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Director Chosen For The Bayreuth Bicentennial _Ring_

PostPosted: Mon Jul 25, 2011 10:08 am
by A.C. Douglas

Re: Director Chosen For The Bayreuth Bicentennial _Ring_

PostPosted: Mon Jul 25, 2011 10:24 am
by alberich00
Dear A.C.:

Between tragedy (the Norwegian Nazi-wannabe psycho who blew away innocent kids in order to send Europe some sort of message about the dangers of immigration by Moslems) and comedy (Castorp, and Katherina's selection of him to preside over Wagner's 200th birthday at Bayreuth), and absurdity (the US debt. crisis), there seems little hope to go on. I think we're going to have to start over from scratch.

Your sickened friend from Wagnerheim,

Paul

PS. Thanks for the news. I suspect I won't be the pre-show guest-speaker for the "Ring" production, eh!!!!

Re: Director Chosen For The Bayreuth Bicentennial _Ring_

PostPosted: Mon Jul 25, 2011 11:14 pm
by feuerzauber
Post-Kantian dualism — à la Schopenhauer, Wagner, Nietzsche — that explains the world as a composite of two incommensurable ultimates, yet manages to divine a privileged conduit for "tunnelling" between them (via Will, Sensual Love, Music, or whatever) is itself the perfect philosophical dual of practical Regietheater.

Regietheater seeks its justification (analogously to post-Kantian dualism) in privileged intuited "tunnelling" into a supposed ultimately "unknowable" world of the artist. And it is unassailably justified in its egregious parody because post-Kantian dualism necessarily flaunts "representation" as being irredemably false!

A young Hegelian (erstwhile admirer of Feuerbach, and inspired by him) once explained that, appearances to the contrary, we inhabit a dual — class-divided — society. It is not at all surprising that society's cherished thoughts, beliefs, ideals, freedoms, needs, etc. are hopelessly dualistic. Ultimately, what society thinks, believes and needs is heavily mediated by society's real absolute dependence on Capital to reproduce itself as Capital — continually turning $100 into $110 — before society can even attempt to satisfy its apparent need to feed, clothe and shelter its members. Capital inverts social appearance and reality, and so our social perceptions.

Whatever we may think of Cosima Wagner's steely control over the Bayreuth festival, she ran it with religious fidelity to the perceived aims of 1876 and 1882, and significantly she managed to maintain confidence in it despite empty seats. I take scant satisfaction from brash intellectual justifications of Regietheater along crude Broadway musical bottom-lines that "bums on seats" are the surefire way of putting coins in pockets.

Re: Director Chosen For The Bayreuth Bicentennial _Ring_

PostPosted: Tue Jul 26, 2011 9:49 am
by alberich00
Dear Feuerzauber:

What a hoot! Thanks for your dead-on sendup of the postmodern Marxist rationalizations of Regie Theater reconstructions (rather, demolitions) of Wagnerian music-drama.

I'm reminded of my first confrontation with Adorno's take on Wagner. I remember gagging as I read that Wagner's musical motifs are actually commodities (and much more of the same). A great deal about Marx and resentment there, little or nothing about Wagner, who tends to transcend such topical categories. I kept on saying as I read Adorno "Please!!!!," and "Why????" But then, I'd be the first to poke fun at myself: I imagine that various visitors to www.wagnerheim.com who work their way through my "Ring" interpretation will be saying "Please!!!" and "Why????" In any case, I hope my interpretation is more solidly grounded than Adorno's nonsense.

I suspect that quite a number of folks who would otherwise attend Bayreuth will be avoiding this prospective "Ring" like the plague. Of course, I can't know in advance precisely what Frank Castorf will make of it, so I suppose I should withhold apriori judgment. My general philosophy re "Ring" interpretation is that Wagner leaves so much scope for creative direction and production within the bounds of authentic response to his work, that there's really no excuse for tampering with its inbuilt (and infinitely persuasive) symbolic and conceptual structure. These folks who describe the "Ring" as given to us by Wagner as potentially boring or out of touch with contemporary audience expectations and taste are fools: Wagner is more radical and avant-garde, once properly understood, than all of the postmodern critics and interpreters put together. Whenever I think of Regie Theater proponents grabbing Wagner by the horns I can't help thinking of children in a sandbox suddenly being placed in charge of the nuclear button.

