...perhaps the most wooden, most vapid, least evocative, and most utterly empty staging of a Wagner music-drama it's ever been our displeasure to witness, Le Machine accomplishing nothing but constrain the action of the singer-actors who, for the most part, moved to and fro seemingly willy-nilly along the thin strip of real estate provided them downstage doing vaguely appropriate things most, but by no means all, of the time, and make itself impotently conspicuous merely by its looming, hulking, contribute-nothing presence.We saw nothing in this viewing to alter our opinion of this staging except to note that we missed a couple adjectives in our above assessment; namely, silly and idiotic. Silly were the costumes (this entire Ring is in urgent need of a new costume designer) and the entirely redundant shadow play pantomimes projected behind Siegmund's Act I telling of his and his family's early history, and of how he managed to lose his weapons and end up wounded and weaponless at Hunding's hut. And idiotic (and we use the term advisedly) was the giant "eye" (at least it looked like an eye, presumably symbolic of Wotan's lost eye) that slowly appeared downstage center out of nowhere and for no reason at the beginning of Wotan's great Act II monologue and within which are seen images referring to those things of which Wotan is singing at the moment (e.g., Alberich's theft of the Rhinegold, the ring, Erda's warning, etc.) as if Wotan's words and their leitmotif-rich music were insufficient on their own. (One can almost hear Mr. Lepage saying to himself: "The man will be sitting there singing almost all by himself for some twenty minutes and NOTHING ELSE IS HAPPENING! Can't have that. The audience will be bored out of their skulls. Have to put something in there to liven things up.") Needless to say, that "eye" served only to trivialize Wotan's deeply searching and deeply mined confession which confession, along with the immediately preceding scene that provoked it, is the very linchpin not only of Die Walküre but of the entire tetralogy. And speaking of that immediately preceding provoking scene wherein Fricka, sung by the big-voiced Stephanie Blythe, forces Wotan to see and understand what a conniving self-deceiver he's been, was itself trivialized by none other than Stephanie Blythe herself by virtue of her transformation of Fricka into a wounded-wife character out of some Italian soap opera. Whether she did that on her own hook or at Mr. Lepage's ignorant direction the responsibility for the trivialization lies squarely at Mr. Lepage's feet and it's unforgivable. So much for the dramatic aspects of this production. As to the musical, James Levine made a rather better job of it than he did with Das Rheingold but, still, nothing to write home (or a blog entry) about; and principal protagonists Bryn Terfel (Wotan), Deborah Voigt (Brünnhilde), Jonas Kaufmann (Siegmund), and Eva-Maria Westbroek (Sieglinde) all performed respectably, Mr. Terfel bettering his Rheingold Wotan by an order of magnitude. The only outstanding voice and characterization in this production belonged to Hans-Peter König who made one helluva Hunding. And so it goes — or, rather, has gone so far. Onward to Siegfried.
...perhaps the most wooden, most vapid, least evocative, and most utterly empty staging of a Wagner music-drama it's ever been our displeasure to witness, Le Machine accomplishing nothing but constrain the action of the singer-actors ... and make itself impotently conspicuous merely by its looming, hulking, contribute-nothing presence.The same could be said of this staging of Das Rheingold. Dramatically, it was leadenly static and absent any hint of "directorial shaping of the musico-dramatic realization of Wagner's cosmic vision" which, it seems, was "left to the dictates and requirements of Le Machine and the whims and inclinations of the individual performers, each according to his or her wont," (to quote ourself), and musically no more than merely competent on all counts from all performers, from the conductor (James Levine) on up. It also badly miscast vocally the two principal protagonists — Bryn Terfel (Wotan) and Eric Owens (Alberich) — each of whom should have been singing the other's role. To detail all the myriad badness of this staging would take far too much of our time and in the absence of payment in serious money for the effort we refuse to undertake the task except to point out that this is a Rheingold absent a Walhall (we kid you not). The only thing positive one could say about this staging is that it isn't a Eurotrash (i.e., Konzept Regietheater) staging — although on second thought, perhaps that would have been preferable.
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.
