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German critics object to blowjobs at Bayreuth

‘This Ring is not to be taken seriously,’ declares Die Welt. Read here.

The subhead reads: Blow-jobs, a crocodile and a communist Mount Rushmore: Frank Castorf in his Bayreuth Siegfried turns the public against him.

Hmmmm… Those who missed any of the above can ask for their money back.

Rheintoechter-à-la-Frank-Castorf-Mit-dem-500x332

 

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Comments

  1. Theodore McGuiver says:

    The sight of Erda giving Wotan a blow job at the end of Act III Scene I (“Träumend erschau mein Ende” – you couldn’t make it up) prompted someone in the audience to say something mid-performance, though I didn’t catch what it was she said. Siegfried has certainly provided some, er, challenging images but one thing you can’t say about this Ring is that it’s boring. Musically it’s fabulous and the sets are extraordinary; tighten it up dramaturgically and we could have a classic on our hands.

    • Monica Rivers says:

      The scene between Erda and the Wanderer ends in anger and contempt:

      WANDERER:
      Du bist – nicht,
      was du dich wähnst!
      Urmütter-Weisheit
      geht zu Ende:
      dein Wissen verweht
      vor meinem Willen.
      Weisst du, was Wotan will?

      (Langes Schweigen)

      Dir Unweisen
      ruf’ ich ins Ohr,
      dass sorglos ewig du nun schläfst!

      Given that Wotan/Wanderer in this production has been established from the beginning as rather a cheap thug, an angry threat of sexual humiliation would seem to be consistent with that characterization.

      Or perhaps not: one would have to see the whole thing in context and then probably there would still be some debate. But all this vaporing over a single detail of a production most of us know only from second-hand reports is silly and misplaced.

  2. How can one take children to the opera? Obviously, opera is now being relegated to specific audiences only .

    Oh well . . . what does it matter?

    • Fabio Fabrici says:

      A blowjob wouldn’t be nearly as bad as the endless killing on stage. Your moral standards might be different though.

    • Monica Rivers says:

      Yes, for the good old days, when the Ring‘s depictions of theft, arson, murder, rape and incest provided reliably wholesome entertainment for the whole family!

      • Novagerio says:

        Yes, for the good old days, when the Ring‘s depictions of theft, arson, murder, rape and incest left something to the imagination. Why overdo things then?

    • Stephen says:

      Ok, So just leave the children at home to watch hyper-violent video games and search the web for REAL porn! That’ll keep ‘em out of the nasty opera house!

    • Can’t imagine any children who could sit through 14 hours of opera anyway. They’d be fast asleep or running around the foyer long before the ‘good’ parts come around.

      • I am talking about opera in general. I would not sit through 14 hours of opera either. However, I was not afraid of taking my daughters to the opera when they were children; they were entranced. Remember though, that the children of today are (or should be) the future audiences of opera.

  3. More of a vorspill than spiel.

  4. Theodore McGuiver says:

    Actually, let’s get a bit of perspective on these critiques. I’ve read pretty much all the major German leaders of press opinion on this Ring and most are at least cautiously optimistic that, with a bit of work, it could become a classic. Praise for the musical preparation and execution is universal and the cast is the strongest for many a long year. Considering Castorf jumped in pretty much at the last minute he’s provided something which is thought-provoking (even if it it’s still very ragged round the edges) and, thanks to Aleksandar Denic, phenomenal to look at. Kirill Petrenko doesn’t appear to be disappointing anyone down in the pit. Despite the odd stretch of apparent incoherence and the occasional unfortunate image (see Die Welt, above) we’re a long way from the train wreck so lany were either expecting or hoping for.

  5. James Brinton says:

    Upon reading Die Welt, it appears as if Castorf either a) has no respect for The Ring or the medium, b) has set out to generate the maximum amount of publicity for himself (I hope the papers spells his name wrong, repeatedly), or c) has simply decided to crap all over the cycle.
    I am bone tired of bad taste hiding behind so-called avant-garde. Blowjobs and crocs aren’t art, folks–unless he was trying for a comedy version, and nobody watches The Ring for laughs.
    Sure glad I didn’t shell out for this…

    • harold braun says:

      Bravo,Mr.Brinton.Why not just leave out the music,it only distracts from the antics onstage.

