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What are Nazis doing in Tannhäuser?

We are hearing howls of protest at Burkhard C. Kosminski’s new Tannhäuser production, which opened last night in Düsseldorf.

‘How can a director allow such a thing?’ exclaims one local critic, horrified at the SS uniforms and gas chambers that litter the stage of Wagner’s masterpiece. The audience started booing half an hour into the opera. Let us know if you were there.

"Tannhäuser"-Oper in Düsseldorf


tannhauser nazi2tannhauser nazi3

photos: Hansjoerg Michel/Opera-am-Rhein

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  1. There is NO excuse to present something so disgraceful. I am glad I was not there. Hope the audience not
    only booed this inexcusable garbage, but walked out and demanded their money back.

  2. PK Miller says:

    What do Nazis have to do w/Tannhauer–a semi-unrepentent sinner, Venus & the Pope’s Crozxier sprouting leaves? (gives Tannhauser his eternal savation–don’t ask!!!!) What’s next? Justin Bieber as Cavardossi to Selma what’s her name’s Tosca???? Aaaaack!!!!!!!!!

  3. More than half of the audience stayed put.

  4. Michael Hurshell says:

    One would think the German Regisseurs had grown tired of SS etc.on stage. By now anyway, I mean it’s so old. This simply cannot be done under the banner of “creativity” or “social commentary” – it has alas been done over and over, and I fail to see the point. There is only one sorry explanation: the poor director couldn’t come up with anything better. Poor Wagner, poor singers and orchestra, poor audience. WHEN will the Intendants learn that hiring a Schauspiel Regisseur is NO ANSWER…? Happy Birthday, Richard.

    • José Lastarria says:

      Bravo Michael, above, and Fabio, below. If clueless, put Nazis on stage. You’re guaranteed coverage – duh – and probably a clutch of future engagements by theatres eager to be noticed in Germany’s crowded opera landscape.

    • Dennis Webb says:

      Michael, the point of these atrocious productions is the promotion of the career of the director. These modern opera directors, who often know little of music and care even less, have ambitions to become movie directors, a career that pays much better. So they get a commission for an opera and then intentionally create something crude and disgusting. It creates “buzz” and gets their name known. In the operatic world, as in show business generally, there is no such thing as bad publicity. The more outrageous the production, the more it benefits the director’s career. Unfortunately, opera company directors and much of the opera-going public support this form of artistic desecration. Anyone who truly loves opera should not support these awful productions.

  5. Fabio Fabrici says:

    Have to agree with above post. That’s what happens when you hire f*****g clueless Schauspiel Regisseure, who too often have no respect or deeper understanding for the music they are supposed to reflect and interpret on stage.

  6. harold braun says:

    Being jewish and coming from a family who suffered through all of this,I can only express my disgust for a so called director who abuses not only Wagners masterwork but also the unspeakable horrors of the holocaust for self promotion by orchestrating a cheap “scandal”.Nevertheless I bet you the offers from other German opera houses to do something similar trivial and “scandalous”will come in dozens now. As a musician I would not consider this production worthy of discussion,as a human being and a jew.I think it is an offence to the victims and their descendants.

    • Thank you, Harold. How disgusting! Good taste and a sense of appropriateness, at the very least,
      are inherent in the achieving the standard . This entire production is beneath contempt.

    • Dennis Webb says:

      “Self promotion” is the key to all this.

  7. I thought that Nazi imagery in Regieoper had long since become a cliche. People are still outraged by it?

    Or are they angry that Kosminski couldn’t think of anything less shopworn?

  8. Basia Jaworski says:

    Harold: I couldn’t agree more!

    “Buh-Rufe in ihrer Inszenierung, in der Premiere heute – schockiert Sie das selbst?”

    Kosminski: “Nö, ich find’s sehr gut wenn Oper lebendig ist, wenn es die Leute angeht, wenn sie ‘ne Meinung dazu habe, und es nicht einfach nur ‘ne schöngeistige Veranstaltung ist.”

    - Warum haben Sie das Ganze in die NS-Zeit verlegt?

    Kosminski: “Na ja, die Grundfrage ist doch: was hat Tannhäuser getan, dass die Gesellschaft ihn verstößt, was für ‘ne Tat hat er gemacht? Es kann ja nicht die freie Liebe sein, dass man nach Rom gehen muss… Und dann ist halt das Konzept entstanden – und es hat Relevanz und ist auch richtig so.”

    Man weiß mal wieder nicht, ob man über so viel dumme Arroganz lachen oder weinen soll. Wenn man der Grundstruktur eines Werkes oder dem historischen Kontext nichts abgewinnen kann, nicht in der Lage ist ein Konzept aus dem Werk selbst heraus zu entwickeln, dann sollte man eine Inszenierung doch lieber anderen Leuten überlassen. Stattdessen stülpt man (s)ein Konzept drüber – noch dazu ein so ausgelutschtes Ding – bloß weil man meint, “es hat Relevanz und ist auch richtig so.” Allein dieser Satz ist so beschämend, weil er so viel Überheblichkeit und Arroganz entlarvt, so viel Kleingeistigkeit, Eitelkeit und Spießigkeit. Beschämend ist in dieser Form auch die Darstellung der Judenvergasung, weil es aus dieser Haltung, aus diesem Zweck eine große Respektlosigkeit den Opfern gegenüber ist. Warum thematisiert man die NS-Verbrechen nicht in angemessener Form (und angemessenen Stücken!) auf der Bühne, statt sie für sein Konzept eines Stückes, welches diese gar nicht zum Thema hat, zu missbrauchen? Für mich hat dies übrigens nichts mit “Regietheater – pro / contra” etc. zu tun, sondern mit der Frage, wann Theater wieder für das Publikum gemacht wird, anstatt die Selbstgefälligkeiten und Therapiebedürftigkeit einzelner “Künstler” zu befriedigen. Ich finde es erschreckend, dass man immer häufiger von Regisseuren hört und ließt, sie könnten eigentlich mit den Werken oder deren Inhalten, die sie inszenieren, nichts anfangen (“Es kann ja nicht die freie Liebe sein, dass man nach Rom gehen muss.”). Es ist doch absurd, wenn ein Werk bloß als noch als Transportmittel für das Konzept eines Regisseurs dient… Na ja, hauptsache es “hat Relevanz und ist auch richtig so.”

    • Fabio Fabrici says:

      “was für ‘ne Tat hat er gemacht?”

      That man supposedly is a “Schauspiel Regisseur.” With no command of the German language apparently. I rest my case. Full blame on those who hired this moron. If a “Schauspiel Regisseur” uses language, the object of his work, like this, Kindergarten level, one should not be surprised about the results.

    Alex Ross in his brilliant ‘The Rest is Noise’, his book about 20C music, says: ‘The great German tradition, with all its grandeurs and sorrows, is cordoned off, like a crime scene under investigation’. German ‘regietheater’ turned postwar guilt into pertified clichée for nitwits, the exact opposite of what had been intended. It merely shows that the time of considering the German musical tradition as burdened with crime, has passed. That guilt trauma from civilizational catastrophe can turn, in a perfectly peaceful & rich society, into offensive clichée, is in itself a worrying sign of civilizational erosion.

