All tagged Regietheater

Copenhagen's "Ring": Why "Eurotrash" Isn't the Whole Story

Or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Regietheater Bomb. I sympathize with people who spend hundreds of bucks on tickets and end up with a two-headed Wotan, an Alberich who’s a gaudy pimp or Supreme Court Justice Fricka. But consider this: you can stage these things in your mind, and I don’t just mean closing your eyes in the theater.

Pre-emptively trashing the Tosca production that was replacing his wasn’t exactly sporting of “F-Zeff,” but his thesis matches one that John has advanced in this pages: Puccini’s original settings are too much fun to sacrifice on the altar of Regietheater. That’s why Puccini seems rarely subjected to directorial intrusion, and perhaps why messing with Tosca at the expense of the Zeffirelli production seems a particular affront to some members of the audience.  Add the fact that this opening was the season’s Gala (with an audience self-selected for perhaps a greater conservative tendency) and we have ourselves a big, fat “Boooooo…”
One of the ironies implicit in the Mac Donald essay, discussed in this forum yesterday, is that traditional and respectful performances of the standard repertory may soon be presented by, and enjoyed by, a sort of elite; an elite distinguished by sane cultural values as opposed to a common denominator of hubristic trash which will come to “abduct” operatic culture. Well, this is unlikely, except just possibly in Germany, but it could happen, I guess. It seems like it is happening, actually, by some barometers. Mac Donald doesn’t address the underlying cause of why opera administrators, and in some cases the public as well, are duped by the excesses of Eurotrash. I can suggest at least one reason; the narrowing of the repertory. I know “opera lovers” who only like a half dozen or so operas, and aren’t even interested in anything else.
I recently recommended the Heather Mac Donald article, “The Abduction of Opera” which appeared in City Journal.I continue to recommend this unusually astute evaluation of some of the directorial excesses afflicting the operatic world today, but would like to comment more specifically, and include a few reservations.
Like street drugs and cheap handguns, operatic directorial license is designed to be abused. From a director’s standpoint, if you do something reasonable, audiences and musicians will leave the opera house thinking about Mozart or Wagner. If you do something insane, audiences and musicians will leave the theatre thinking about you. It’s a no-brainer. But it doesn’t impair or kill the listener. It’s only a narcissistic exercise in inane infantilism. Epater le Bourgeoisie! I have my doubts about the future of literalistic stagings, however.
According to the NY Times for Tuesday, July 31,Katharina Wagner’s new production of Die Meistersinger for the Bayreuth Festival featured topless dancers, complete male nudity, plastic phalluses, and “a bizzare auto da-fe” In the third act. My wife related to me a production (this one?) that had Hans Sachs made up as Hitler.One doesn’t have to have seen the particular production to comment.We’ve all seen eurotrash productions. For years I’ve vacillated back and forth about the validity of such productions.I’ve been reluctant to condemn this sort of thing outright out of cowardice (just like many, many critics), a reluctance to appear to be a close-minded reactionary.But enough is enough.Some operas may potentially benefit from deconstructionst treatment, and some you should leave strictly alone.Here’s a partial list.