Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Opera version is better than its Film "Gegen die Wand" in Bremen Opera House

Bremen, GERMANY- Last night your writer was in Theater Bremen to watch the new Opera named after "Gegen die Wand", the latest performance based on the script of the famous award winning film by Fatih AKIN.

The price awarded film has received success and controversial discussions in the German cinemas in year 2004. The new opera tells the sad story of two young German Turks. Sibel (Sirin KILIC) marries with Cahit (Levent BAKIRCI) in a fictitious marriage, in order to escape the close moral conceptions of her family. Cahit actually falls in love with his wife.

The composer Ludger Vollmer is in great success to write highly emotional music. He uses not only classical, but also various Turkish instruments, to enrich the sound of opera.

It is your writer's sincere feeling that the Opera version is much better than the film itself. It is maybe we all know the full version of the award winning film, new Opera is different with many surprising details.

Director (Michael Sturm) has put exceptional work but could not escape from your writer's humble critics.

Opera starts with an unnecessary religious and bloody ceremony to shock the audience. A sheep in a sack is sacrificed, simply butchered and hung up 3 meter high with blood (red paint obviously) flowing down the stage, which irritates the audience especially at the front seats.

A sand watch pours sand from the stage ceiling almost 10 meters down nonstop. That is a health hazard not only for the players but also for all.

Bride's head scarf is burned and its ashes are left to pollute the environment in the second half.

The big and dangerous scary butcher knife is left uncontrolled most of the time.

Beautiful lady player Selma (Martina Parkes) is asked to creep on top of the male players pretending whether they are worshiping or praying´with high accident risk to fall down the stage.

We wonder if this Opera can be performed in Turkey with so high dose of profanity and virtual pornographic interpretations. A new direction may be needed for a performance in Istanbul. Sureyya Opera house may be an ideal location.

New composed music was extraordinary. Composer brought together the various themes of Turkish music in jazz, opera and local music themes.

What can we say more than "Congratulations" for creating such an extraordinary performance on the Theater Bremen stage..

Monday, December 22, 2008

"Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg" in Hamburg State Opera House last night

This note is written on the next day your writer has seen the Opera in Hamburg State Opera House. Hamburg Opera House was an increadible place. Performance was extraordinary. You could see the creme de creme social strata of upper upper class of Hamburg population, ladies were all in their expensive decent night dresses and men with dark black business suits. Average age was above 50. Approximately in six hours in 3 acts, they had 120 artists at the stage plus approximately 60 players in the orcestra. A large parter plus 4 balconies. My younger son and your humble writer were on the second balcony. We were in great pleasure to be there between 17-23 hours and almost shocked by the performance we have visualised. It was an extraordinary event.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

AMBARLI Repowering


EKON Industry Construction and Trade Inc. - PROKON Engineering and Consultancy Co. – PROKON Manufacturing and Erection Co. Joint Venture (EPP Joint Venture) has been awarded the turnkey construction of Ambarlı Fuel-Oil Power Plant, Capacity Increase and Modernisation Project by Electric Generation Company (EUAS) General Directorate on 10.November.2008.

Ambarlı Fuel-Oil Power Plant has been located at Marmara Coast of Istanbul and has an installed capacity of 630 MW. The yearly production capacity of the plant under normal working conditions is 4,5 billion kWh. The 4th and 5th units of the plant, which shall be handled in this contract, had been put into operation in years 1970 and 1971.

The new contract covers the dismantling of 2x150 MW fuel-oil firing boilers (units 4 and 5), rehabilitation of the existing steam turbines, generators and auxiliaries, installation of two new 250–300 MW gas turbines, increasing the production capacity to 800 MW with the installation of two new Heat Recovery Steam Generators, the installation of an appropriate switchyard system and conversion of the system to a combined cycle power plant. The realization of this contract shall ensure an additional capacity of 540 MW for a Contract price of 383.919.173.- Euros.

During his speech at the Signature Ceremony of the Contract, EUAS General Director indicated that awarding Ambarlı Repowering Project to a Turkish Company is an important step, leading to the realization of future similar projects.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Why I Love Turkey's Smoking, Drinking Founding Father, Asli Aydintasbas

ISTANBUL, Turkey--It felt like treason, and it probably was.

I was betraying my country in that dark seedy room, afraid someone would recognize me in the very act of selling out the republic. Ah, the republic that emerged from the ashes of a bankrupt empire, as we were reminded every day in school, with amazing human sacrifice and collective determination to create a fresh new order.

