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Our Island What hopes, dreams and fears do the artists of the Bayerische Staatsoper associate with Europe? Some very personal responses. Transcribed by Heilwig Schwarz-Schütte

Illustration Arne Bellstorf

(…) The Best of Everything for Everyone I was born in Spain, when Europe was in the worst war of all time. But since the war ended, despite various unrests and crises, there has not been another that spanned the entire continent. That’s because people have chosen to disregard their differences in language and ethnicity and, instead, to work towards abolishing borders and making the best of their country accessible to all other countries. This is a great asset for us European citizens. I have dedicated my life to opera, an art form that has its origins in Italy and has since become part of the culture of nearly every European country – of virtually the whole world. Much of what is now standard repertoire was composed in the 19th century, an era of nationalism. Yet, if you think of Verdi’s operas, for example; they are not only set in Italy, but in Poland, Germany, Austria, Sweden, Spain, England, Scotland, Greece, France or Cyprus, as well – and that’s already more than a third of the European Union together! Until the end of August, I will be singing and conducting in Berlin, Dresden, Graz, Ljubljana, Milan, Munich, Orange, Baden-Baden, Madrid, Prague, Verona, Rome and Salzburg – 13 European cities in seven EU countries. Each of these cities has its own particularities, which are part of European culture. How could I not love Europe? Plácido Domingo, 78, conductor, Spain

I see the quarrels on the street, antagonism and discrimination based on the dark color of someone’s skin. Issa Alhafissa, 24, participant EVA UND ADAM, Syria (…) Safeguarding our Bodies I left my home country of Spain at the same time as a good friend, who also dances ballet. He went to the New York City Ballet and got a job there, while I ended up in London. That was before I came to Munich. As we settled into our lives on the two continents, the different realities of our dancing experiences became more and more apparent. Suddenly, I realized how lucky I am to be dancing in Europe. Here, we have excellent medical care. Here, the dance company steps up if you need therapy and support. In New York, there is a hard logic that makes it more difficult for you to survive as a dancer: If you hurt yourself, you earn less because you can’t perform, but you still have to pay the rent and finance your life as if nothing had happened. This safety net in Europe is enormously important, because our bodies are our only tool – we can’t just run out and get a new one if it requires repair. Marta Navarrete Villalba, 25, ballet dancer, Spain (…)

Fear of Racism I come from Syria and have been living in Munich for two years. For me, Europe means Germany, because I was given support here and that means a lot to me. Here, I can go to school. Here, I can do as I wish, be free. I don’t get this kind of support anywhere else. It’s a highly valuable thing. But when I think of Germany, I also see racism and discrimination and then I get scared. I know they’re isolated cases, but I think its a problem for our society. In Syria, I never thought about racism. It just wasn’t an issue, because we all looked the same. Here, society is much more multicultural. Here,

English Excerpts


Profile for Bayerische Staatsoper

MAX JOSEPH 4/2019 | Die Münchner Opernfestspiele 2019