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Just One Day In Bayreuth

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday 28 July 2013 | 2:35:00 am

Bayreuth veteran Rick Fulker is in the Bavarian town for the new production of Richard Wagner's opera cycle "The Ring of the Nibelung." As he sees in "The Rhine Gold," you need more than glitter to tell the story.

After a brief stop in DW's remote recording truck just to the right of the Festspielhaus, I hurry to row 26, upper left. Drenched in sweat, I find my seat in the middle. It's 34 degrees Celsius (93°F) and is supposed to get hotter in the next few days. Why, I ask, do men perspire profusely and women not? A shoulder-free suit would be great – depending on your perspective.

On the way I shake hands with various journalist colleagues I've known here for years. The ones to the left and right want me to trade seats so that they can sit together. No problem as far as I'm concerned, but a big problem for the Valküre seated just behind. She exercises her veto right. Can't understand why, because I'm shorter and she would have had a better view. But some people here insist on orderliness. That, too, is Bayreuth – still today.

Cheerful babble in the auditorium right into the first seconds of that soft, deep tone from the orchestra pit, then perfect silence in the hall. That tone is supposed to depict the creation of the world. Soon, there's a second one, then a third. The triad gives way to arpeggios that sound like waves. The Rhine!

Get your kicks...

The curtain rises. We see the "Golden Motel" with a blue, kidney-shaped pool, a clothes line and a gas station around the corner and a sign indicating that we're on "Route 66." The Rhine daugters are blond vamps with heavy makeup. I don't need my binoculars this time. Camera man onstage are filming the action live, so you see closeups of the faces on a big screen high above the stage. It's a distraction.

God Wotan is a Jack Nicholson type sporting sunglasses and lolling on the bed in an amorous three-way on the motel bed with wife Fricka and sister-in-law Freia. Giants Fasolt and Fafner are rough bikers with a baseball bat. Earth-mother Erda in a dress with golden sequinis and a white fur coat. Giggling in the audience.

Entertaining, trashy and with loud colors in 60's style: that's how Frank Castorf's staging of "The Rhine Gold" looks, the "preliminary evening" to Richard Wagners opera cycle "The Ring of the Nibelung." Gods and mermaids, giants, dwarfs and other supernatural figures in a saga about contract and breach of contract, betrayal, loyalty, lust and power. these "modern" images (actually they're half a century old) don't really have the power to provoke. It all seems a bit harmless. Has Bayreuth lost its status as a semi-sacred place? Long since!

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