For those familiar with this summer's Bayreuth production of Parsifal by artist Christoph Schlingensief, the use of video and prominent and frequent lapses in bad taste is nothing new. In that production, which is set in Africa, the conclusion of Act III features video images of a maggot-infested rotting carcass of a rabbit projected on a screen in the background as Parsifal brings a tribal spear to a group of tribesmen.
What next? Can the necrophilia Parsifal be far behind? My production of this work, which I always thought was a little out there, now seems downright tame these days.
The following is the review of the production from the Associated Press.
"Parsifal Draws Boos and Shouts in Berlin"
BERLIN (AP) -- A German film producer's version of Richard Wagner's Parsifal was greeted with boos and shouts from the audience and sharp criticism in newspapers Monday following its debut at Berlin's Staatsoper. Reviewers attacked Bernd Eichinger's production as dull and confused, singling out its use of video clips including the Earth seen from space and pagan temples. The capital's Berliner Morgenpost daily said Saturday's premiere was greeted by "a concert of boos.''
The staging included scenes in modern-day New York in an apparent reference to the Sept. 11 attacks, a marked departure from the traditional medieval Spanish setting. The contrast was very apparent with the depiction of exploding high-rises. Kundry, one of the main characters, is led around on a dog leash by the sorcerer Klingsor. The Berliner Zeitung reported that the applause afterward dwindled in a few minutes to about 30 people still applauding when the performers took their final bows.
Eichinger has been a prominent figure on Germany's film scene for decades, most recently producing "The Downfall,'' a portrait of Adolf Hitler's final days in his Berlin bunker. It was nominated in the best foreign language film category at this year's Oscars.
However, his excursion into opera met with little enthusiasm from domestic critics. "Eichinger showed a video for every state of the soul, degrading Wagner's music to the status of a soundtrack,'' the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung wrote.
It's the first time the Staatsoper has done Parsifal, Wagner's last work, in 13 years. The next performance of Eichinger's Parsifal is set for March 28.
Here is the full cast of the opening night performance:
Conductor: Daniel Barenboim
Production: Bernd Eichinger
Set Design: Jens Kilian
Amfortas: Roman Trekel
Titurel: Christof Fischesser
Gurnemanz: René Pape
Parsifal: Burkhard Fritz
Klingsor: Jochen Schmeckenbecher
Kundry: Michaela Schuster
Flower Maidens: Ekaterina Siurina, Adriane Queiroz, Simone Schröder, Anna Samuil, Carola Höhn, Katharina Kammerloher
First Knight of the Grail: Peter-Jürgen Schmidt Second Knight of the Grail: Yi Yang
Squires: Anna Samuil, Katharina Kammerloher, Peter Menzel, Gustavo Peña
Altsolo: Simone Schröder