I recall a remark by a correspondent who will remain nameless that I really couldn't write anything approaching a definitive account of the conceptual structure of the "Ring" because its meaning is continually evolving as various Regie Theater producers take it in hand. That's a bit like saying that the evolving "meaning" of a sculpture in a park includes the deposits made on it by pigeons and dogs, except that the pigeons and dogs are innocent of any attempt to enhance the meaning of the sculpture. In other words, we're talking here about self-conscious demolition.

Your bemused friend from Wagnerheim,

Paul

Re: Director Chosen For The Bayreuth Bicentennial _Ring_

PostPosted: Sat Jul 30, 2011 9:22 pm
by feuerzauber
After hiding down a Wagnerian rabbit burrow for years, blissfully ignorant of the myxoma-toxic manifestations of European Regietheater, we obtained seats for this year's Bayreuth — our first in a lifetime of anticipation.

Now, having just read ACD's alarming account http://www.soundsandfury.com/ of this year's Tannhäuser, I prepare for directorial insult less to my own (let alone the defunct author's) sensibilities — I'll take sustenance from our proximity there — but personally to my wife's more-refined literal theatrical sensibilities. If realised as anticipated, I fear the travesty may well exceed her capacity to comprehend, if so to tolerate, if so to endure, if so to enjoy three such acts with (how shall I put this delicately) anything like her accustomed equanimity.

Weh, ach, we-he, mein Kind!

Re: Director Chosen For The Bayreuth Bicentennial _Ring_

PostPosted: Sun Jul 31, 2011 1:54 am
by A.C. Douglas
feuerzauber wrote:[H]aving just read ACD's alarming account http://www.soundsandfury.com/ of this year's Tannhäuser, I prepare for directorial insult less to my own (let alone the defunct author's) sensibilities — I'll take sustenance from our proximity there — but personally to my wife's more-refined literal theatrical sensibilities. If realised as anticipated, I fear the travesty may well exceed her capacity to comprehend, if so to tolerate, if so to endure, if so to enjoy three such acts with (how shall I put this delicately) anything like her accustomed equanimity.

Not to make the matter more depressing but strictly in the interests of full disclosure, that S&F entry you above linked has just been updated to include a photo of the three-act set for this Tannhäuser.

My condolences to both you and your wife.

(BTW, the correct permalink to that entry is: http://www.soundsandfury.com/soundsandfury/2011/07/2011-bayreuther-festspiele-tannh%C3%A4user.html. The link you provided is the link to S&F's Main Page the content of which changes frequently.)

ACD
http://www.soundsandfury.com/

Re: Director Chosen For The Bayreuth Bicentennial _Ring_

PostPosted: Sun Jul 31, 2011 5:15 am
by A.C. Douglas

Re: Director Chosen For The Bayreuth Bicentennial _Ring_

PostPosted: Sun Jul 31, 2011 7:18 pm
by feuerzauber
It begins with giant wriggling tadpoles, you say. So it's the Ring we'll be seeing.
Still safely at home, we saw Hamlet on stage last night. As always, the bard unlocks universal insight into life's mysteries:
Though this be madness, yet there's method in it.
Hamlet's idiocy is feigned. The Director's "appears" genuine, unlocking greenie-specific insight into Tannhäuser's mysteries:
Clean and dirty love alchemize into pure sludge.

Re: Director Chosen For The Bayreuth Bicentennial _Ring_

PostPosted: Mon Sep 05, 2011 2:30 pm
by feuerzauber
The Bayreuth Experience.

I have known Wagner's works most of my life — since I was 18 — but (strange to say) I had yet to experience live Lohengrin, Tristan and Parsifal. Bayreuth was always going to be special.

We arrived at Weimar — artistic soul of Germany — 30 hours after leaving home (Melbourne). The car rental company at Frankfurt apologetically re-scheduled our compact German car for a pristine X-series sports Jaguar (400 km on the clock) for insurance purposes because we intend to cross the Alps into Italy.

Weimar is celebrating Liszt's bicentenary with an exhibition of that most German of Hungarians in Schiller's Haus. This we visited, along with Goethe's Gartenhaus, the Nietzsche Archiv, the Bauhaus Museum, ….

Naturally we also made a Tannhäuser-like pilgrimage to the Wartburg medieval fortress on the mount at Eisenach, with its 19th century restored Sänger Halle where those Wagnerian Minnesänger dueled. We also entered the cell where (tradition has it) Luther penned his revolutionary translation into the vernacular of the New Testament.