    • harold braun says:

      Mr.Ross’brillant analysis hits the nail on its head!

    • Ross’s view is much to pat for me. Regietheater when simplistic is to be condemned, but not as an entire style or technical practice. And there are many levels of Western orchestral and operatic music (Germanic or not) that still lacks needed examination in light of the events of the 20th century. These would include its cultural nationalism, regimentation, patriarchy, authoritarianism, and hierarchical organization.


        Sorry, but all this just sounds too fashionable left-wingy, as if works of art shoud in the first place be spaces to explore the flaws of modern society. And then, modern troubles do not in the least enlighten works of art of older times. The entire idea is wrong, upside down, inside out. We do not go to operas to better understand our own society, but to understand the operas themselves in the first place, and in terms of universal truths of the human condition. If I want to understand the specific social, political, philosophical, anthropological, mental, digestive problems of our own times, I go to the public library and borrow a couple of books. Opera is about the human condition in a universal, condensed way, which means that there are timeless aspects of existence which can be found in all times and places for being human. What modern regietheater wants to do, is already part of the work, but in a more general way. To dress up opera productions with contemporary problems in the foreground, bypasses the raison d’être of the art form, it is just distracting and superfluous.

        • Suffice it to say that some take a broader approach to their engagement with art.

          • It is always amusing to see vagueness and insecurity of distinction being dressed-up as a ‘broader, more generous, more tolerant view upon artistic matters’….. It sounds a bit like the egalitarian cultural ‘Weltanschauung’ which makes no difference between pop music, art music, cooking, needlework, Velasquez, Warhol, advertising, rap, digestion, Wagner operas, sitcoms, childrens’ drawings, Mongolian folk dancing, the Sixtine Chapel and Princess Diana’s family photo album.

          • Gonout Backson says:


      • harold braun says:

        NO! They should include studying and knowing the score.Regietheater is nothing but a lame excuse for being at a lack to perform it properly.

  10. I’m outraged by the cliché. Lack of imagination.

    There are at least two famous S. Spielberg movies full of SS and Gas Chambers mentons. I’m wondering why no one was outraged by it. Perhaps It is that thing about Woody Allen. He can play any joke about Jews and it is just funny or not, but if Wender do the same, I would like to see the reactions

    • Fabio Fabrici says:

      Perhaps there is no outrage there because the SS and Gas Chambers are in the script? Unlike in Tannhäuser?

  11. I haven’t seen this production, and the information provided here makes it indeed quite probable that it would be a waste of time (concerning the stage production, no offense towards singers and musicians intended). However, the mere fact that a Wagner production does somehow link to the topic “Nazis” alone doesn’t make it rubbish automatically. In Götz Friedrich’s Holländer (Deutsche Oper Berlin), AFAIR, there were no swastikas visible on stage, but the link to the issue was clear. And, in my view, it was a very inspiring production. And, as a matter of taste, I didn’t like Stefan Herheim’s recent Bayreuth Parsifal, but I still consider it an interesting production worth seeing – and it did have obvious Nazi references.

    • ANY Nazi references in operas written BEFORE the brown period are an intrusion upon the work and damaging it. These references are merely an easy way to show ‘moral high ground’, it is a proud chest beating, like waving a flag and saying: ‘Hey, I’m a good German! ’cause I hate nazis!’ It is puerile, cheap, fake. Sorry… but any opera production which is interesting, should be so independent from nazi references.

      • This is a very simplistic view. So you are against *any* kind of interpretation of an opera by the stage director, right? Conductors, singers, and musicians interpret the works in their subjective ways as well, so why shouldn’t the stage director? And any form of interpretation, like it or not, is of course influenced by social, cultural, political, economical and historical contexts – and you can’t arbitrarily blank the Nazi past.

        I would agree with you if you said that many opera productions explicitly referring to the Nazi past (by the way, there’s still Naziism in our days as well) are puerile and cheap. But this doesn’t mean that any reference is per se illegitimate.

        Just because there’s (plenty) of bad Regietheater, this doesn’t mean Regietheater as such is bad.

        • The point is: what is a stage director to do? It is very simplistic to think that contemporary audiences would not understand operas of premodern times if not dressed-up with modern props like machine guns, washing machines, TV – or video screens, concentration camps etc. Older operas are not here to make contemporary problems understandable, but to expose aspects of the human condition in a general, and therefore, in a recognizable, accessible way. Regietheater is a very materialistic and limited approach to the art form and as we see, unsuited for it. It is based upon contempt for audiences and narcissistic display by stage directors. A musical score, be it of a purely instrumental work or opera, is merely a framework for production, and there is enough space for the performers (of which the stage director is one) to use one’s own creative fantasy. But the point of departure should always be the answer to the question: what has the MAKER intended? From there, interpretation begins, but should always remain within the bonds of the framework as laid-down in the score and stage directions. Only in this way, a really great production can emerge.

          • John, I fully agree with you that a stage director should read the score (and of course be able to do so) and take the work seriously (regrettably, there are indeed many stage directors that can’t and/or don’t want to). Nevertehless, I don’t agree that he/she should renounce to an own artistic approach and that opera should be staged in the same way a painting is exposed in a museum (saying “that’s how they did it 200 years ago). Neither is there only one right way of playing Wagner/Verdi/whoever, nor is there only one right way to stage it. And no, the (assumed) intention of the composer is not sacrosanct. This is art, not religion.

          • Gonout Backson says:

            “I don’t agree that he/she should renounce to an own artistic approach and that opera should be staged in the same way a painting is exposed in a museum (saying “that’s how they did it 200 years ago). Neither is there only one right way of playing Wagner/Verdi/whoever, nor is there only one right way to stage it. And no, the (assumed) intention of the composer is not sacrosanct. This is art, not religion.”

            Sorry, but this really doesn’t hold water. No one asks the director to “renounce”. An opera CANNOT be staged as a painting is exposed, due to its very nature. You don’t have to “play” a painting, no necessary mediation here – I hope this is clear.

            There is no one way of playing this music, there is a million ways, all of them identifiable as the work we play, which is not the case with Regietheater. The composer’s intentions are “sacrosanct” in the realm of music (please, let’s not play games here), and it has never stopped anyone from showing his individual “artistic approach”.

            Let the directors “interpret” the work, as musicians do, not write their own works under old names and titles, as musicians don’t.

    • harold braun says:

      Stefan Herheim ,you may like him or not,clearly is in a different class.

      • That’s what I wanted to say. Personally, I didn’t like the production much (and have so far not seen any other of his productions, so I don’t want to judge him generally), but I do acknowledge that it’s a very fine work that deserves respect.

        • Gonout Backson says:

          “It’s a very fine work that deserves respect”.

          No, it doesn’t, and for a very simple reason: Herheim is lying and he’s a coward . He claims to stage Wagner’s Parsifal, but he doesnt : he’s written his own stuff all over someone else’s work, and hides behind a bigger name and title. Of course, his production as such is much more clever and refined as poor Hr. Kosminsky’s… thing, but it’s just as irrelevant.

