European Diary

Unfair Play

A few months ago I found myself stranded in Piccadilly.  There was a parade of women—of a decidedly Sapphic cast, I thought—carrying placards with slogans that admonished men for their proclivity to rape, violence, and pillage.  Most prominent was a sign that read “No Means No,” its message being, supposedly, that when a woman refuses a man’s advances, she may not be flirting.  I approached one of the sign bearers.  “Darling,” I said, “you are so behind the times.  To the really progressive person nowadays, ‘Yes’ means ‘No.’”

I recalled that episode at Palermo’s Teatro Massimo while there in May for the premiere of their new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni.  An excellent cast, with my Russian émigré friend Mikhail Ryssov, an exquisite bass, as the Commendatore, a ravishing Donna Anna, and one of the world’s leading baritones, Carlos Álvarez, in the title role of “young and licentious nobleman.”  Don Giovanni, which had its first performance in Prague in 1787 with Mozart at the podium, today ranks tenth on the list of the world’s most frequently performed operas.  “Small wonder,” as the flower maidens obstructing Piccadilly would doubtless chorus.  “Rape, violence, pillage!”

Indeed, an original title...

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