

The Interior Ministry statement acknowledged the ill-treatment. However, it claimed that several prison officials video recorded the abuse as part of a “previously elaborated plot” by one of the inmates, who convinced several prison staff to carry it out in exchange for “substantial reimbursement.”

Georgia’s human rights ombudsman has often referred to Gldani Prison No. 8 as one of Georgia’s most problematic prison facilities. In a 2010 report, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture said that former inmates of the Gldani prison alleged that staff had punched, kicked, and struck them with truncheons during the intake process and as punishment for such actions as talking loudly or attempting to communicate with prisoners from other cells. The report also said it found “an uncommon silence” by prisoners the committee met in the prison.

Georgian authorities have an obligation under international human rights law not only to effectively investigate all allegations of ill-treatment and torture, but to enforce criminal sanctions against those identified as criminally responsible, Human Rights Watch said. Victims of the abuse are also entitled to a legally enforceable remedy for their violations, Human Rights Watch said.

“Sexual assault on a detainee constitutes torture,” Gogia said. “The prohibition on torture is absolute, and the government should ensure that the justice is done.”

From the BBC:

Georgia prison abuse film sparks protests

Video footage showing prisoners being abused by guards in Georgia has triggered anti-government protests in the country.

Uniformed officers in Tbilisi’s jail are seen severely beating inmates and sexually assaulting one with a broom.

And, like other regimes facing domestic scandals do by trying to shift attention away from the domestic scandals to foreign “enemies”: Georgia Masses Troops, Equipment, Planes On Abkhazian, South Ossetian Borders.