Returning through the Thuringer Wald, I sought out the Venusberg, but GPS satellites and my navigatrix's guile subverted this plan.

Avoiding the autobahn from Weimar to Bayreuth, rewarded us with excursions through remnant medieval villages in the former East Germany.

Bayreuther Festspiel

As is well known, Wagner's Festspielhaus is raked like a Greek theatre, with the orchestra tucked under the stage. In effect, the stage-floor acts as the sounding board and the orchestral-pit acts as the resonator of a giant Stradivarius. It is not a question of whether a Stradivarius violin has superior timbre to other violins, or whether the Festspielhaus has superior acoustics to other theatres. Once experienced, they both possess recognisable signatures that it would be foolhardy for any modern sound engineer to dare "improve". The Festspielhaus's acoustics are "ideologically" an essential ingredient of the Bayreuth experience, drawing us into the composer's sound world (which is something the original-instrument baroque orchestras can't genuinely achieve in their domains).

Another signature Bayreuth experience is the pregnant darkening of the auditorium, the hushed audience, the personal apprehension mixed with extra-musical emotion, and then the gorgeous orchestral sound issuing from nowhere but infusing everywhere.

And the clarity of the singing, even enhanced when the singers occupy the dramatic front third of the extra-deep Bayreuth stage, where the acoustics (I can't fathom how this happens) seem to channel their voices with natural amplification way out into the audience! And the Bayreuth chorus — when demanded, it pelts the listener with the sting of summer hail!

Also, at Bayreuth, you mingle with fellow pilgrims of shared enthusiasm and experience. Finally, there is the signature Bayreuth suffering for art — the uncushioned seats were fine by me, but I marvel at the impressive nonchalance of formally attired gentlemen and high-couture ladies sweating through temperatures hovering around 30 Celsius. We all should have headed to the beach for interval.

For defenceless me, every performance was musically superb. The orchestra was lush, and the balance of forces was as musically perfect as human beings can be expected to achieve. The conducting struck me as of uniformly high calibre. Furthermore, we were privileged to enjoy this wonderful music making from two excellent vantage points — the centre of rows 2 and 3 for two performances, and the centre of rows 17 and 18 for three performances.

During the festival's last week, the Wagner Society of New York hosts informative pre-performance talks in English at the Arvena Kongress Hotel. Dr John Muller from the Julliard School illustrated Alfred Lorenz's formal analyses of Meistersinger (AAB bar form) and Parsifal (ABA bow form) and so much more about each night's opera, as well as gently dissecting the previous night's performance. These were not to be missed.

Since this thread concerns productions, I will briefly touch on this year's productions at Bayreuth.

Night 1. Meistersinger — Characterisation

Unfortunately this production deliberately flouted stage directions. Latent iconoclast Sachs smokes in class (Singschule) and sides with Walther against his fellow Meisters. The Meisters turn out to be familiar Weimar notables, who exact cheap revenge upon Sachs. Contemptuous Walther is merciless towards both — it's hard to warm to him in Act I — and he ultimately rats on Sachs and sundry in Act III by clearing out with Eva and Eurovision Song Contest prize money. Conservative Beckmesser "sees the light" during the Act II melee, and ends his days as T-shirt sporting "Beck in Town" cool cat.

Katherina Wagner was personally booed by a sizeable section of the audience for taking such liberties with her great grandfather's characterisation. Ironically, she seemed to savour such artistic martyrdom (she as Walther) to the blood lust of her ignorant audience (us hidebound Meisters).

Night 2. Tannhäuser — Installation

An ominous announcement in German preceded this performance. I assume it went something like — "Tonight we will not be putting on Tannhäuser; instead we will offer an undergraduate bio-chemical engineering class with musical accompaniment".

Superb music making to unfathomable theatrical ends!

I periodically averted my gaze — even at the risk of missing such visual treats as the shovelling of human excrement into vats. I was later informed that I failed to recognise the stage design as "Installation Art". I also failed to comprehend its bio-chemistry.

As some wag put it. This was not the promised Dresden version (nor the Paris version) but the Bayreuth version of Tannhâuser.

Night 3. Lohengrin — Sublimation

Tonight we sat in the centre of the second row. Maybe it was the location or relief after the previous productions but we found this production supremely satisfying.