          “So you are against *any* kind of interpretation of an opera by the stage director, right? Conductors, singers, and musicians interpret the works in their subjective ways as well, so why shouldn’t the stage director?”

          You’re cheating, and cheating twice. John has never said anything of the kind, and your analogy is irrelevant here: “conductors, singer and musicians interpret the works”, they don’t rewrite them, as the Regietheater Wild Bunch does.

          • Well, if you would like to return to staging Wagner like Cosima and Heinz Tietjen did, your choice. I don’t, and I do say this in my condition as paying audience and taxpayer. And yes, there is something in between rewriting a work and falling back to 19th century style productions.

          • Gonout Backson says:

            Excuse me, but there’s a contradiction between your first and your second phrase: NO, I would NOT like to return to staging Wagner like Cosima and Heinz Tietjen did (even if it would be fun to try, but it’s a different matter), and I don’t know why you suggest I would, since I have never said anything of the sort. And that because, YES, there is something in between rewriting a work (like Herheim and his bunch do) and falling back to 19th century style productions.

            And this “in between” (artistic freedom and imagination within the limits of the work, just like musicians do) is what interests me.

          • OK, if you agree with my second phrase, maybe there’s not that much difference between our points of view. As I have repeatedly said here, I dislike productions that ignore score and libretto, too. And, considering the information available, I suppose I would dislike this Düsseldorf Tannhäuser, too. But I do consider legitimate a certain freedom of the stage director which includes what you might call “updating” (though I don’t really like the term). Just to put one outstanding example: Chéreau’s Ring is, in my view, a phantastic interpretation and it does not betray the work. On the other hand, Zeffirelli’s productions (just to put another example) are, in my view and as far as I have seen them, very well made but rather boring.

          • Gonout Backson says:

            Agreed completely. Chéreau’s Ring simply tells the story Wagner wrote and tries to represent what he wrote in an imaginative, original way. A lot of work has gone into this production, including months of study under Boulez’ direction, and you can see every hour of this work – on stage. You can discuss this or that solution, but it’s unmistakably – Wagner’s Ring.

            Most of the Regietheater solutions are, on the contrary, easy and lazy. Even the elaborate one, like Herheim’s Parsifal, look like a game of “free associations”, negligently thrown on the basic story, lacking elementary aesthetic and intellectual discipline. You know the artist not by what he can invent, but by what he can leave out (Offenbach’s “little cuts”). There is simply too much of it, the story can barely breathe.

            As for Zeffirelli, some of his old productions were pretty good, but the latest Aida is a nightmare, just as lazy as anything the Regietheater has ever invented. So whether it’s “too many ideas” or “not one single idea” – the result is the same.

          • Monica Berserk says:

            Chéreau’s Ring simply tells the story Wagner wrote and tries to represent what he wrote in an imaginative, original way.

            Radicalism + One Generation = Orthodoxy.

          • Gonout Backson says:

            Too easy.

  12. Michael says:

    Reading the German reviews it seems that Kosminski was interpreting the Venusberg as the Nazi terror and the Landgrave’s court as the post-war Adenauer period, giving Tannhäuser a past where he did truly terrible things which a modern audience can find really shocking. I have never understood the extreme reaction to the discovery that Tannhäuser had been consorting with Venus, exemplified by the Landgrave’s hysterical outburst:- “Ihr habt’s gehört! Sein frevler Mund tat das Verbrechen schrecklich kund. Er hat der Hölle Lust geteilt, im Venusberg hat er geweilt! Entsetzlich! Scheusslich! Fluchenswert! In seinem Blute netzt das Schwert! Zum Höllenpfuhl zurückgesandt sei er gefehmt, sei er gebannt!” (You don’t even need to understand a word of German to know that he is very, very angry!)

    I have not yet been able to work out from the reviews I have seen how the concept works through, but giving Tannhäuser a past in which he has done something really heinous rather than just have frolicked with nubile women seems very interesting, fresh and thought-provoking: much as I love Tannhäuser’s music, its dramaturgy taken at face value is little more than a sloppy, sentimental fairy tale – and I don’t mean a truly dark fairy tale like those of the Grimm brothers. It is so shallow that Tannhäuser spends time with Venus, comes back and meets his first love, goes to Rome, some greenery sprouts, he comes back and all live happily ever after. Most members of the audience rather envy Tannhäuser’s time on the Venusberg, especially when the choreography in the Bacchanale matches the eroticism of the music and then in the next scene we are invited to switch sides and condemn this disgraceful behaviour!

    According to Basia Jaworski’s quote, what Tannhäuser did – that made the court reject him so violently and require a pilgrimage to Rome – Kosminski does not think was free love. Is it not remotely possible that Wagner himself had a metaphor (maybe more than one) in mind here? Isn’t the Ring a multi-faceted metaphor, not just the come-uppance of anyone stealing the gold? Isn’t an interpretation where we really question what it takes for us to forgive and accept someone who has done something truly horrific much more relevant?

    Sparked by our worthy catalyst-in-chief (“What are Nazis doing in Tannhäuser?”), most contributors have weighed in with instant and completely one-sided views – in common with most discussions here of non-traditional productions. It is disappointing so many seem to reject any exchanges which dare to use “interpretation” or “relevant” or “modern”.

    • Fabio Fabrici says:

      You make a lot of sense, but Wagner was rather clear what Heinrich’s sin was. Which metaphor should Wagner have had in mind? Because today we are not outraged by sex outside of marriage, doesn’t mean we have to project our ideas of real sin into Wagner’s work.
      There are Operas which are dealing with mass murder. No point in raping Wagner’s oeuvre so violently.

    • Gonout Backson says:

      “What Tannhäuser did – that made the court reject him so violently and require a pilgrimage to Rome – Kosminski does not think was free love”

      Unfortunately for Hr. Kosminsky (and who cares what he “thinks”, if ever he does), this is what Wagner wrote, Wort und Ton.

      Agreed with Fabio all the way.

  13. And what was I writing only last week about cretinously empty-headed theatrical hooligans (on the matter of Bieito being let loose on Fidelio at the ENO in London) ? We all know their names but here’s a new one to add to the list.

    But how does a work become interesting (Herheim’s, Bayreuth Parsifal) when it has absolutely nothing whatever to do with the subject in hand ? That that production was a marvellous technical achievement is not in contest but there it stopped. Nothing that took place on that stage was remotely connected to the work.

    And when will a conductor come out in support of audiences and make a stand on behalf of the public ?

    One lives in hope that one day these deliquent idiots might grow up ? Or better, in the meantime, stop emplying them.

    • harold braun says:

      I agree with you.The Herheim Parsifal for me had nothing to do with Wagner’s work,but I couldn’t but help but admire the visually stunning brilliance of it,and the sheer wizardry of almost cinematic effects.I didn’t like the second half of the 3rd act,but the production per se was very estethical and beautiful to watch.

  14. …and then we have the Opera Nazis who would have nothing happen on stage that Wagner wouldn’t personally have done. As if we know that. And if we want to get incensed about sex outside of marriage… oops, Wagner did that, too.

