[NOTE: This entry has been edited as of 5:23 AM Eastern on 27 Jul to insert inadvertently omitted clarifying language, add external links to two eyewitness accounts of the production, and correct some typos and clumsy language.]
We tuned in yesterday to BR Klassik Radio to hear the live broadcast of the new Katharina Wagner production of her great-grandfather's Tristan und Isolde from the 2015 Bayreuther Festspiele with the great Wagner conductor Christian Thielemann on the podium and did something we've never before done with any opera: posted a comment to the Web while the music was in progress, in this case about three-quarters of the way through the Prelude to Act I. Our comment (in this case, a tweet to Twitter), posted in anger and dismay in response to Thielemann's fleet, empty, antiseptic reading of the score, read:
As we said, empty and antiseptic. Perversely empty and antiseptic (what goes on dramatically in Act I is anything but empty and antiseptic). And as for Katharina's Konzept (yes, it's a Eurotrash staging — what else? — and it not only got no boos from the Festspiele audience but applause and bravos, no less), from what we can glean from the above production shot and from other production shots from other acts of this Tristan as well as from verbal descriptions of the physical action in all three acts, this Eurotrash staging is more sophomoric than imbecile notwithstanding the imbecile close given the music-drama in this staging (Isolde is ripped away from Tristan's corpse and dragged off very much alive by this Konzept's tyrannical König Marke); Tristan as seen through the eyes of an au courant, postmodern PC feminist who needs to make a point about male hegemony. No wonder there was applause and bravos and no booing from the Festspiele audience. As for Thielemann, not to worry. He was back on his superlative game for Acts II and III, never mind the sophomoric staging. And as to the overall heard performance, it's most succinctly said in my concluding Tristan tweet of the afternoon:
Listening to Bayreuth _Tristan_. What the fuck is Thielemann doing!? Can only guess he's adjusting the music to K's imbecile staging.We, of course, had no idea at the time what Katharina's staging was or even looked like. We simply assumed it was imbecile; had to be imbecile to force Thielemann to go so markedly off-center. And we weren't far wrong as regards both Katharina's staging and the reason for Thielemann's reading of the score of that first act. Here's a Bayreuther Festspiele production shot (© Bayreuther Festspiele/Enrico Nawrath) of the Act I staging:
Act III T&I done. CT on his superlative game again. Singers made it through in good voice. Marke again splendid. Overall, an adequate T&I.Ah well. At least the staging wasn't grotesque Eurotrash. The Castorf Ring is also on the menu this Bayreuth season and that's more than enough Eurotrash grotesque for any single opera season anywhere. Here are links to two eyewitness accounts of the production, one from The New York Times and one from The Guardian.