    • Theodore McGuiver says:

      @James Brinton:

      Sure glad I didn’t shell out for this…

      So you haven’t seen it, then?

      • Musiker says:

        Of course, he hasn’t seen it.
        He may be “bone tired” of bad taste.
        But boy! am I “bone tiredI” of people slagging off a production they haven’t even seen.
        No-one can pass judgement on a staging if they haven’t seen it, not even from the photo stills.
        You’re free, by all means, James Brinton NOT to shell out for tickets to Castorf’s Ring.
        That’s your prerogative.
        But then you forego the right to have an opinion about it.

    • “and nobody watches The Ring for laughs”

      I’m not sure about that, either.

      • Well actually there are quite a few laughs going on in Siegfried. For example, Alberich laughs when Siegfried kills Mime, the scene between Siegried and the Wanderer is comical…and the very last line of the opera is “laughter in death”. What more can you ask for?

    • Emil Archambault says:

      I point out: “Upon reading Die Welt”…not upon seeing the production you are condemning for its artistic concept!

    • Stephen says:

      “The highest form of ignorance occurs when you reject something you know nothing about”

      —Wayne Dyer

  6. Guus Mostart says:

    I attended the dress rehearsals and felt Castorf had lost the plot after a strong and stimulating Rheingold. By the end of a feeble Götterdämmerung it was clear he had lost interest as well. The German critics, so far, are curious about the lack of a coherent concept. Roll on Götterdämmerung tomorrow!

    • Theodore McGuiver says:

      The funny thing is that Rheingold was the last of the four works to be staged.

      • Guus Mostart says:

        Rather strange. I know from Bayreuth experience that the cycle is rehearsed out of sequence, depending on the availability of the singers over the long rehearsal period (April to July) For instance, we started rehearsals for the 1983 Ring with the first scene in Siegfried and then skipped to all the Rhine maiden scenes in Rheingold and Götterdämmerung.

  7. Does this mean that we should also not take “Powder Her Face” seriously?

  8. Theodore McGuiver says:

    Very few of the critics have mentioned the blowjob which, in any case, is a quick suck of a finger but projected onto a big screen above the Alex. The machine gun (some referring to the Düsseldorf Tannhäuser) and crocodiles seem to have bothered them more.

  9. Roberto Gonzalez says:

    Taking children to SIEGFRIED??? What a JOKE!!!! No one wants rugrats wiggling around for the length of an opera…

    • Theodore McGuiver says:

      I’ve been taking my children to the opera since they were each two years old. They don’t wriggle around, they sit still and pay attention because their mother and I have taught them how to behave in public. My eldest sat through fve hours of Rosenkavalier aged 5 and was enthralled; neither gets restless when there’s acting and music to absorb. We don’t feed them crap, either, so they don’t have a perpetual sugar high the way so many do.

  10. Roberto Gonzalez says:

    Just sounds like EUROTRASH productions, in excelsis… We had some of those brought to San Francisco, and they are complete CRAP… Just the product of directors and production staff spreading ennui…

    • Fabio Fabrici says:

      San Francisco has a real Opera? I never knew…

      • Sfran/the SF Bay area has worlds without end of Kultur,
        to offer, esp. in comparison to Bayreuth. German-speaking
        people who have come here, most of whom still retain unmistakable
        Suddeutsche and Nordedeutsche accents, even after decades,
        unanimously praise the Kultur and lifestyle here. They all speak
        of a certain freedom that they never felt in Austria or Germany.
        Of course, there is a dramatically greater variety of Kultur here.
        And, it was never tainted – perhaps forever – by something like
        National Socialism. (The occasional lynchings and gunfights
        by our cowboys and politicians and judges do not seem to affect the
        level and quality of our Kultur….and, our indigenous tribes recovered
        nicely from our genocide, and are slowly taking over the entire economy
        and Kultur in many states… In contrast, I doubt that the Zigeuner
        and Juden will _ever_ again contribute to German-speaking Kultur)
        German artists know that they have been promoted to the big leagues
        when they are able to book venues in the SF Bay area….