    I am not saying Nazi references are not bad or offensive (they can be and they are) but the knee jerk reaction of condemning a production completely, based only on one aspect of it, especially by folks who’ve neither seen nor heard the production in question, seems narrow-minded in extreme.

    Herrheim’s Parsifal DID in fact have anything to do with the opera. That it had too many other ideas layered on top of it can be argued, but there’s not enough space here, and others have argued it quite eloquently. But it only takes a little patience and imagination to figure out what he was up to.

    Neuenfels’ Lohengrin, maybe on the surface, had tenuous connections to the opera, but with a little thought (Oh no , don’t make me THINK at the opera!) one can make connections. In a way, by removing all the uber-seriousness of the people of Brabant, one could focus more on the symbolism of the plot. Even Jonas Kaufmann, who sang in the premiere, and is famously, if discretely, not a big fan of regieoper, had some thoughtful and positive things to say about that production. But I digress.

    People are so quick to judge, and condemn that which is unfamiliar or those who are unlike us (Hmmm, didn’t the Nazis have a issue about people/things that were “different”), and I think it’s too bad that we can’t see opera (and music in general) as a living breathing art form that is happening now, instead of a museum artifact that must be preserved at all cost. Do people complain when Shakespeare is updated? (Maybe, but not nearly so loudly.) Should we never let Verdi’s Macbeth be performed, or boycott productions because it is not 100% faithful to the original play?

    What I find MOST annoying is that no one has mentioned the singing, acting or orchestral playing. Everyone is so twisted by the staging, it seems maybe there was no music at all. I guess that’s because most of the outcry is coming from people who have not seen nor heard any of the actual performances. For all I know this new Tannhauser may really be trash, but how can I tell when all the evidence I have is outrage from others, most of whom haven’t even seen it themselves?

    • Michael Varcoe-Cocks says:

      Rob: bravo!

      • Gonout Backson says:

        Not bravo: boooo! This is offensive nonsense and one single quote is enough to prove it: “People are so quick to judge, and condemn that which is unfamiliar or those who are unlike us (Hmmm, didn’t the Nazis have a issue about people/things that were “different”)”. So, if you don’t like the Regietheater, you’re not better than a Nazi.

        The rest of Rob’s arguments are old and tired, and have been answered many times (to no avail, apparently). The funniest, though, is one of the final remarks: “Everyone is so twisted by the staging, it seems maybe there was no music at all.”

        That’s for Hr. Kosminsky first and foremost, dear Rob: Wagner’s music is about something. He took great care for it to be about something. Hr. Kosminsky (ans most of his bunch) couldn’t care less.

    • The subject was / is regieoper, not singing in regieoper. The discussion is about the very idea of regieoper and critical remarks upon the phenomenon are fully justified if argued, as they are in these comments. To compare critique on regieoper with what the nazis did, is going so far beyond any normal discussion as to not deserve refutation…. Directing an opera based upon the work itself, and what the composer intended, is not encapsulating it into a ‘fixed’ museum object, but simply loyalty to the MAKER of the thing! Is this so difficult to understand? Just a matter of respect for the work of art, nothing more is required to arrive at a sane approach – is this comparable to nazi crimes?

      It has become a modern clichée that operas have to be distorted to make them palatable to contemporary audiences, which is nonsense. Since it is in itself impossible to keep to the letter of the work (because everything has to be interpreted anyway), if a stage director tries to get to the heart of the work he will interpret it nonetheless and in that margine lies his own personal achievement, which should be intended as a contribution to a good production. Anything beyond these limits is an assault on the work.

    • Thank you, Rob.

    • I’m not saying it’s right or good to impose new ideas on a classic, but it’s not always bad or wrong. I also don’t think everything regie is right and everything “traditional” is wrong, or vice versa.

      Sometimes a questionable konzept can be better understood by seeing and hearing the singing and acting. Sometimes (granted, not often) a director has a questionable konzept but overcomes it with strong personenregie.

      I am not defending this production (or praising it), as I HAVE NOT SEEN it.

      I think railing against a production (or a concert, or a performance, or an artist, or etc.) based only on what one has heard ABOUT it is not good or right either. At the same time, we always can vote with our wallets. If we don’t like it, or don’t think we’re going to like it, don’t buy the ticket.

      Remember, one man’s Vanilla may be another man’s Rocky Road.

      • Gonout Backson says:

        Sorry, but this principle applies much better to the director, who KNOWS what he’s getting into, and is paid to do it, whereas the ticket-buying public who PAYS HIM, doesn’t before it’s too late – and cannot get its money back afterwards.

        Mr Kosminski doesn’t like Wagner and what he stands for, there is a lot of stuff he can do without suffering, the poor soul.

  15. Michael Hurshell says:

    I believe that a basic misunderstanding is the cause of much sillyness and gimmickry on operatic stages: that it is “ok” for a Regisseur to ignore the music. These supposed “concepts” – particularly when developed by Schauspiel directors – always use the text – rather than musical substance, which is what drives the works, as the mirror of the characters’ emotional and psychological states – as the point of departure (or even more absurdly, the basic plot). But what a stage director OUGHT to be doing is practicing the apparently lost art (of course there are exceptions, when a director knows his metier) of “Personenführung” – i.e. interpreting the art work through a sensitive AND MUSICAL arrangement of the singers – their movements, gestures, facial expressions, the mode and tempo of their interaction etc. Set design and costumes really are (or should be) secondary. However, since so many directors not only have little or no ability in this area, and not only can’t read music, but evidently also – as is abundantly clear – don’t like the music much, we get the sort of turgid, and in my opinion boring, “interpretations” a la Kosminski. Such directors should really direct plays, and stop raping the great composers. Enough.

    • Gonout Backson says:

      If only they “used the text”, Dear Michael, or the basic plot! No: they write their own story, ignore the meaning of the words, change characters and situations, and then they sign it with the composer’s name.

      If this is not fraud, I wonder what it should be called…

      And it should stop.

      • I have to agree with you there. I think it’s inexcusable to engage a director who has little-to-no interest in opera or music in the first place.

        • Gonout Backson says:

          None of them has, since not one of them seems to be willing to stage the works they pretend to be staging. Most of them come for the dough, much bigger than in the spoken theatre, and for the ideological thrill they get from kicking the bourgeoisie in its “temple”.

      • “No: they write their own story, ignore the meaning of the words, change characters and situations, and then they sign it with the composer’s name.”

        Some do, indeed, and its regrettable, in my humble view.

        However, there’s plenty of good Regietheater as well that shows it’s possible to stage an opera creatively (i.e. not just illustrating the score) without betraying it.

        • Gonout Backson says:

          I haven’t seen one single production which can be called “Regietheater” who doesn’t rewrite the work. And I would say that “illustrating the score”, which is the only reason we came to the theatre in the first place (because no one would come for the text or the story alone), is what these guys are paid for.

  16. Nicho Dimitrov says:

    Very bad taste!