While I take your point (and it's a reasonable one), saying we ought to accept the lesser of two evils [viz., Lepage's staging of the Ring as opposed to a Eurotrash one] with some measure of relief is hardly an answer to the problem. The Lepage staging of the _Ring_ is in every way unacceptable, especially for a company with the prestige and stature of the Met. And what makes it unacceptable is NOT fixable except by doing away with it altogether as it's flawed *conceptually*. The Lepage staging centrally features Le Machine as the looming, hulking, impotently conspicuous star of the show as it could not otherwise be, and that's utterly and fundamentally perverse. And when I say the staging must be done away with altogether, I mean doing away with both Lepage and his humongous, dead-weight, ill-conceived, Frankenstein contraption to which contraption he's devoted entirely. The ONLY way such a contraption could justify itself is if it were capable of becoming THE ENTIRE STAGE ITSELF, perfectly plastic and malleable, and by so doing become invisible or transparent as a contraption. That's nowhere in the cards with Le Machine, either technically or practically; ergo, it has to go, along with its creator who cares infinitely more for it than for Wagner's great work which work both he and it were supposed to serve.
[New York Public Radio radio station] WQXR pulled a blog posting critical of the Metropolitan Opera’s new Ring cycle last month after the Met’s general manager, Peter Gelb, personally complained to the radio station’s top executive.Since then, we've read indignant and outraged responses to that action across the classical music blogosphere and on online opera forums on the Web almost all of which responses condemned Mr. Gelb as being at fault and implying (or outright saying) he was guilty of censorship(!). Say what? Last time we checked, Mr. Gelb was not a member of the editorial staff of New York Public Radio or WQXR. How he could have been at fault, and guilty of censorship no less, in the pulling of that blog post is beyond our capacity to understand. The only guilty parties in this craven incident would be the editorial staff of WQXR and Laura Walker, the president and chief executive of WQXR’s parent NYPR, who backed the editorial staff's decision. It's those two entities alone at which one's indignation and outrage should be aimed. All Peter Gelb could be guilty of in this matter is having a too-thin skin and an outsized sense of his own importance and influence in domains outside the Met.
The Metropolitan Opera presented Wagner’s “Götterdämmerung” on Tuesday night to conclude the first of three complete cycles of “Der Ring des Nibelungen” this spring.... Alas Mr. Lepage’s handling of the concluding Immolation Scene remains juvenile. Brünnhilde still rides a hobby horse to join Siegfried on a makeshift funeral pyre that would be too puny for a high school pep rally. [...] So after all the hassles, the initial malfunctions, the $16 million price tag and Mr. Gelb’s repeated proclamations that the Lepage “Ring” is revolutionary, what are we left with? The Met’s new “Ring” is the most frustrating opera production I have ever had to grapple with. The machine represents a breakthrough in stage technology. There are breathtaking moments, like the opening of “Die Walküre,” in which the video images projected on a configuration of upright planks suggest a menacing tangle of trees in a forest, through which the wounded young Siegmund is fleeing his pursuers in a storm. But on balance the effects achieved are not worth the distractions they create....RTWT here.
Mr. Lepage called condemnation of the set part of “a false debate,” given that the idea of a giant transforming set has been used elsewhere. At the Met, he said, “the times will catch up with that concept.” “People are very protective,” he added of Met audiences. He defended the set’s size as appropriate to the vast environs of the house. “You’re in a place where things have to be huge and echo what the singers are trying to convey,” he said. Negative comments about the large set often come from people focused only on the music, Mr. Lepage said, adding that he was also trying to cater to those “who love the spectacle of opera, who love the magnifying of the ideas you can’t see in the eyes of the singer.” He continued: “But you have a bunch of purists who say, ‘We don’t want those people because they don’t know what opera is.’ I don’t refute what specialists say, but I also have to entertain 4,000 people. It’s all about storytelling.” He said that cranky operagoers who sit “with the score on their laps” and never look up hear a creak in the set, “and they get all——” Mr. Lepage finished the sentence with a lemon-sucking face. “These people — go see a concert version of the Ring.”We suggest that had Monsieur Lepage taken his own advice at every opportunity that presented itself before even daring to think of staging the Ring, the new Met Ring might have turned out very different indeed. But then again, maybe not. RTWT here.
