Friday, August 16, 2013

Das Rheingold

Though I'd sat through 3 Wagner operas this week already, they were just the warm-up for Wednesday evening, the 1st night of Bayreuth's new Ring staged by Frank Castorf. The opera has an impressive, hyper-realistic set that represents a motel, gas station & soda fountain on Route 66 in Texas. The characters seem drawn from American movies & TV, but there is no story arc, & the action is fragmentary & unrelated to what the characters are singing. The Rheinmaidens are 3 floozies hanging around the pool, their underwear hanging out to dry. Alberich behaves like a child, squirting mustard on himself & taking a shower while eating a long sausage. The Nibelheim scene begins with Alberich & Mime tied to poles & being humiliated by Wotan & Loge & is particularly unrelated to the text. There are no Nibelungen. The staging includes several mute characters, including an unfortunate man who does all the jobs around the motel. Occasionally something fit the libretto. I like that the giants, 2 thugs, are completely differentiated characters. Fafner kills Fasolt by clubbing him with a gold bar. When Erda emerges out of a door in Wotan's motel room, Fricka jealously runs into the room to check out this new woman.

I was more engaged by the mechanics of the production. The entire set rotates & works from all sides. A car drives up to the gas pump, & later an Airstream is placed on stage to represent the home of Mime & Alberich. A video screen atop the set, rotating independently, shows a live feed of the action, shot by multiple videographers on stage with the singers. This allows us to see closeups & things taking place out of our sight. Alberich's transformations are lamely handled by video cuts. Perhaps Mr. Castorf wanted to make a Quentin Tarentino movie instead.

The entire cast gave committed & convincing acting performances. I liked the offhandedness & naturalism of tenor Norbert Ernst's Loge, as well as his easy delivery. Tenor Burkhard Ulrich was an animated & strangely endearing Mime. When Alberich is captured, Mime lovingly caresses the Airstream that is now his & then lowers the Texas flag on a nearby flagpole & replaces it with a rainbow flag. Bass Günther Groissböck sung Fasolt expressively & with a virile sound. Bass-baritone Sorin Coliban as Fafner had a deep, strong voice, but his painted-on beard did not stand up to the scrutiny of the video cameras.

Bass-baritone Wolfgang Koch sang Wotan with authority, focus & a nice dynamic range, but the staging unfortunately gives his character no where to develop. Bass-baritone Martin Winkler sounded gruff & grounded as Alberich. As Fricka, mezzo Claudia Mahnke made an attractive & connected sound. The Freia of soprano Elisabet Strid was fearful & intense. Mezzo Nadine Weissmann's Erda was surprisingly airy & sultry.

The festival orchestra sounded great under conductor Kirill Petrenko, who led a springy, even light, performance. The orchestral sound has a physical presence in the Festspielhaus, & it was stunning to hear the high violin solo for Freia seem to materialize onstage. The harps sounded like they were being plucked right in front of my face, & I could not figure out where the voices of the off-stage Rheinmaidens were coming from. There were only a few token boos when the curtain came down, & the audience applauded enthusiastically, stomping their feet particularly for Mr. Groissböck, Mr. Winkler & Maestro Petrenko. The curtain calls ran 10 minutes.

Die Oper Tatlerin wore a marine-themed outfit for the evening & had to contend with an uptight German who mistakenly thought she was in his seat.

§ Das Rheingold
Bayreuther Festspiele2013

Conductor, Kirill Petrenko
Director, Frank Castorf
Stage design, Aleksandar Denić
Costumes, Adriana Braga Peretzki
Lighting, Rainer Casper
Video, Andreas Deinert & Jens Crull

Wotan, Wolfgang Koch
Donner, Oleksandr Pushniak
Froh, Lothar Odinius
Loge, Norbert Ernst
Fricka, Claudia Mahnke
Freia, Elisabet Strid
Erda, Nadine Weissmann
Alberich, Martin Winkler
Mime, Burkhard Ulrich
Fasolt, Günther Groissböck
Fafner, Sorin Coliban
Woglinde, Mirella Hagen
Wellgunde, Julia Rutigliano
Floßhilde, Okka von der Damerau

Wednesday 14. August, 06:00 PM

No comments: