Rossini, Beethoven, Haydn, Händl and the Flag

Last night, I was excited to hear my first concert at the Hollywood Bowl. This legendary venue was supposed to add to my experiences of Opera Garnier, The Met, La Scala and Wiener Staatsoper (Covent Garden, Fenice and San Carlo are on the list). Unfortunately, the excitement has turned into shock right after the artists appeared on the stage. They received the welcoming applause and then the audience got up as they started playing the anthem. People held their hands on their hearts and sang out loud. American flag, which was hanging just left of the stage was projected on two large screens on each side of the stage. But why?

We were about to hear works by Rossini (Italian), Beethoven (German), Haydn (Austrian) and Händl (German). Solists were Swiss, Venezuelan, and American (born to Korean parents). The conductor was British. The instruments must have been made in Europe (or am I so ignorant that I don’t know USA is producing concert-class violins and pianos?)

Having experienced a war based on national hatred, having learned (as we all have) about the horrors the world has so recently experienced because of nationalism (WW2), and being aware of two wars going on under the same flag, the experience made me very uncomfortable.

There is no space for nationalism in art. Art should bring peace and break all boundaries. And at its best, it really does – many of those musicians were educated in and have built their careers in many different countries on different continents. A Händel opera in its original form will be equally appreciated in France, Japan or Australia. Warhol’s works hang on walls all around the world.

And yes, we are used to anthems – before sports events. But this has its reasons – national teams often compete each other and have to give their best representing their country.

Art is together and not against each other.

A fact that should be highly respected and valued.