Peter Gelb has both raised expectations and invited criticism by calling Robert Lepage’s $16 million production of Wagner’s Ring cycle for the Metropolitan Opera revolutionary. He used the word again in a recent interview at his office, as he spoke of the “trials and tribulations” of executing Mr. Lepage’s “superhuman,” technically daunting concept in a repertory theater “against amazing odds.” [...] Despite the technical problems and the stinging barbs the production has received from many critics, Mr. Gelb sees the Lepage Ring as emblematic of his mission to bring the latest theatrical thinking and technology to the Met. “Over all for me, on balance, I think it’s a remarkable experience,” he said. Yet even he is a little worried: “I reserve final assessment until I see how it all works out technically, when presented complete in the space of a week.”To be fair to Mr. Gelb in the matter of his defenses of the Lepage Ring, he at present finds himself in a seriously difficult position: he has to defend his original decision on this staging against the reality of now having on his hands a clear white elephant — a multi-million-dollar white elephant; by far the most costly production in Met history. Back at the planning stages of the project, the Lepage staging must have looked like it would be THE perfect solution for the Met: a staging that used spectacular — yes, even "revolutionary" — new technology to present Wagner's Ring the way Wagner himself conceived it. In one fell swoop, Mr. Gelb must have thought, it would satisfy both "progressives" and "traditionalists" and the Met would be the beneficiary in terms of critical accolades and ticket sales. Unhappily, things didn't work out that way. Neither "progressives" nor "traditionalists" were satisfied, and the critical response from all quarters — both print and digital, professional and amateur — was largely anything but enthusiastic. The problem Mr. Gelb faced in the planning stage was that, because of the nature of the staging, it was difficult, if not entirely impossible, to make anything even approaching a trustworthy assessment of the staging until it was fully a fait accompli, and so, at the time, he had to rely almost exclusively on how the thing looked on paper, so to speak; a hugely risky gamble given the costs involved; a gamble that, as things turned out, Mr. Gelb lost — big time. But, as always in the arts, and particularly in the performing arts, no risks taken is a prescription for stagnation, and so perhaps we all — and that very much includes us — should cut Mr. Gelb just a modicum of slack when it concerns his desperate if impotent defenses of this failed staging. We all can afford to give him that much.
According to a report first posted on Norman Lebrecht's website Slipped Disc, the Metropolitan Opera has done the unthinkable, slashing prices across the board for upcoming performances of the three complete cycles of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen.How else for the Met to save itself from the embarrassment of half- or more than half-empty houses for this vapid, wooden, appallingly costly, anything but "revolutionary" Robert Lepage staging of the full cycle of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen? Time for Peter Gelb to consider our suggestion for the full-cycle presentation of the Ring for the hard upon us 2013 Wagner bicentennial.
At the Metropolitan Opera, one staging after another has failed to catch fire, and the most ambitious undertaking of the Peter Gelb era, Robert Lepage’s production of Wagner’s Ring, is a very damp squib. Götterdämmerung, the final installment, arrived in January, rounding out what must be considered a historic achievement. Pound for pound, ton for ton, it is the most witless and wasteful production in modern operatic history. It’s an embarrassment that this catastrophically vapid spectacle is what New York has to offer to the world on the occasion of the Wagner bicentennial, which arrives next year.Sounds about right to us (and beyond that linked, in-agreement January S&F entry, see our suggested solution to the problem of what the Met might do for next year's Wagner bicentennial in lieu of replaying this embarrassing Lepage spectacle).
As the subtitle [A Guide For The Willing But Perplexed] of this four-volume series implies, The Four Days of Wagner's Ring has been written for those intrigued by Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen but feel its complexities too daunting or complicated to undertake on their own, and who have found existing guides to be either too simplistic or so scholarly and/or lengthy as to be almost as daunting as the work it purports to explicate and make clear. The volumes in this series adopt a middle ground that it's hoped readers will find engaging reading and a helpful and illuminating guide through the intricacies of Wagner's great tetralogy.The curious and unanticipated problem is that we're experiencing some measure of unsureness getting "into the head" of that intended reader and so are having some difficulty in judging whether our approach is really striking the middle ground promised above, or whether we're missing the mark by being not simple enough, or too simple, or condescending, or.... Well, you get the idea. So, this is a call for so-called focus-group participants. If you meet the description of the above intended reader (or know someone who does) and own a Kindle or, alternatively (but not ideally), have installed on your computer Kindle For PC or Kindle For Mac, do drop us an eMail (or have the aforementioned someone do so) at The Wagner Group and we'll eMail you back a Kindle preview (.mobi) file containing the first few chapters of the book along with instructions on how to transfer it to your Kindle or to the proper Kindle document folder on your computer. (NOTE: Please let us know whether you'll be reading on a Kindle or on Kindle For PC or Kindle For Mac.) What we're looking for in return, of course, are your comments, positive and/or negative, on what you've read. We regret that the only compensation we can offer you for your participation in this focus group is a free copy of Volume I of The Four Days of Wagner's Ring on its publication. We do look forward to hearing from you, and thank you for your attention to this call.