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The Bayreuth Festival Has Opened With The Usual Eurotrash Shenanigans

   The world famous Wagner festival  at the otherwise sleepy northern Bavariian town of Bayreuth  has just opened , celelbrating the bicentennial of the birth of  the mighty musical genius  Richard Wagner .  The festival has been  going on with  intermittant  hiatuses  since  1876 , several yers after  Wagner quixotically chose this modest,undistinguished   town  in order to build a  special  opera  house  there to perform his  stage works and nothing else .  After closing for the second world war , the festival opened in 1951  under the management of  Wagner's two grandsons  , Wieland and Wolfgang ,  and has  occurred every year since .

    Now Wagner's great grandduaghters  are running  it ,  and the  sets , costumes  and stagings  have changed far beyond anything  he could ever have imagined .although the music itself has not changed . The festival features a much-anticipated and even  dreaded  production of  Wagner's colossal  four part operatic  epic  "The Ring Of The Nibelungen "  directed by a controversial German  director  for the legitimate stage by the name of Frank Castorf , who had no previous experience directing operas . 

    Mix a director known for staging  wildly revisionist versions of plays  with the de rigeur  policy of  revisionist  stagings of the Wagner canon at Bayreuth  , and  something outrageous  is  inevitable .  Of course, such  revisionist Eurotrash productions of opera are the norm all over Europe and to a lesser extrent in America .  Perversely, it would be sacrilege to  do a production which actually  presented what Wagner had in mind , a mythical teutonic  world of  Germanic and Scandinavian gods, godesses,  superheroes, water nixies, valkyries, dwarves who live inside the earth , giants ,  and assorted magical parapernalia . 

     What do we get in the new  production at Bayreuth ?   Well, for one thing, it's set mostly in America among  ruthless oil dealers  , and the nixies of the Rhine are hookers hanging around a  sleazy motel  out west .   And instead of the mighty Rhine, they're in a swimming pool ! ! !   A photo of one of the sets reveals a hiideously ugly  communist equivalent of  Mount Rushmore ,  with Karl Marx , Stalin, Mao Zedong and  Fidel Castro !   Marx was an almost exact contemporary of Wagner ,and the two died in the same year ,1883 , but  Mao was born ten years later .  Wotan, ruler of the gods , is a greedy oil tycoon ! Sheesh !  

      Wagner isn't spinning in his grave , he's shooting out of it  like a rocket !  The last  productions to present the Ring in a manner Wagner would have recognized as  what he conceived have been at the Metropolitan opera ;  one dating from the 1980s and which was  disliked by many critics but very popular with audiences  , and  the current and highly controversial one which uses a  massive unit set of metal planks which  constantly move around the stage  combined with  complex and sophisticated computer -generated lighting  effects . 

     Criitical reaction so far ,both in Europe and America has been  reserved but not  angry .  You can read a review of  the opening  night  of "Das Rheingold ", the first part of the tetralogy ,in  the New York Times by going to their website .  It will  probbly come out on DVD soon . But a better  bet is to get  the DVDs of  both Met productions  , available from Deutsche Grammophon records , complete with English subtitles , which will be a great help to you in  comprehending this  vast and  awesome  work .  If you would actually like to  go  to Bayreuth , be warned that there is a ten year waiting period for tickets !  It's easier to get an audience with the Pope !   There are opera tours  which  go to Bayreuth and  which have specially reserved tickets, but these are very expensive .

Posted: Jul 30 2013, 10:30 PM by the horn | with no comments
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