For most of us [Americans], our experience with Regietheater is at [a distance]: we read a review or two consisting of a sort of laundry list of "shocking" effects: nudity, urination, bloody violence, depictions of drug use — or even something as minimally titillating as setting the action of "Il trovatore" in a hotel suite. This type of review represents a failure of arts criticism because there is no attempt [by the arts critic] to put these elements in context, or, more to the point, to try to grasp the drift of the director's take on the work.Say what? "A failure of arts criticism because there is no attempt [by the arts critic] to ... try to grasp the drift of the director's take on the work"(!)? That's a bit like saying that it's a journalistic failure because in merely describing the brutal murders perpetrated by a particularly sadistic serial killer the journalist made no attempt to try to grasp the killer's view of the matter. That was just one perverse, purblind step too far for us, and so we shot back:
"The director's take on the work"(!)? Why should anyone be concerned with an opera director's take on the work? It's of no importance whatsoever. It's not — or, rather, ought not to be — part of an opera director's job to have a "take on the work". His job — his sole job — is to realize onstage, in the most vivid and compelling manner possible, the opera creator's take on the work; i.e., to realize onstage the concept and vision of the opera's creator as made manifest in the score (music, text, and stage directions). Period. Full stop. Any opera director who goes beyond that in his staging of an opera is involving himself in areas he has no business being much less meddling in. And to preempt the favorite straw man of Regietheater cheerleaders and champions, that does NOT mean or even imply that opera stagings should be of the "Tosca with bonnet, shepherd's crook and Empire waist, [or] Valkyries with horns, or humped Rigolettos wearing funny hats" sort, as one [forum member] here put it. It means that honest and conscientious opera directors must find evocative and resonant new ways to stage an opera for contemporary audiences without tossing aside or ignoring in any meaningful way the full spirit and sense of the opera creator's concept and vision as made manifest in the score. Any hack opera director can be outrageous and provocative in his stagings of opera. It takes an opera director of genuine gift to be able to stage an opera in conformance with the inviolable (or, rather, ought to be inviolable) principle above set forth.We await a coherent, reasoned rebuttal. Stay tuned.
Besides having cultivated taste, feeling and a talent for clear observation of all classical musics:Mr. Hunka remarks of the original list that "of contemporary critics, and judging only by what they publish under the guise of criticism, I can count the number of both online and print reviewers who meet [these] qualifications on the fingers of one hand." Word!, re, the above list.
1. The critic should know the greater part of historical and contemporary classical music as written and performed. Added to this, he must be conversant with general literature: novels, poetry, essays of wide scope.
2. He should know the history of classical music from its origins to the present.
3. He should have a long and broad concert- and opera-going experience — of native and foreign ensembles.
4. He should possess an interest in and a familiarity with the arts: painting, theater, architecture and the dance.
5. He should have worked in classical music organizations in some capacity (apart from criticism).
6. He should know the history of his country and world history: the social thinking of past and present.
7. He should have something like a philosophy, an attitude toward life.
8. He should write lucidly, and, if possible, gracefully.
9. He should respect his readers by upholding high standards and encourage his readers to cultivate the same.
10. He should be aware of his prejudices and blind spots.
11. He should err on the side of generosity rather than an opposite zeal.
12. He should seek to enlighten rather than carp or puff.
A law school professor and former criminal defense attorney explains why, when questioned, you should never, ever talk to the police without a skilled criminal defense attorney present and representing you....
My wonderful former teacher, Geoffrey Hartman, said that most reading was vague and lazy, like girl watching. Feminists gave him the bastinado for that, but he was right. Something similar is true about listening to music. Usually it's about getting your emotions packaged for you, quieting the static inside, fabricating an exciting identity ... to counteract one's commitment to a life of secure banality. Most music listening, like most reading, is passive. It's about girl watching rather than woman wooing, which is a tougher game. Schopenhauer says that most reading is letting other people think your thoughts for you. I'd add that most music listening is about letting other people feel your feelings for you.While I take Dr. Edmundson's point, I think he's rather missed the mark. Music listening can go far deeper than that. A personal experience: I've been on serious dope for a period of time but once in my life: during a one-year recovery from a particularly nasty and should-have-been-fatal motorcycle accident in the early '70s. That experience with dope was an eye-opening and consciousness-raising one which to this day remains unforgettable. The dope was administered intravenously by medical personnel for the first month or so and self-administered orally thereafter for a period of another few months. That first warm rush and the immediately ensuing feeling of transcendent wellbeing after each dose simply has no equal in ordinary life — at least not in my ordinary life. Needless to say, I became hooked on that feeling and slipped into the habit of checking my watch repeatedly to see whether it was permissible to administer another dose without exceeding the safe limit. One day I caught myself actually doing that and it scared me straight. On the spot and cold turkey I ceased taking the stuff and depended thereafter on aspirin alone for whatever pain relief it could offer. While it's not quite the same thing, I today, in the closing years of my life (I've passed the biblically allotted three-score-and-ten and so figure I'm now living on borrowed time), experience much that same feeling of transcendent wellbeing and when the music's over the need for "another dose" every time I listen to a Glenn Gould performance of a Bach keyboard work; the Partitas, the Goldberg, and Book I of the Well-Tempered Clavier most especially. Once the CD gets going in the player with the repeat set to ALL, it requires a substantial effort of will on my part to stop it going no matter how long it's been going which at times could be an entire day without break. I've of course attempted many times to analyze and explain this phenomenon to myself, a phenomenon I experience with no other music and performer, and of course always come up with an answer. But in the end, that answer, no matter how well-thought-out and detailed, always turns out to be woefully inadequate and no explanation at all. I know the phenomenon has something to do with Gould's unique and uncanny ability to delineate each voice in the music's dense polyphonic texture with perfect clarity as if he had a separate hand devoted to each yet maintain at all times a perfect horizontal (melodic) and vertical (harmonic) contrapuntal coherence in the gestalt and in so doing seems to be inhabiting and giving voice to the very mind of Bach himself which, in turn, seems, in this one respect, the very mind of God. No other so-called "absolute" music and no other keyboardist of my experience comes even close to being able to accomplish that in my case. But, by itself, that's no real explanation either. Am I merely "getting [my] emotions packaged for [me], quieting the static inside [me], fabricating an exciting identity [for myself] ... to counteract [my] commitment to a life of secure banality" by "letting other people feel [my] feelings for [me]" as Dr. Edmundson suggests? I seriously doubt it. But, then, there's always the possibility, no matter how disquieting, that I might be doing just that. If so, I'm content to let it be so — that is, as long as I can always get another dose.
