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Views in brief

May 12, 2006 | Page 8

Can military intervention save Darfur?
In defense of Figaro

Welcoming immigrants

I FLYERED recently at the Rochester Public Market for the Immigrant rights demo on May 1, and it was interesting experience. Many people smiled in approval and gladly took flyers.

I sold one copy of SW to a woman who was involved in the movement through her church. I spoke to another woman who is a Spanish teacher and had done some traveling in Mexico. She said that she had a sense of solidarity with Mexican people. She took a flyer and said she would try to come out on May 1.

But contradicting that experience, a man approached me and asked me if he could come over to my house that night. I asked him what his point was. He said that I could invite him over to my house for dinner if I wanted, but I would not want him sneaking into my house in the middle of the night without my permission. That would be a violation of my home.

This really angered me. First of all, I don't see the United States as "my house." It is, (as is every other place in the world) everybody's house.

My personal circumstances are that I am a citizen of the United States, but the people that helped build up this house, and their families, should be free to come in and out as they please. They are contributing to the wellbeing of the house. Cleaning, cooking and working hard. Why wouldn't they be welcome?

I think we have to aggressively take up the issue of borders, and the whole notion of "our home versus theirs." The whole world belongs to everybody. I think all the land of the world should be owned and operated by everybody. We should adamantly oppose the "This is my house, they are visitors" logic. The way I see it, the world is one big house. It is a mansion, actually. The mansion has many different rooms.

The mansion does not belong to any one group of people. It belongs to all of us, and we each have a part to play in contributing to the world's mansion.
Jessica Carmona-Baez, Rochester, N.Y.

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Can military intervention save Darfur?

THANK YOU for Lance Selfa's article on the Darfur crisis ("A 'humanitarian' invasion?" May 5). I thought it was a nice summary of the complicated issue that is the genocide in Western Sudan and brought up some interesting points.

It raises valid concerns about possible military intervention by U.S. forces, given the less-than-noble intentions of such actions in the past. And the article is very praiseworthy for actually proposing sound and peaceful solutions to the crisis.

My question is this: Is military intervention always wrong? When, in the 1990s, I heard news of one atrocity after another being committed against Bosnian Muslims by ethnic Serbs, it infuriated me that neither NATO, the United Nations (UN), nor the U.S. did anything to stop the slaughter. When they finally did, I rejoiced--and I am a pacifist by nature.

We actually stopped a genocide! We should have done something in Rwanda, but it being Africa, people over here simply didn't care. Will we let this happen again? And what good is humanitarian aid and refugee camps if all that's going to happen is more slaughter with impunity?

Perhaps U.S. intervention should be ruled out, but UN or African Union forces might be helpful in rescuing innocents from slaughter. These are just some thoughts I'd like to raise. Thanks again for your thought-provoking article.
Marc, Cambridge, Mass.

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In defense of Figaro

KATRINA YEAW was too hard on Mozart's Marriage of Figaro ("Mozart's problematic politics," April 28). It's true that Mozart's opera is not as overtly revolutionary as Beaumarchais' play. This, however, is not surprising. At the time, the play was banned from performance in Austria.

Yet Mozart and da Ponte chose the radical play anyway--and were given permission to proceed only after assuring Emperor Joseph II (who was in the process of repealing earlier progressive reforms) that the most offensive characterizations of nobility found in Beaumarchais' original would be deleted. Despite these constraints, what's stunning is how much of the class conflict remains--and how clearly Mozart and da Ponte's sympathies lie with the lower classes.

Katrina also makes much of the opera's supposed sexism. Yet, throughout, the female characters--particularly Susanna, the maid--are shown to be cleverer, and more sympathetic than the men, even than Figaro.

In the fourth act, for example, Marcellina issues an explicit call for female solidarity with a passage of recitative and an aria that begins, "All women are forced to defend those of their own poor sex, from the cruel oppression of these ungrateful men." Unfortunately for Marcellina, and for us, the aria and passage are almost always cut from performance for length considerations.

I think it's also a mistake to analyze the words of the opera without examining how the music itself either supports or subverts them.

Figaro's railing against faithless women in Act Four ("Aprite un po' quegli occhi") that Katrina mentions as supposed proof of sexism, for example, is set to music that shifts violently, and is almost martial in composition.

Yet that musical violence--as well as the angry content of his words--is subverted, in the very next scene, by Susanna's nocturne "Deh vieni", in which she sings of the joy and gentleness of love. It is a musical expression of purity and hope--and is meant, in the structure of the opera, to puncture Figaro's angry anti-woman rant.

Far from being misogynistic, Figaro contains some of the most eloquent musical expressions of female longing and solidarity ever penned--the Countess' arias "Porgi amor" and "Dove sono i bei momenti," and the Act Three "letter duet" between the Countess and Susanna, "Canzonetta sull'aria." The music shows extreme sympathy and understanding for the plight of 18th century women oppressed and at the mercy of a world ruled by men.
Nicole Colson, Chicago

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