The ethereal opening prelude emanated from Monsalvat itself. So did the other-worldly Lohengrin played by Klaus Florian Vogt. I gently supported (with wifely approval, of course) a San Franciscan women in the bus as it wended its way up the Grünen Hügel. I since realise that she was more likely to swoon sitting in her Festspiel theatre seat than standing in the Festspiel bus. By night's end, normally sane women grew moist eyed when, Elsa now out of the way, Mr Vogt's Lohengrin strode Monsalvat-bound down the catwalk toward every willing one of them. His sensitive lyrical Lohengrin was the talk of the town.

Despite the chorus's rat costumes — when funny, they reminded me of kangaroos — the evening came across as being "essentially true" to Wagner's original. A dramatic highlight among many was the moment when, Elsa and Lohengrin at last alone before their nuptial bed, Lohengrin releases the cordon around their four-poster. The gesture was as pregnant and tension-precipitating a stage action as one is likely to see.

Having singled out one performer, I fairly confirm that the supporting Elsa (Annette Dasch) was excellent. Though not necessarily to my taste, everyone effusively praised the King (Georg Zeppenfeld) and Petra Lang's outrageous Ortrud for her vile manipulation of Telramund (Tomas Tómasson) and Elsa. Spontaneous rhythmic clapping and foot stamping all round!

Night 4. Parsifal — Illumination

Parsifal was my first love.

Unfortunately, there were competing interleaved performances tonight — both were excellent but they told different stories.

The visually compelling story told of young Parsifal rejecting his mother Herzeleide, followed by Germany's defeat in both World Wars, with Kundry's seduction played out before war-displaced refugees, and (at last I comprehended what was going on) the searing destruction of the swastika-emblazoned Third Reich Chancelry = the collapse of Klingsor's garden! Bayreuth is exorcising the ghost of times past.

The last act portrays desolate Monsalvat as war-ravaged Berlin. The final grail scene takes place in an up-beat modern Reichstag and, despite my better judgement, involuntarily bowled me over — I was powerless before its theatricality, whose like I have never seen.

This was not a naive production of Richard Wagner's Parsifal. At times it bordered on a sumptuous movie with Richard Wagner's score used for dramatic effect. However, a large section of the audience apparently found this composite spectacle exciting in the extreme, and showered enthusiastic appreciation upon all concerned with the production.


Night 5. Tristan — Resignation

Tonight a basketballer blocked my direct sightline (a rare misalliance at Bayreuth). But it hardly mattered. At key points, I reconnoitred the stage through a Freia-like chink in his hair, and otherwise luxuriated in the music with eyes closed.

This is a metaphorical production. Brangäne re-arranges the deck chairs on the Titanic in Act I. Fluorescent tubes go on the blink (the dousing of the light) and Tristan can't operate the switches in Act II. Finally, in homage to Wilde's "Dorian Gray", Kurwenal grows old and doddery while Tristan feverishly flails unassisted in Act III.

Robert Dean Smith's Tristan was extraordinary to my mind. Most people felt Iréne Theorin's Isolde his equal, judging by their thunderous appreciation of all the principals. Lengthy rhythmic clapping ended the season of 2011.

Night 6. — Italy

We crossed the Alps with Tristan still beating through our heads. Our super car, rear driven by broad-tired 21-inch wheels, effortlessly hit 200 km/h while deceptively "crawling" along the valley floor of the massive Dolomites. Somewhat chastened by the experience (Tristan's ominous "Tod geweihtes haupt! Tod geweihtes Herz!" lodged in my brain) I changed operas metaphorically and reigned in our flying Gräne to more rational speeds.

We are on our way to that other fount of modern culture — Florence. Wagner meets Michelangelo via Jaguar!

Re: Director Chosen For The Bayreuth Bicentennial _Ring_

PostPosted: Tue Sep 06, 2011 2:45 pm
by feuerzauber
And the clarity of the singing, even enhanced when the singers occupy the dramatic front third of the extra-deep Bayreuth stage, where the acoustics (I can't fathom how this happens) seem to channel their voices with natural amplification way out into the audience.


I imagine what's going in is that the sound radiated from the sounding-board stage is acoustically decoupled from the singing that takes place above it on the stage. The singers occupy positions close to the focus of the raked amphitheater, and so their voices radiate directly to the audience, while the sounding-board orchestra radiates more uniformly to the open theatre. Whatever the explanation, the effect is incomparable.