Sunday, July 29, 2012
In Gloger's Dutchman, the leading character, beautifully sung by Samuel Youn (who replaced Yevgeny Nikitin) is some kind of itinerant salesman with a briefcase. He arrives without a ship, dressed in a modern suit, but with a shiny black tattoo on the side of his head, which suggests an island archipelago. He falls in love with Senta (Adrianne Pieczonka), a girl dressed in red who works in a factory packing electric fans into cardboard boxes. What this has to do with Wagner's original intention for a story is beyond me. It's just another example of Bayreuth being the place for wonderful musical performances of Wagner's works and way-out productions. Needless to say, the singers as well as the orchestra, along with maestro Thielemann received an outstanding ovation from the audience. Mr. Gloger and the rest of the production team were booed.
The irritating aspect of this production is that ultimately it does not have anything interesting to say about the work. The lusty boos that the late Christoph Schlingensief and Katharina Wagner received for their Parsifal and Die Meistersinger respectively were well-earned. They set out to provoke, and boy did they ever. This production seems to earn the wrath of the audience not because it deviates from Wagner's original intentions, but perhaps because it does not deviate enough.
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
"They should be what they are, not want we want them to be. That’s crucial. It’s not about what I want. It’s about what these terms want. For they want something. Of course a swastika is ideologically loaded, but that’s not in the thing itself. The swastika will tell us itself what it wants. We’ve only lost that. We’ve only forgotten that. That this can also be conceded to these things, to be exactly that, what they want and not what I want—that’s critical."
Given his track record, there will be a huge outcry when Meese unveils his Bayreuth Parsifal four years from now -- whatever he comes up with. Those conservative walls are still very much there, and I'm convinced that the Bayreuth management is setting the scene for a tremendous right versus left clash. It's what they want because they know it's the thing that makes opera exciting these days.
Sunday, July 22, 2012
Samuel Youn is a veteran at Bayreuth. In 2005 he sang the role of Reinmar von Zweter in Philippe Arlaud's production of Tannhäuser, which was conducted by Christian Thielemann. He was also in Christoph Schlingensief's notorious production of Parsifal conducted by Pierre Boulez. This year Mr. Youn was to have a very light festival, singing only six performances of Hans Neuenfels controversial staging of Lohengrin. With the addition of Holländer this brings the number of performances to twelve. Let's hope that his voice holds out, and that he is able to fulfill his full commitment.
Saturday, July 21, 2012
"Russian opera singer Yevgeny Nikitin said Saturday he had pulled out of the lead role in a new production of "The Flying Dutchman" at the Bayreuth Festival amid a row over a swastika tattoo.
A festival spokesman said bass-baritone Nikitin, who was to have made his debut at the festival opening Wednesday, had informed the management on Saturday after a television programme highlighted the tattoo on his chest.
German news agency DPA quoted Nikitin as saying, "I did not realise how much irritation and injury such signs and symbols could cause, particularly at the Bayreuth Festival."
German state television ZDF's cultural show "Aspekte" on Friday evening had drawn attention to the tattoo of the Nazi symbol, with another tattoo overlaid.
"I had these tattoos done when I was young," Nikitin, a former musician in a rock band, said. "It was one of the great mistakes of my life and I wish I had never done it."
The Bayreuth Festival, devoted to the works of composer Richard Wagner, attracts thousands of fans every year but is overshadowed by its links to Nazism, with dictator Adolf Hitler a regular visitor to great acclaim.
Nikitin's withdrawal means the festival management has only three days to find a replacement for the role of the captain of a ship doomed to sail the seas for ever until he finds love.
The brand-new production of "The Flying Dutchman", Wagner's first mature opera, by young German theatre director Jan Philipp Gloger, is to premier on the glitzy opening night.
It is this year's only new offering and will feature German star conductor Christian Thielemann, widely seen as Bayreuth's unspoken general music director, in the pit."