  17. Rebecca says:

    I’m not in Düsseldorf thus I haven’t seen Mr. Kosminski’s production. Being of Jewish heritage and an operatic artistic director in NYC, I must play a little devil’s advocate here. What is the message that Mr. Kominski is trying to say with his Tannhäuser? Did anyone stay and actually see the production? Is this his commentary on Wagner’s own racism and antisemitism and the influence he had on Adolf Hitler who was a great admirer of his? Wagner’s music was brilliant no doubt, but perhaps Mr. Kominski is trying to bring to the forefront the man behind the music with this production. Thoughts?

    • It is quite dangerous to make a ‘direct connection’ between Wagner’s antisemitism and nazi boots, merely because Hitler loved his work (and probably did not understand much of it, since in Wagner operas it is all about Untergang and the havoc that blind power creates). Wagner’s antisemitism was before anything else, a cultural critique based upon a rather stupid misunderstanding. He saw a lot of exploitative bankers and industrialists, supporting a superficial and commercial culture, which gave the industrial revolution in the 19C a rather ugly face, and also saw that lots of them were Jewish. Like people who think that red-haired communists were inevitably drawn towards their convictions because of their hair colour, Wagner thought that the exploiting capitalists were doing their things because of their being Jewish, as if it were in their nature. This explains his professed hatred upon ‘Jewry’ while in the same time, cultivating serious friendships with people with a Jewish background. He hated the ‘Jewish’ context of things which in his mind was connected with the problems of his times. He posthumously paid dearly for this mistake, as his work is forever tainted with the associations with insane crime. To feature nazi props in Wagner productions is rubbing it in, and the audiences have to suffer for it. Which is pointless.

      • Monica Berserk says:

        The impression I got (only from reading reviews and seeing a few photographs, so it may or may not be accurate) was that the director was addressing the situation in postwar Germany of perhaps a young artist who is conscripted into or otherwise finds himself in a position of great power in the National Socialist organization. He finds the objectively horrible tasks he is performing during the war stimulating and exciting: for him this is the most fulfilling occupation imaginable.

        He is “rehabilitated,” returned to a peacetime society in which good, traditional virtues are celebrated. He believes in those virtues, and even tries creating art to celebrate them, but he cannot, because virtue does not excite him: essentially, he has become addicted to violence and abuse of power. And, of course, his attraction to these horrific things cannot even be mentioned because the whole idea is too shocking, too destructive to the fragile new society.

        It’s not a stable situation. obviously, and so there has to be some sort of extreme demonstration in the third act to turn his mind around. (I don’t know how this detail of the production works out, but there is a photo of Elisabeth in a nun’s habit, so maybe that has something to do with it.)

        Again, this is a purely provisional exegesis: this may or may not have been what was on the director’s mind. But I think this idea of what you might call the “glamour of evil” is a very valid one and consistent with the broad dramatic theme of the work.

        • Gonout Backson says:

          Your answer is very interesting, and might even be right, but the question is wrong: this is a play/opera which might still be written, but Wagner did not write it. Hr. Kosminski is not writing a thesis on Tannhäuser, he’s producing it. A pianist’s ideas of the larger meaning of great work of music might be fascinating, but when he sits at his piano he’s not writing about it, he’s playing the notes (remember Gould?). There’s not one word in the Tannhäuser libretto telling this kind of story, and if you do it this way, you open a chasm of contradictions running for three hours.

          Words don’t mean anything anymore, as is usual in these productions – unless the unruly kids have rewritten them too; it happens. And when words are deprived of their meaning, turned into some sort of borborygmi, barbary cannot be very far.

          And that’s what this is, basically. Most of them claim to be fighting “fascism”, without suspecting how close they are to it.

    • Musiker says:

      Excellent point, Rebecca.
      It never ceases to astonish me how people who have never seen the “offending” production have the gall to think they can pass judgement on it.
      Even if they have read the reviews — and in most of the above cases they haven’t, simply because the reviews are in German — what gives them the right to pass a judgement on a staging they have never seen and probably never will?

      • Gonout Backson says:

        I’m sorry, but, to judge fairly a musical performance, do you really need to hear it – once you have been informed (from many reliable sources), that instead of playing the announced sonata as written, the pianist replaced some chords and passages with vomiting on the keyboard?

        Same here. Wagner wrote a Bacchanale. Hr Kosminski shows gas chambers with naked, dying people inside. No one seems to deny it, to pretend he didn’t.

        As far as I’m concerned, this little idea (and I don’t even mention his ludicrous comments and ideological alibis he’s giving himself) is vastly enough to disqualify this particular production and its author. And, please, let no one try to tell me I should have seen the whole thing to grasp its deepest meaning…

        • Musiker says:

          “To judge fairly a musical performance, do you really need to hear it?”
          Err, yes.

          • Rebecca says:

            Agreed…as we say in NYC “if you see something, say something” ;) But in all honesty, opinion is opinion and to judge something based off of review or popular commentary doesn’t mean it’s necessarily correct. For example, I think the new “Elixir” at the Met is a waste of money and basically recreated traditional fluff…but that’s my opinion and many people found it quite charming. It’s MY opinion based off of seeing the production.

          • Gonout Backson says:

            Sorry, it’s NOT about opinions and/or impressions. A fact has been given concerning this production, an obvious fact no one seems to deny. This fact disqualifies the production and its author, just like vomiting on the keyboard instead of playing the notes (not an accident : expression of artistic freedom!) would disqualify the performance and the pianist.

            But I could also add something: without going to Dusseldorff, I can honestly say I have seen this stuff before. Many times. Different colors, same smell. There is nothing new in it, other than the good old “anything you can do, I can do much worse”.

          • Gonout Backson says:

            Thanks for cutting my phrase in the middle, but I suppose it makes things easier for you : you don’t have to address my point.

        • Michael says:

          Yes indeed, “Wagner wrote a Bacchanale”, but has anyone ever seen a production which got even close to following his detailed and explicit stage directions, which describe nothing less than a wild drunken sexual orgy? I doubt Wagner had fully-clothed dancers in mind. Shouldn’t we have naked writhing copulating couples (not just couples!) on stage if we are to be true to the Master?

          • Gonout Backson says:

            Please, don’t try to be cute. There is a litlle difference between a approximative, clumsy, badly choreographed and “topless only” bacchanale, and a gas chamber…

          • Monica Berserk says:

            The actual classical Bacchanalia went a good deal farther than mere sexual orgy, at least according to Livy: the participants hunted down animals and ate their raw flesh, and sometimes people were murdered and their corpses mutilated.

          • Gonout Backson says:

            I’m sure one of our “progressives” shall soon try it this way, with actual, sacrificial killing on stage. In their ego trip they all dream themselves as some priests-demiurges of yore…

  18. Bassolirico says:

    “I am not interested in having my works performed; I am exclusively interested in having them performed as I imagined them to be. Those who do not want or who are not able to do that, should turn it down.”
    (Richard Wagner)

    • Which does not mean that the works as he intended them being produced, are thus the best form in which they can be given. There is a lot in them which can be improved upon, or circumvented. Wagner operas are full of master strokes, music of genius, perfect timing, profound meaning, overwhelming intensity and force. But equally full of miscalculations, longeurs, absurdities in the plots, bad timing, and especially: stage situations or actions which are inappropriate for an opera stage, ideas where his fantasy went galoping, not hindered by reality (like Gods walking over a rainbow, harnassed sopranos on flying horses, the Rhine overflowing the stage, swimming ladies singing in ensemble, magic caps under which the singer should disappear, swans pulling boats or getting shot down, etc. etc. etc.). The only way to represent these works as best as possible is to keep as close as possible (!) to what Wagner apparently intended in terms of meaning and improve or gloss over the imperfections, reduce them or reshape them, and NOT add more problems to the works than they already have. We enjoy these works for what they are, and accept the flaws to be able to enjoy the episodes of greatness which are very great indeed.