        • Wwwhhhaaattt? Cuckoo! Cuckoo!

        • Fabio Fabrici says:

          “…In contrast, I doubt that the Zigeuner
          and Juden will _ever_ again contribute to German-speaking Kultur)…”

          You are wrong, they do these days very much so.

          “…German artists know that they have been promoted to the big leagues
          when they are able to book venues in the SF Bay area…”

          No offense, but absolutely not. SF is a great city though.

  11. Theodore McGuiver says:

    Just back from Act II of Götterdämmerung: huge cheers for everyone and everything, not a boo within earshot. Apart from a couple of scenes in Siegfried there’s really nothing in this Ring to get angry about: Rheingold is quite witty and inventive; Walküre a sumptuous, semi-staged singfest and Götterdämmerung doesn’t do anything wrong.

    People are going to hate not being able to attack Castorf as virulently as they wanted to.

    • Theodore McGuiver says:

      Back from the end of Götterdämmerung. Castorf took his bow and stayed on stage lapping up certain people’s opprobrium for a good ten minutes, even taking further bows with singers who the stage manager eventually had to send out again so that the evening could finish.

      It’s not a bad Ring and I can’t help but like Castorf, who was unfailingly courteous to everyone during the entire rehearsal process; quite an accomplishment when one considers how little time he had to put it together.

      Kirill Petrenko was greeted with the type of adulation normally reserved for his Dresden-based colleague. His work was exceptional, the cast the best for many a long year. All in all, it’s a good few days out at the opera, and that’s no bad thing after some recent productions up on the hill.

    • Guus Mostart says:

      You forget to mention the booing after act 1.

      • Theodore McGuiver says:

        I didn’t have access to a computer after Act I. There wasn’t much though, was there? To be honest, I don’t know why some people did boo; there’s nothing offensive in the staging.

  12. Fourth Norn says:

    Let’s be honest. Most staged Rings these days are monstrosities that happen to use soundtracks by Richard Wagner. Performances should be advertised accordingly. If people want to pay to see such rubbish then that’s up to them but let’s drop the pretence that what is on stage has anything to do with the composer. Staged opera in the twenty-first century is in a very deep hole, and I can’t think of a more depressing time since the earliest days of the art form. The London Proms concert performances of the Ring on the other hand were truly uplifting experiences. I know where I’ll be spending my money in future – on the theatre of the mind.

    • Theodore McGuiver says:

      I think part of the problem is that these masterpieces have been interpreted so often that most mere mortals are out of ideas when it comes to finding something new. Funnily, the most conventional and traditional productions are those of brand new works which need a clear directorial line so as many people as possible can understand what’s being told.

      Returning to the new Bayreuth Ring: the notion that the gold in question is oil is really quite OK; how it’s presented needs a bit of work but it’s a promising start. Castorf didn’t have long to put the thing together and also maybe felt he needed to maintain his enfant terrible image along the way. The fact he only even hinted at that in one of the four works is testimony to a certain respect he must have felt towards his task.

      The Ring in concert can never fail, anyway. It’s so strong, so rich that a decent performance can rightly satisfy many, if not most, people.

    • Bob Burns says:

      Well said. Isn’t this whole “discussion” akin to dressing up the Mona Lisa in something by Prada or Oscar de la Renta and calling it “art?” Or maybe playing Chopin on an accordion, or Mahler by a dance band.

      In other words, it don’t work, mate.

    • Richard C. IRITANO says:

      Opera is indeed in trouble. However, the London performance of The Ring was the genuine article, and should (and must) be the fine retainer of standards to be rivaled worldwide.

  13. Guus Mostart says:

    I have been listening to the live transmission of Götterdämmerung and I have never heard such massive booing in all my years in opera as at the final curtain call. Interesting was the discussion following the broadcast with various German critics. Total praise for Petrenko, severe misgivings concerning the casting of Siegfried and Hagen and the non-personenregie of Frank Castorf.

