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Obama and Merkel's Failed Duet: The G20 Summit and "Vincero!"

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As the unsuccessful G20 meeting came to an end, the Mexican hosts played the music "Nessun Dorma" from Puccini's Turandot. One can only wonder about the aptness of that aria as it swirled around the two main protagonists of the economic drama -- Barack Obama and Angela Merkel.

It is impossible to resist the resonances of this moment. In the opera an ice-queen, Turandot, has set three impossible riddles for her suitors, When the suitors fail to answer, she beheads them. The newest hopeful is Calif, who ends up successfully solving the riddles, thus forcing her to marry him. But since he has a sense of fairness, he gives her one last chance to guess his own name, and if she does she is freed from her obligation to marry him.

Turandot forbids all her subjects to sleep until they find out Calif's name. The aria played by the Mexican hosts to the G20, "Nessun Dorma," says that no one is sleeping, including the princess, and that at the end Calif, himself, will win. The ending words in Italian "vincero!" are repeated three times with rising power -- the ultimate musical tribute to the will to victory.

Fast forward to the G20. Ice Queen Angela Merkel has set an impossible task for her would-be suitors -- the other European countries and the US. They have to convince her to drop her austerity budget and agree to greater spending to drive up the economy. Many countries have failed, and they are in the process of being beheaded financially if not in terms of sovereignty. The newcomer on the scene, Barack Obama, thinks he can avoid the fate of his other suitors. Through shuttle diplomacy in Mexico he hopes reconcile Merkel with the other European partners. No one sleeps as the negotiations drag on.

Obama has to win; otherwise, he may lose the election. We can almost hear him singing "Vincero!" but in reality, as the world leaders leave the G20 meeting, the words of victory Puccini would have predict the successful outcome of the opera -- the melting of the frigid princess's heart -- turn out to be an ironic paean to the very modest gains of the meeting and the actual tragedy waiting to unfold as Europe continues in crisis, and the world economy continues to falter.

One can only wonder what the Mexican hosts had in mind when they ended the G20 on this note, but Merkel and Obama must have recognized the deep irony of the words "Vincero!"