      • Gonout Backson says:


      • Bassolirico says:

        If Wagner saw the present-day stage technology to create images, shapes & spaces I do not believe he would stubbornly require to have the wagons driven by small boys to move around the Rhine maidens, carried in metal baskets in the air, as reported in the famous drawing from the Rheingold premiere…

        • Indeed, much more is technically possible now, but there remain things that just never convince. The closest you can come, maybe, is the gymnastics of the Rhein maidens in Chereau’s production, working-out at a big dam. It will always be a bit silly, like Wotan with his spear. Concerning the Ring, maybe the best approach is the fairy tale way as they did at the Met. But that again reduces the serious heroism. And so on.

          • Bassolirico says:

            What is silly with a spear? Isn’t it a historical weapon?
            I saw recently a musical where singers were flying around with almost unseeable steel cables attached to their dress. It looked awesome, I could have imagined an underwater scenery with the Rheintöcher floating around.

          • The spear in itself is not silly, but it is in a context where the rest of the production is ‘updated’ to later periods, like the Chéreau production, it suddenly looks like an ostentatious, and in the same time, a useless prop. Only in a staging where everything is (quasi-) germanic, with harnasses, winged helmets, bear skins, ‘real’ dragons and horses etc., the spear is an organic piece of useful cutlery, although not without danger for the owner, as Wotan’s eye patch seems to indicate.

  19. Laurids says:

    Why do The Nazis bring out the idiocy and folly in simply everyone?

  20. Gonout Backson says:

    Apparently, the “you have not seen it” is your last leg to stand on. So let me repeat: you have seen ten (I’m being nice, I don’t say “one”), you have seen them all. Only some details change, the substance remains the same. Given one detail, one can easily guess the rest. The exceptions are extremely rare (even the famous Parsifal by Herheim is just a very cleverly assembled catalogue of “cutting edge” clichés, in a brilliant packaging, nothing more).

    And, as far as Hr. Kosminski’s Tannhäuser is concerned, we have been given the obnoxious detail (plus some comments from the illustrious author) which proves beyond any doubt with what kind of heart and mind we are dealing here. The rest of this show, where the director has once again rewritten everything, and then signed it with the helpless author’s name, is irrelevant.

      …who wanted to see, feel, experience things first before making up his mind. He tried-out everything coming his way & died in an attempt to cycle down the Grand Canyon as advised by a friend who suggested you could not know whether it were possible without first trying it.

      These faux pas Wagnerian stage directors jump wholeheartedly into the abyss of ignorance all the time. Should not a specialist asylum be erected for them?

      • Gonout Backson says:

        I hope the story of your Uncle is true ! – it’s too beautifully sad not to be. And just crazy enough to be.

        As for the asylum, it would be only fair. Think of all the operatic characters they have put in one…

  21. Michael Hurshell says:

    I repeat: let the Regietheater directors direct plays. Contemporary plays, I’d say. Let’s see how many starry eyed opera Regietheater fans show up at a show where the senseless fiddling gets no help from Mozart, Verdi, Wagner, Puccini or Strauss. IT IS NOT THE UPDATING OF OPERA THAT IS AT ISSUE, it is the incredible unmusicality / indifference to music which is being criticized. And no, they don’t conflate Wagner and Hitler out of a moral sense of history (oy), they do it to get into the papers. (And it works, which is so sad as the idea has been done to death for ages.) As an American conductor, member of the Jewish Community, and as curator of a recently opened Wagner exhibit outside Dresden, I say: enough.

  22. What a lot of trash this time. It is exactly the stupidity of the Met audience reaction to Bondy’s “Tosca.” First, if you have not seen the production and no nothing about it except what you read here, you should just shut up about whether or not it is a valid production. If you don’t like director-driven theater, that is OK too but history has passed you by. Even the Verona Festival has Fura del Baus doing this year’s production. In 21 days we celebrate the centenary of the first performance of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.” Like posters here they exposed their bourgeois taste for all to see.

    • Gonout Backson says:

      Is there really nothing you can bring into this discussion except these old and tired clichés ? I’ve been waiting for the poor Stravinsky’ to show up : there he is…


  23. And that’s why when I’m in Germany I don’t go to the opera anymore. Norman, this “reign” of darkness and destruction in opera has to come to an end. We are destroying our cultural heritage by our own hands in the name of artistic freedom and veiled political and ideological interests, which, believe me, are not our best interests as a civilization.
    I’ve noticed the majority of singers are against it, the audiences protest, theaters are getting empty and politicians continue to point unscrupulous Intendants who, by they turn, hire such kind of individuals and allow them to destroy opera just to create scandal and try to attract “young” people as they say. And this strategy only makes old opera goers mad and they quit going to the opera altogether.
    Also, as a singer, I should say is very difficult for a singer to be inspired by these productions. Those singers who support Regietheater, which are very few, are usually the mediocre ones, who want to hide their technical faults behind overacting. They should be in the straight theater instead, for, as singers, they never cease to be bureaucrats in those German barns called opera houses.
    PEOPLE IN EUROPE AND ALL OVER THE WORLD: Do not go to the theatres that stage these productions, do not feed persons who consider audiences dumb and only seek scandal, money and adulation from a claque of apple polishers, most of them influenced by people “sponsored” (being shamelessly paid) to defend their atrocities, as a certain burlesque entity, ex-aspirant and failed singer, known in New York for her/his support of Regie cause.

    • This reaction is hammering it home in a perfect way. ALL TRUE. Stated-funded cultural suicide should, finally, stop.

      • Gonout Backson says:

        You wish (so do I…) ! I can hear the screams from the “modern” benches, about bourgeois crushing artistic freedom, and stuff. They’re very well organized, they know all the right words (some of them we read here), and they employ the good, old leninist strategy called “the active minority”.

        Their first rule: never engage in a direct discussion, there is nothing to be gained from it. Look at Mrs La Cieca, aka James Jorden, illustrious member of the sect. He barked once (in the Beczala thread) and promptly retired to his blog, where he rules alone, and with an iron hand, I hear.

        To end the outrage, we need a massive reaction of the musical world. From the humliliated singers to the ignored conductors. The public is not enough, since it will always come to hear a Kaufmann, whatever the production.

        • All very true. But how could a well-argued critique be expressed in the right context? Maybe if an opera house would be interested to organize a small conference about the subject: ‘How to stage repertoire operas’, and the contributions published afterwards.

          “To end the outrage, we need a massive reaction of the musical world. From the humiliated singers to the ignored conductors.” This reaction should be well-argued and carried by professionals, so that it cannot be dismissed as ‘uninformed’.

