Sunday, August 18, 2013


Saturday evening I attended the Bayreuth Festival's new Siegfried. In a direct steal from Francesca Zambello's staging of The Ring for San Francisco Opera, Mime & Siegfried live in an Airstream, here parked beneath giant stone heads of Marx, Lenin, Stalin & Mao. Siegfried has no bear but instead has the motel attendant from Rheingold tied to the end of a rope. In act 2 the enormous set rotates to reveal the world clock & subway station at Alexanderplatz. As in the previous operas, we also saw live & pre-taped video segments.

Director Frank Castorf's staging is busy & never boring, but it is also willfully incompetent & has almost nothing to do with the libretto. Inane antics in act 3 included Wotan & Erda sharing a spaghetti dinner, Wotan receiving a blow job from a prostitute, Siegfried & Brünnhilde leaving the stage during their love scene, & crocodiles crawling on stage & humping. In act 2 Siegfried kills Fafner with an AK-47, & the sound of the machine gun fire caused someone in the audience to scream. A notice was posted at the theater assuring the audience that the sound effect would not affect their hearing. Basically Mr. Castorf is punking the festival & has embarrassed its directors, Katharina Wagner & Eva Wagner-Pasquier.

Tenor Lance Ryan as Siegfried sometimes made a bright, ringing sound & at other times sounded wobbly or squeezed. He moved actively on stage & never tired. Tenor Burkhard Ulrich acted the role of Mime more than sang it & gave an enthusiastic & animated performance. Bass-baritone Wolfgang Koch as The Wanderer sang with expressiveness & authority, even though the production had him looking like a seedy clown. Bass-baritone Sorin Coliban was fittingly heavy & gruff as Fafner. He never appeared in the form of a dragon, though a crocodile was onstage for part of his scene. Bass-baritone Martin Winkler was an impassioned & snarling Alberich.

Soprano Mirella Hagen indeed sounded warbly & bird-like as the Forest Bird. She was onstage in act 2 looking like a cross between a Vegas show girl & a Hopi Indian. She returned in act 3, only to be swallowed by a crocodile. Her costume was ungainly, & during her curtain calls she nearly knocked Alberich over & had to shuffle sideways to get offstage. Mezzo Nadine Weissmann had a soft & sultry voice as Erda. I really enjoyed soprano Catherine Foster's lissom, warm, & pretty voice for Brünnhilde. Her singing fit the act 3 music beautifully.

The orchestra under Kirill Petrenko continues to sound great, playing with suppleness & agility. The strings & harp sounded gorgeous in the music depicting Brünnhilde's awakening. Somehow it seemed like the horn soloist in act 2 was not playing the right notes. There were boos for each act, & at the end the audience unanimously directed loud boos & whistles at the production. The principals took curtain calls after each act, & their performances were applauded appreciatively, though Mr. Ryan received a few boos. The final curtain call lasted 5 minutes.

Since this staging had no bear, I was grateful that Die Oper Tratscherin attended in this bear-inspired ensemble. Since it also happened to be my birthday, we ate fancy appetizers & desserts in the Festspielrestaurant.

§ Siegfried
Bayreuther Festspiele 2013

Musikalische Leitung, Kirill Petrenko
Regie, Frank Castorf
Bühnenbild, Aleksandar Denić
Kostüme, Adriana Braga Peretzki
Licht, Rainer Casper
Video, Andreas Deinert & Jens Crull

Siegfried, Lance Ryan
Mime, Burkhard Ulrich
Der Wanderer, Wolfgang Koch
Alberich, Martin Winkler
Fafner, Sorin Coliban
Erda, Nadine Weissmann
Brünnhilde, Catherine Foster
Waldvogel, Mirella Hagen

Samstag, 17. August, 16:00 Uhr


Civic Center said...

"Basically Mr. Castorf is punking the festival & has embarrassed its directors, Katharina Wagner & Eva Wagner-Pasquier" strikes me as the most succinct summing up of the new production that I've read. Congrats on seeing the Worst Siegfried Ever on your birthday, helped along by all those lovely appetizers and desserts.

Axel Feldheim said...

Thanks, Michael! Might be Worst Siegfried Ever, but was also Bestes Geburstag ever! No doubt the Festspiel audience will be even angrier tonight.