by Ibn Warraq (November 2009)
Western art has, in the words of Roger Scruton, "continuously ventured into spiritual territory that has no place on the Christian map," and has done so with generosity, tolerance, affection, and a noble vision of universal humanity. Literature and music, as much as painting and architecture, has acknowledged other civilizations and other peoples, and embraced them as equals, and sometimes treated them as superior souls from whom the West could learn. In her biography of Mozart as a dramatist, Brigid Brophy has a dazzling chapter on the Exotic in Eighteenth century art, reminding us of Western man's ventures "to unpath'd waters, undreamed shores:" China, Turkey, Persia, Babylon, Egypt, Abyssinia, South America, India, even outer space. more>>>
One small clarification: Frederick the Great did write the libretto for the opera Montezuma, but the music itself was written by one of his many court composers, Carl Heinrich Graun, who also served as Frederick's kappelmeister. The opera was performed at the king's retreat in Potsdam, Sanssouci, which was equipped with a theater for the presentation of dramatic and operatic works as well as concerts. The king himself was a decent flute player and capable composer, writing many sonatas for his instrument. He wrote few larger scale works, however; military campaigns, politics, and the demands of governance must have left him little time to do so.