Opera Chic is seldom interested in what rich celebrities (especially the tax exiles who merrily settled in Switzerland or Monte Carlo) have to say about their audiences personal ethics or, heaven forbid, their politics.
She, for example, would consider quite appalling to learn that a prominent American pianist had interrupted a recital in Warsaw to ask the older members of the audience if they were part of the crowds cheering as the Jewish ghetto burned, orwhether or not they're baffled by the fact that only a few thousand Jews still feel safe enough to live in Poland (there were more than 3 million of them living in Poland in 1939, 90% of whom had been murdered by 1945, and survivors had actually been lynched after their return from the camps -- reminding Poles of this historical fact might land you in jail, by the way, and the local Catholic clergy will call you a liar); asking the audience if they're part of the one million Poles who faithfully tune in to Radio Maryia's racist sermons would be in equally bad taste, just like polling the Polish audience to figure out how many of them collaborated with the Polish Communist regime during its long rule over the country -- to sum it up, one is free to play in the countries one wants, and manners are manners, everywhere you go.
Not to mention, no one cares what performing artists think about stuff.
It would be equally appalling to learn, for example, that a concert pianist had shamefully cracked jokes about gold teeth and safety deposit boxes during a Swiss recital, for example. wtf?
It is therefore quite surprising to read that Krystian Zimerman, who had already said that he'd boycott the US for political reasons (and more power to him for following his principles, one is free to boycott whomever one wants), nevertheless traveled to the States to play -- but chose to give a little lecture to a L.A. audience.
“Get your hands off of my country,” he said. He also made reference to the U.S. military detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
About 30 or 40 people in the audience walked out, some shouting obscenities. “Yes,” he answered, “some people when they hear the word military start marching.”
Now, this being L.A. and not, say, the beautiful State of Texas, the audience's reaction doesn't seem to have been bad at all, with quite a lot of cheers (in San Francisco he'd have been elected Mayor the next day); but the plea to "get your hands off of my country" -- is Zimerman Iraqi, by the way? Because we sure as hell haven't invaded Switzerland -- should probably have been sent, via mail, to President Obama and not yelled to the powerless audience of a classical music concert.
But it all boils down to one fact, and it's not even about manners: for all of Zimerman's talent, and his years of study, and his work, people pay him because they just want to hear him play, not talk -- if that makes him feel like a trained monkey, that's his problem, and he should do what Glenn Gould, a much better pianist and a much better man, did in his time: retire to the recording studio and give up public performances. Gould didn't lecture his paying audiences about Polar bears, either -- he did that on the radio. Daniel Barenboim, a much more serious man than Zimerman, has created an orchestra where Jews play with Arabs, devotes a lot of money and time and effort to his causes -- whatever you think of the man -- and writes books that are actual best-sellers.
Zimerman should find himself a book publisher, if he can. Or start broadcasting a talk radio show on Radio Mariya about the evils of America.
But onstage, he should really shut up and play his American piano.