Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Monday night I attended Sebastian Baumgarten's annoying staging of Tannhäuser at the Bayreuth Festival. The opera is set in a busy factory with 3 levels, & the curtain is already up when the audience enters.  There is constant activity on stage, but none of it seems related to the opera itself. For me it was all just a distracting muddle. The Venusburg is a circular cage that rises from the floor. Its denizens include ape-like creatures & dancers in giant tadpole costumes. Wolfram & the other troubadours are factory workers. In act 2 the chorus sat on benches for the Entry of the Guests instead of entering while singing. Wofram peels a potato while jealously eying Tannhäuser & Elsa's meeting in act 2, & in act 3 Wolfram kills Elisabeth by sealing her in a tank labelled "Biogas." He then waltzes with Venus while singing "O du, mein holder Abendstern."

There are 3 screens for projections that include a lot of non-Wagnerian texts, though the main screen is behind an aerial walkway on the set, so it was not possible to see it clearly from our seat. Additional members of the audience were seated on the stage, watching the action from the sides. People in the row in front of us seemed to be among those taking turns being on stage.

The cast was consistent, & I was especially grateful for baritone Michael Nagy, who was a committed actor as Wolfram, no matter what silliness he had to do. He sang a velvety & dreamy "O du, mein holder Abendstern." Tenor Torsten Kerl did a fine job in the title role, pacing himself well & expressing gritty passion & anger in the Rome Narrative. Bass Günther Groissböck was a hunky Landgraf & sang characterfully & with power. Mezzo Michelle Breedt was a weirdly unsexy Venus, & I found soprano Camilla Nylund a bit strident as Elisabeth. Soprano Katja Stuber sang the shepherd boy with a stunningly beautiful, ethereal voice that was almost non-human, & she managed to do it while lurching around like a stumbling drunk. The conducting of Axel Kober was bland & lacked momentum.

Someone applauded after the overture, which was clearly an offense to the rest of the audience. Before the 3rd act, the chorus performs a kind of mass, complete with call & response & much stage business. As they exited, some of the audience applauded, then another contingent responded by booing. At the end of the opera, there were both boos & applause, though the audience gave positive ovations for all the individual performers. The curtain calls lasted about 5 minutes.

Die Oper Tatlerin attended wearing an outfit with hearts, in honor of the opera's Venus. She also had the unsettling experience of having an audience member faint on her.

§ Tannhäuser
Bayreuther Festspiele 2013

Conductor, Axel Kober
Director, Sebastian Baumgarten
Stage design, Joep van Lieshout
Costumes, Nina von Mechow
Lighting, Franck Evin
Video, Christopher Kondek
Dramaturgy, Carl Hegemann
Choral Conducting, Eberhard Friedrich

Landgraf Hermann, Günther Groissböck
Tannhäuser, Torsten Kerl
Wolfram von Eschenbach, Michael Nagy
Walther von der Vogelweide, Lothar Odinius
Biterolf, Thomas Jesatko
Heinrich der Schreiber, Stefan Heibach
Reinmar von Zweter, Martin Snell
Elisabeth,  Camilla Nylund
Venus, Michelle Breedt
Ein junger Hirt, Katja Stuber

Monday 12. August, 06:00 PM

1 comment:

Dave said...

Forget about Baumgarten's Tannhäuser. Watch the only valid version fom Bayreuth!