    • Theodore McGuiver says:

      Certain people have been waiting for Castorf all week. He finally took his bow tonight and it was quite spectacular. The reason it went on for so long was because he stayed on stage and gestured to the audience that – at least this is what it looked like from where I was – they must have been pretty stupid to chide him. Red rag to a bull etc. Anyhow, Frank stayed on stage for a full ten minutes and wouldn’t budge, visibly enjoying the opprobrium. Much of the anger coming from the auditorium was due to the fact Castorf stayed on stage and wouldn’t cede his place to the singers. There was an ‘It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum’ moment when a stage manager popped his head round the curtain and suggested to the director he vacate the premises in the interest of everyone pressing on and getting home, but our Frank was not for turning. However, in terms of virulence, nothing I’ve heard since this cycle started tops what we had to endure with KW’s Meistersinger (I don’t go to Tannhäuser, thus sparing myself that particular delight).

      Like I’ve said on a few occasions prior to this: it’s not perfect, but it could well become that if well guided these next few years. Anybody remember anything from the vapid Flimm and Dorst offerings? Well, then…

    • http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/02/arts/music/at-bayreuth-boos-and-dropped-jaws.html?ref=anthonytommasini&_r=0

      At Bayreuth, Boos and Dropped Jaws
      By ANTHONY TOMMASINI
      Published: August 1, 2013

      BAYREUTH, Germany — It has become almost an expected part of the Bayreuth Festival tradition that the audience boos when the director of a radical new production takes a curtain call. But there is booing, and then there is the kind of demonstration that happened here on Wednesday night at the end of “Götterdämmerung.” The occasion was the fourth, and final, installment of the festival’s new production of Wagner’s “Ring,” the most anticipated event of the international celebrations for Wagner’s bicentennial.

      When Frank Castorf, the avant-garde German director responsible for this confounding concept, took the stage with his production team, almost the entire audience, it seemed, erupted with loud, prolonged boos. It went on for nearly 10 minutes, by my watch, because Mr. Castorf, 62, who has been running the Volksbühne (People’s Theater) of Berlin since 1992, stood steadfast onstage, his arms folded stiffly. He sometimes jabbed a finger at the audience, essentially defying the crowd to keep it coming….

  14. Duncan Reed says:

    Great reportage Theodore, but do you by any chance have any interests in this that you should declare??

  15. I say let’s keep blow jobs off the stage and in the audition room where they’ll do a lot more good and offend people less. As I’ve often said its not always what comes out of a singer’s throat that gets them the work!

    • Richard C. IRITANO says:

      Right you are, RKBB. I’ve never found “Shock Value” in live performance pieces particularly shocking or redeeming on any level. So, then it’s no secret that it always has been a filthy world out there (and always will be), and the alleged art that depicts life (and reality) is not always in the best of form, or commendable interpretations. But appropriate and acceptable levels of taste and decorum, as they relate to live theater and stage acting have proven to be in pitifully short supply. It’s almost as if directors and cast members no longer are interested in illustrating acts of depravity and sociopathy (through descriptive storytelling that suggests the ominous and unimaginable), but it must now be enacted by way of graphic scenes that serve to horrify and disturb–and nothing else by way of connecting emotion and the human element. Sadly, I have long ago lost my illusion with the hoaky and deceptive art world–and the conniving arbiters of grinding commerce, whose flagrant abuses of power are the reason why so little art is made by master craftsman–and how commercial tripe now completely substitutes for what passes as serious art in performance, and vice versa.

  16. After seeing that picture of the Communist mount rushmore once again, how ironic that a poseur like this director, Frank Castorf, would not have lasted one day in one of Lenin’s or Stalin’s camps.

    Unless of course he was a girlfriend of one of the camp guards.

    • Stalin had his Gulags. The successors of those on the original Mount Rushmore now have Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib etc. pp.

    • Why do you call Castorf a “poseur”?
      What productions of his have you seen?
      It wasn’t Castorf who designed the sets, either.

      • Gonout Backson says:

        His final gesture of defiance and contempt for the public was that of a “poseur-en-chef”.

        He’s your typical revolutionary who knows very well where’s the cookie jar.

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