          Or, a ‘petition’ should be organized, signed by singers, conductors, audience members (thousands of them!), not asking for 19C staging but a representation of the work itself. Not ‘conservatism’ but Werktreue (loyalty to the work in question). Opera intendants are sensitive to audience reactions but it seems that outrage by audiences is, by many intendants, still interpreted as the same ‘bourgeois conservatism’ that created the scandals aounr 1900, which at that time often indicated ‘quality’ – while the nature of current outrage is of a very different nature.

          Where to begin?

          • Gonout Backson says:

            Where to begin? Here, to begin with. You have certainly noticed that after one or two outbursts, our opponents tend to vanish into thin air, very angry. We break the rules of the game: as the French say “this animal is very mean, when I attack it, it defends itself”. But I suppose (hope?) there is still the classical “silent majority” reading our modest stuff, and making up their mind. But the results shall take some time, and the question is – how much we have of that .

            As for the petition, I hear one is already in preparation (when I say “I hear”, I mean exactly that and nothing else…). But I wouldn’t be too optimistic. The musical milieu is all over the place and couldn’t care less. Those who do are terrorised by the reigning “progressive” ideology (so it calls itself, although it’s anything but, as you so brilliantly demonstrated) and would die rather than be called conservative and bourgeois. Many think it’s not so bad, it’s just artistic freedom, and we all support this, don’t we. Let’s pretend nothing happens REALLY, and it will go away by itself. No one likes the wise guy, und so weiter, und so fort. There is a million reasons not to do anything.

            In the meantime, molieresque doctors feed our agonizing culture a very healthy therapy of arsenic, and the rest sigh: “Let the barbarians do their job, these people can be a solution, because we cannot think of one”.

          • Michael says:

            “You have certainly noticed that after one or two outbursts, our opponents tend to vanish into thin air, very angry. ” I do not intend any personal attacks and have resisted the temptation to answer the many revent attacks on those of us looking for some middle ground in case I was accused of making personal attacks, but your latest comments are simply unacceptable. It is truly a pity that in every contribution on this interesting subject you simply repeat – using different words – that you are right and everyone else is wrong.

            The “very angry” ones are you and those with views similar to yours. “Your opponents” – by which I assume you mean everyone who does not share your views – have not vanished “into thin air”. We have got very bored – with some marvellous exceptions of recent contributors who are still trying to understand why you and your colleagues seem unable to enter into to any calm debate, based on some clearer information about Professor Kosminski’s production – with the extreme and often personal attacks and sarcasm.

            Perhaps the saddest comment in all your myriad comments is your most recent condescending and mocking attitude to “the youth audience” from Monica Berserk’s contribution. How arrogant to dismiss the young as not being able to see a modern production such as that of Professor Kosminski without being told by you that they are unable to understand what they are seeing! Of your two “disaster” scenarios, the first “never again” one is far more likely if they see a tired traditional set with fat singers shouting at them from the footlights and ,as for the second, who are you to tell them that they have not “actually seen Tannhäuser”?

          • The problem with this discussion is that there are not two different opinions about the subject which are, so to speak, operating in the same context. One camp (opponents to regietheater) argue from an informed value framework, the other camp (proponents of regietheater and people seeking a middle ground) obviously do not have such framework, but argue from a position free from any value frameworks, because – as can be deducted from the texts – they feel value frameworks as a restriction upon their freedom of choice, of taste, of opinion, and see in criticism a signal of intolerance and conservatism, of a restricted, narrow horizon, of a mentality which wants to exclude and treat other people with disdain. Hence the appeal to ‘youth’, as if immaturity were the best arbiter of cultural value. But culture is the result of accumulation of experience which leads to making distinctions between what is nonsense, and what is valuable. Critique upon regietheater is therefore not necessarily conservative.

            If you transplant the subject to another sphere, this clash of approaches becomes clearer: nobody would deny the necessity of quality distinctions in the case of dentistry or surgery. Or, imagine a court case where a murderer is excused by the judges on the basis of a bad upbringing, the judges being themselves teenagers and thus fully understand the difficulty of having incompetent parents. The reality of the case disappears behind foreground material which is less important than the reality of murder. The same with regietheater: tampering with works of art is unacceptable, as it is unacceptable to paint over Leonardo’s paintings or change Rembrandt’s Night Watch because it is ‘too dark’ or has ‘too many people’ or has this superfluous girl which has to disappear. Nobody would argue that tampering with a painting is an expression of an open, tolerant mentality unhindered by restricting, hierarchical value frameworks, and should be allowed on the basis of artistic freedom and especially, freedom of choice and of youthful inspiration. Any such change in a work of art is damage.

          • Gonout Backson says:

            I would put the frontier a little further: one can tamper with other peoples’ works and many have. It’s called paraphrase, or transcription, or adaptation, or whatever you wish. Ravel’s Pictures is not Mussorgsky’s Pictures, so what ? But it’s written all over the title page. And then everything is clear and fair.

            Otherwise – they lie, just like Hr. Kosminski and the theatre which promotes him did.

          • Gonout Backson says:

            Farther, not further, of course…

          • Gonout Backson says:

            Dear Michael,

            I’m terribly sorry to observe that you seem to protest against things I have never said.

            First and foremost, the only thing I repeat isn’t that “I am right and everyone else is wrong”, but that Hr. Kosminski did what he did with Wagner’s Tannhäuser, and that the first scene alone proves that it’s not Wagner’s Tannhäuser. And I repeat it because no one among my opponents (certainly not you) cares to address this particular and rather crucial question. The second you try, I will be obliged to find new arguments. Maybe I won’t find any and will have to admit you’re right and I’m wrong. I’m perfectly ready to – it all depends on you.

            You may begin by reading again my little stanza about young spectators, because you disfigure it in a blatant, if not frankly offensive way. Of course, I have never pretended that young spectators are “unable to understand what they are seeing”. I was following Monica’s celebration of “youth audience” which “arrive(s) at the theater generally free of stereotyped expectations”. I understood it – maybe wrongly – as being about young people who discover opera nowadays in this, grotesque form. And, having been very young myself, I know how easy it is to manipulate young audiences. I would know, from my personal, painful experience. The world is full of cynical Zauberers and enthusiastic Marios.

            You next phrase is another case of pure demagogy, and doubly so: you insinuate that I have defended “a tired traditional set with fat singers shouting from the footlights”, which I haven’t (quite the contrary), and you try to make us believe the only choice is Zeffirelli’s old-fashioned Kitsch, againts Kosminski’s “progressive” Kitsch. I hope you don’t seriously think it is.

            And why have these young people NOT seen Tannhäuser? I have repeated it so many times, it becomes a very tired soliloquy, but what can one do?

            Wagner wrote a very precise script, then a very precise libretto (let’s forget about the didascalia, even if they usually make a rather interesting reading), and then composed the music best suited for this script, this libretto, these situations and these characters in those situations. You can stage it in a thousand ways, without violating these basic data, just like you can play this music in as many ways, the result being always identifiable as Tannhäuser. You can even SAY and MEAN a lot of different things in these stagings still using these data.