That would be the Republic of Turkey, my homeland. And I was about to betray it by attending the noon showing of a controversial film about the life of its founding father, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Mustafa opened in theaters on Oct. 29--the 85th anniversary of, well, the republic--to the delight of an eager crowd. A general-turned-statesman, Ataturk not only led an epic war of independence against the invading Western powers in 1919, but also transformed a declining Ottoman Empire to a modern republic by abolishing the sultanate, the caliphate and establishing a secular democratic system. His radical reforms--ranging from adopting the Latin script to equality for women--revolutionized Turkish society and anchored the young nation to the west.

While Kemalism, as in secular Westernization, has since become an official doctrine, the love for Ataturk runs far deeper in Turkish society than official ideology. (For me, a newspaper headline from 1934 framed above my desk announcing the Turkish parliament passing the women's suffrage law--ahead of France, Italy and most other nations--is an everyday reminder of this vision, his vision.)

Yet, the enthusiasm about the first-ever feature-length film on Ataturk, whose last name actually means "father of Turks," quickly turned into harsh criticism from secular quarters, irritated at the portrayal of the great hero as a lonesome, unhappy man. I wept in darkness with a tub of Ben and Jerry's--sold in theaters thanks to Turkey being Westernized--moved by the details of Ataturk's life beyond what I had memorized in school. There is the agonizing divorce from his wife, the insomnia over many battlefields, gloomy letters to girlfriends, the excessive drinking once the war is over and the republic established, and finally an unbearable ennui verging on depression as he assumes the symbolic post of presidency late in his life.

It is particularly this last emphasis, on loneliness, that irritates most secular Turks, who complain that the film reduces Ataturk's role in his final days to pathetic melancholy. The night before I went to see the film, I heard an earful from friends who were outraged at the cinematography (yes, somewhat amateurish) and the depiction of Ataturk as a detached leader.

"The battle of independence--the thing that defined us--was only three and a half minutes, and my God, the loneliness part just went on and on," complained a journalist friend in Ankara. She and her husband were upset that their 9-year-old son, an Ataturk fan, came home on the verge of tears. "You didn't tell me he drank and smoked so much," the boy said.

And speaking of smoking, we're not talking about Barack Obama bumming a cigarette here and there. According to the film, Ataturk smoked three packs, had 15 cups of Turkish coffee and drank an entire bottle of the Turkish spirit raki every day.

With political Islam on the rise, most secular Turks like my friends feel this is not the right message for children, or for society. The ongoing battle between secularism and political Islam is what puts Westernized Turks on edge.

Several friends told me they were protesting the film. "Is this the right time to question Ataturk and his personality?" a businessman yelled over the phone. "The society is not mature enough to handle a film that shows a leader drinking and partying." He was fuming that the portrayal of Ataturk as an irreligious, fun-loving guy would embolden Islamic conservatives who want to reverse his legacy here. (Interestingly, this idea that society is a child to be managed is right out of the diaries of Mustafa as a young military cadet: "Given the power, I can make the necessary changes in this society overnight. After all this higher learning, exposure to a civilized lifestyle and a life dedicated to freedom, why should I lower myself to the ranks of the ignorant. I would bring them up to my level. I will make them more like me.")

Two professors filed a formal complaint with an Istanbul court against the director on the grounds that he is insulting the great leader, both a taboo and a crime in Turkey.

Mustafa had the opposite impact on me. Director Can Dundar claims he tried to show "a more human face" of Ataturk than before, and he really succeeded. It may be due to my American education, but I felt nothing but sympathy for this leader with human weaknesses and vulnerabilities. (I can think of a few recent American presidents with similar flaws.)

Depression is such a common modern malaise that to see the great hero glum at times only made me identify with him. His leadership skills and military brilliance were apparent; his penetrating eyes, mesmerizing. A sharp dresser with a dark side--so much more interesting than the generic, sanitized leaders the modern day offers.

As for his vision of creating a more Westernized, more secular nation, I left the theater once again grateful for that legacy.

A family member told me that at a kindergarten in Izmir, one of the kids said to the teacher, "He was so lonely. Why didn't you go and talk to him before he died?" At the end of the film, I felt like calling up my dead grandma and asking the same--even though when Ataturk died in 1938, she was just a little girl.

Asli Aydintasbas is an Istanbul-based journalist and former Ankara bureau chief of the newspaper Sabah.