Tel Aviv University, the venue for a symposium on [Richard Wagner] on 18 June culminating in a musical performance, has cancelled the booking made by the Israel Wagner Society following a wave of protests. [...] "We have received complaints and angry protests calling for the cancellation of this controversial event, which crosses a red line and would deeply offend the Israeli public in general, and Holocaust survivors in particular," [said the university in a letter released to the media].As a Jew, we are deeply ashamed. RTWT here.
The Israel Wagner Society is continuing in its efforts to find a venue for a concert of pieces by Richard Wagner, without much success. Last week, the society found a venue in which to hold a concert this coming Saturday, the Tel Aviv Hilton Hotel. A few days later however, hotel ownership changed its mind and cancelled the show. "Everything was agreed upon with the Hilton's management," said Jonathan Livni, founder of the Israel Wagner Society. "Even the type of chairs — we signed a detailed contract, including which pieces would be played," continued Livni. On Friday afternoon however, despite the signed contract, and after advertisements were posted in newspapers, the Hilton handed down the decision to cancel the show. "We don’t know the reason for cancellation," said Livni.RTWT here (registration (free) required).
Your list of production failures during Gelb's tenure may all have been ill-conceived or inept productions, and most (but not all) might be legitimately classified as Regietheater, but NONE of those productions could legitimately be classified as Eurotrash (Regietheater and Eurotrash are NOT synonymous terms; all Eurotrash is Regietheater, but not all Regietheater is Eurotrash). One of the remarkable things about Gelb's tenure is that Met audiences have been spared and saved harmless from the contemptible grotesqueries of Eurotrash, a pervasive malignancy that today infects opera stages worldwide. For that, at least, U.S. opera fans and Met operagoers ought to be grateful.My repeated use of the term "Eurotrash" in this and in my following posts in the skirmish and my contempt for such stagings provoked one forum member to label me a "narrow minded [person] who live[s] in the past" and another to declare me "a psychotic bigot". You know. All the par-for-the-course stuff as these skirmishes go and to be expected. As a participant in the skirmish, I at one point wrote the following concerning the distinction between Regietheater and Eurotrash:
Any staging where the director in some way or ways reimagines the original creator's vision and concept by, say for simple instance, moving the location and/or time of the action to a different place or period, is, by definition, Regietheater. The director has altered the original creator's instructions regarding those elements and substituted his own for whatever reason; good, bad, or indifferent. Only when the director substitutes his own VISION AND CONCEPT in place of that of the original creator's as made manifest in the score (music, text, and stage directions) does Regietheater descend into the malignancy that we today label Eurotrash, the very worst examples of the type being those where the director's vision and concept are, at bottom, a deconstruction of or critical commentary on the work to hand, a la, say (to use the current Bayreuth examples with which I'm most familiar), the Bayreuth _Parsifal_ of director Stefan Herheim, or the Bayreuth _Meistersinger_ of Katharina Wagner, or the Bayreuth _Lohengrin_ of Hans Neuenfels. These are all out-and-out Eurotrash and Eurotrash of the most malignant sort.I'd seen detailed written physical descriptions and voluminous production photos of the staging of the Parsifal and had seen the full productions of both the Meistersinger and the Lohengrin as both were streamed live on the Web by the Bayreuther Festspiele and so felt fully confident classifying them all as out-and-out Eurotrash although I confess that confidence was momentarily shaken (but only momentarily) in the case of the Neuenfels Lohengrin when I read with utter dismay and something approaching utter disbelief The New Yorker's Alex Ross declare that staging "an austere, elegant, darkly enchanting piece of theatre" and a "great Wagner performance" that "made a particularly deep impression" on him. Needless to say, that Eurotrash classification of mine didn't sit well with the Regietheater champions on this forum the chief of these even taking the trouble to give his take on Neuenfels's Konzept for the staging of Lohengrin. The take was quite intelligent, actually, but in making it this champion for Regietheater seemed totally oblivious to the fact that he was making not his case as a champion for Regietheater, but the case for Eurotrash Regietheater's most intransigent enemies among which I number myself. For whatever Neuenfels's staging of Lohengrin may be, there is one thing it most decidedly by any stretch is not: a staging of WAGNER'S Lohengrin. This Lohengrin is not Richard Wagner's Lohengrin but Hans Neuenfels's Lohengrin hijacking Richard Wagner's music and text for its own purpose, and that's a very definition of what it means to be Eurotrash. It also, at very least, makes the promoter and presenter of this production, the Bayreuther Festspiele, guilty of fraud. Would that it were a class of fraud actionable at law.