First Tim Mangan.
Now Jessica Duchen.
Poor Carl Orff takes -- again -- one for the team, and Carmina Burana endures the billionth slam of its merrily barbaric existence -- to make matters worse, Jessica went to some crazy Cirque De Soleil-like extravaganza where they staged for 14,000 unhappy people some sort of operatic version of Carmina Burana in a suburban London spiky gasometer (and they wonder why it sucked). Which is a bit like going to a Dante reading at the Indy 500 races, where the poetry is actually read backwards, in a whisper, right next to the deafening noise of the pit.
Bad staging ideas aside, the problem with Orff's masterpiece -- and OC refuses to believe its consistently bad press is related to the composer's Nazism, because frankly, bad man as he was, at least, unlike the much-worshipped, much more douchebaggy Wagner, Orff didn't devote much of his life's work to put into music all the various reasons why the Jew is a foreign, evil presence that pollutes Germany's Aryan heart -- the problem with Orff seems to Opera Chic to stem from an essential error in the work's perception (and also by the fact that CB, let's admit it, technically is a deceitful, incredibly difficult work and has been mostly conducted badly -- Opera Chic can only think of two or three recordings, one of them unofficial, that make Carmina Burana sound like it should).
Carmina Burana, only by chance (Fortuna!) a 20th Century work, is in fact a purely primitive work. The Medieval origin of the text is just a red herring, its spirit dates from much earlier -- CB's brutality, their unrepentant acknowledgment of God's absence from human affairs, their gleeful endorsement of everything orgiastic make Carmina Burana a splendidly anti-modern, primitive work. Orff stirs now-unused parts of what people who smoke clove cigarettes would call the "lizard brain"; Orff digs into those unused-by-millennia DNA strands we all still carry with us and says, here's your violence, here's your savagery, here's your hunger, your thirst for wine and your desire for sex, consensual or not (Dionysus is an especially politically incorrect deity that a nice chunk of modern academia has tried in vain to subjugate into taking sensitivity training classes). Here's your universe, ruled by chaos (aka Fortuna), not by Reason, Orff says, and puts to bed three centuries of worship of the Enlightenment, turns off those lights, and fires up instead the flames of a Dyonisian rave party.
Childish? Well, not more childish than taking 14 hours to explain the Norse Gods problems with their builders, to be perfectly frank. And to Opera Chic's ears, actually more interesting (OK I said it).
Herr Doktor Orff is saying that savagery is not something that nowadays affects only animals, as we civilized people who go to concerts and to the opera and even dress up for it would like to believe -- Orff is saying that savagery is deeply human. That violence is not an aberration perpetrated by the sociopathic, but it's an integral part of human nature. If anything, it took a Nazi composer to explain us why Nazism happened -- because evolution certainly hasn't made us shed our savagery, no matter how much we'd hope -- or prayed -- it would.
It's a radical, horrifying message, delivered by one of the most radical (if not the most radical) pieces of music of the Twentieth Century. It makes poor Stockhausen look tame -- and Orff doesn't even need helicopters to make a scene.
PS Oh, and Heidegger loved it, too.