            Hr. Kosminski’s production ignores every single layer of this work, except for the music he simply ignores, since it has been composed for a different purpose. Wagner’s words don’t mean a thing in his production, since they speak of another characters, situations and emotions. All of this – Wort und Ton – is treated by Hr. Kosminski as an abstract sonic substance made for his personal use.

            Therefore, and this is only the last of many cases, the name of the author and the title on the poster are a lie.

            And please, don’t tell me it’s just “an opinion”…

            So, if you really want an open and honest discussion where one listens to what the other says without attributing to him things he didn’t, you’re welcome any time.

        • “…never engage in a direct discussion, there is nothing to be gained from it. ”

          The truth that I see in that is probably not what you meant. But I have found that it’s nearly impossible to have a direct discussion in the comments section of a Slipped Disc post. If one expresses an opinion that runs contrary to the prevailing tone, one is shouted down, patronized (“dear Rob”, my foot!), and generally despised and disregarded. One can stay and argue futilely, or slouch back to the safety of a more neutral corner.

          As long as we wave only our own flags and nit-pick at others flaws, faux pas, and typos — major and minor (I am still surprised no one called me out for misspelling Herheim!)– insist on repeating our own tired arguments, and refuse to listen to alternate opinions, there is truly not much point in engaging in conversation. (notice, I am saying “our” not “your”. I am including myself in the insanity!)

          Over at that other blog, while the tone is sometimes bitchy, there seems to be slightly more willingness to listen to the other side of a discussion without scorn, scoffing, snobbery, and name-calling. I was both supported for calling for moderation, AND chastised for throwing in some sarcasm.

          One could say, “well, making up your mind and sticking to it is an admirable trait.” Or one could question the one who refuses to acknowledge that someone with a contrasting opinion might have a point.

          What I do know is that many spilled pixels on this blog or any of the many others out there is probably not going to change the artistic direction of one opera house in Germany.

          And so it goes.
          Peace, Brothers and Sisters!

          • Gonout Backson says:

            I’m sorry, Rob (not “dear”, please notice) : you’ve began by saying “we have the Opera Nazis who would have nothing happen on stage that Wagner wouldn’t personally have done” and “Hmmm, didn’t the Nazis have a issue about people/things that were “different””.

            Is this what you call “moderation” and “willingness to listen to the other side”? You’ve set the tone, don’t be surprised by the results.

          • Thanks for your feedback. I think you won. :)

    • Yes, quite so ! This has to be the last and most sensible word of all these exchanges.

      Just let me add that I run (usually) 3 coaches of 165 people up the motorway to all productions at the excellent Valencia Opera. The objection to such productions as discussed here is very strong indeed (over 50%) and many want my assurance before booking that they are going to uplifted and not insulted (much like the 60% who dislike muzak by the way – another silent majority who are simply never heard !!).

      Opera Magazine (UK) recently introduced the Opera Awards. I suggest someone form a parallel where the opera-loving public can vote for the worst perpetrators of insulting rubbish – and nominate singers as well !

    • Monica Berserk says:

      Too bad for you that you’re missing so much interesting opera, but since your mind is obviously closed, you wouldn’t appreciate it anyway. That seat you so ostentatious vacate can now be occupied by a real lover of the art or by some young person who will be part of the audience for opera in the next generation.

      One of the most wonderful things about the youth audience is that they arrive at the theater generally free of stereotyped expectations; for example, they don’t have the absurd “culinary” notion that art is supposed to reinforce their complacency (which is what “uplifted” obviously means in the context of your pompous comment.)

      • Gonout Backson says:

        And that’s the worst, my dear.

        They walk in open and naive (“free of stereotyped expectations” in your newspeak), and they’re shown Baumgarten’s or Kosminski’s so-called Tannhäuser.

        And then the choice is between two disasters: 1. They say “so that’s opera? never again!”, or 2. they love it, thinking they have actually seen Tannhäuser.


        This text should be picked-up with pincers by an anthropologist and put into a box with research samples from the last century, because it implies a wealth of misconceptions, typical of postwar Europe: being able to make quality distinctions is conservative, critique upon contemporary artistic production comes from a closed mind, the young are still open-minded and carry the glories of the Future with them, because in the Future everything will be better, since our present is already So Much Better than the past. With such a mind set, cultural erosion is invisible, as is youthful ignorance, and: quality achievements, meaning and value as well. It turns everything into a grey, indefinite mass, exactly how the world looks to a totally uninformed and uneducated mind. It is the suicidal totalitarianism of immaturity and ignorance which always looks elsewhere for vindication of its own empty mind, and that elsewhere is everywhere opposite of available expertise.

        This reaction is, therefore, most valuable: it shows us an insight into the forces behind the absurdities of regietheater. It also demonstrates the outdated nature of regietheater, as a scream of the uninitiated against achievements of the past, which were supposed to be ‘hierarchical’ and therefore authoritarian, dominating, suppressing etc. etc. It all comes from the idea that something of cultural value is ‘unfair’ to people not understanding it, that it is ‘undemocratic’, and thus an instrusion upon modern, egalitarian thinking.

        Paradoxically, regietheater is, in fact, an expression of populism, not of modern high art. It is the opposite of what it intends to be (updated, modernist, anti-bourgeois etc. etc.) A better proof of the inappropriateness of the regietheater approach is hardly imaginable.

  24. David Boxwell says:

    I’m $110 poorer after a production of Dutchman at Vienna State Opera last week–but I was “enlightened” immeasurably by the Senta mostly ignoring a photo of Che Guevara on the wall and proclaiming her girlish adoration of him.


  25. Peter Feldman says:

    Trivialization of the Holocaust is anti-Semitic. The leader of the Jewish community in Dusseldorf protested he production of Tannhauser and the Ambassador of Israel presented a complaint to the German Government. Art must be ethical.
    This staging offended Jews. If the Dusseldorf opera wants to make fun of German War World II they can stage Berlin women be raped by Soviet soldiers. Maybe they deserved such treatment.

    • Armando says:

      I’m sorry but neither the leader of the Jewish community in Duesseldorf Michael Szentei-Heise nor the Israeli Ambassador Yakov Hadas-Handelsman actually SAW the production, so how can they have been offended by it?
      Hadas-Handelsmann said simply that “jegliche Verwendung von Nazi-Symbolen in einem solchen Rahmen ist fehl am Platz” (Any use of Nazi symboils in such a setting is misplaced”.
      And Szentei-Heise said what while Wagner was a “glühender Antisemit gewesen … dem Komponisten dies auf der Bühne so um die Ohren zu schlagen, halte ich für nicht legitim”.
      (While Wagner was a fervent anti-Semite, I don’t believe it is legitimate to constantly hit the composer over the head with this on stage.)
      Szentei-Heise then explictly went on to state that the Jewish community in Duesseldorf was NOT, I repeat NOT — calling for the staging to be withdrawn.
      Get your facts right.

  26. steven scuderi says:

    I stopped going to operas in 1994 after 16 yrs of opera going–though it had been enjoyable, no more–and wow am I saving the $$$ and I can pretty much see stuff on yt or buy a dvd–best is just listening and imagination together.

    I am amazed the opera companies are staying open–we’ll see.

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