"The past is valid only in relation to whether the present recognizes it"
By Emmeline Burdett This quotation comes from Beethoven Was One-Sixteenth Black , one of the short-stories in a collection by the white South African writer Nadine Gordimer, which was published in 2007. It demonstrates how differing interpretations of the past can easily become a politicized battleground. A new chamber opera which looks at disability history through a highly politicized lens demonstrates both the pitfalls and the possibilities of this approach. The Paradis Files was created by Graeae Theatre Company and tells the story of Maria Theresia von Paradis (1759-1824), an Austrian composer and pianist who went blind at around the age of three, and who wrote at least five operas, two cantatas, fifteen keyboard works, several songs and a piano trio. Graeae was founded in 1980 by the disabled actor Nabil Shaban, specifically to counter prejudices and popular myths about disabled people. It was named after the Graeae of Greek mythology - three sisters named Deino (dread), Enyo