Does Bayreuth Deserve Better?

Written By The Wagnerian on Friday, 2 August 2013 | 11:39:00 pm

Frank Castorf reminisces about 80's dance craze "voguing". Eva W feigns ignorance

"Castorf is a director who took the money, wanted notoriety and tried to face down a public. I know whose side I'm on. I wish that the Wagner half-sisters, Eva and Katharina, who run Bayreuth, were on that side, too. But after seeing this deliberately incoherent Ring cycle, it is hard to believe they are."

"Some will be rightly squeamish about what took place. Booing is nasty and cruel. In Germany, it comes freighted with a dark history, too. It is particularly devastating for singers, who are doing their best, often in difficult circumstances. But Castorf seemed to revel in it, almost as if the audience verdict was a badge of honour or a vindication."

"His take on the Ring was ultimately – and perhaps deliberately – incoherent"

"He tried to ignore everything with which Wagner had provided him. He seemed to say that such an effort was inherently unworthy in the 21st century, and he essentially blew a raspberry at the entire Wagnerian inheritance"


Martin Kettle, reflects on Bayreuth's new Ring Cycle

I have spent many years in many opera houses and I have heard booing there many times. I have heard booing, in particular, in German opera houses, places in which the tradition of making your disapproval clear when the curtain falls sometimes seems to be as reflexive and automatic as the volleys of bravos during the most humdrum performance at New York's Metropolitan Opera. But I have never heard booing that matched the loudness and endurance from the outraged audience at this week's Bayreuth festival.

This display of vehement displeasure, at the end of Frank Castorf'sproduction of the Ring cycle, was aimed at the Berlin-based Castorf and his creative team, including set designer Aleksandar Denic and the costumes, lighting and video of Adriana Braga Peretzki, Rainer Casper, Andreas Deinert and Jens Crull. It was not directed at the conductor, Russian-born Kirill Petrenko, who the audience cheered to the rafters. Nor was it aimed at the singers, although Catherine Foster's Brünnhilde was booed earlier in the cycle and at the end of Götterdämmerung.Lance Ryan's Siegfried and Attila Jun's Hagen also received some of the audience's displeasure. But overwhelmingly, the Bayreuth audience liked what they heard. It was what they saw that they hated.

The explosion on Wednesday, after Götterdämmerung, had been building up all week. Castorf and his team did not take curtain calls during the other three operas, so their appearance at the end of the cycle unleashed a pent-up tempest akin to the thunderstorms that explode over Bayreuth in a hot, humid August. Not surprisingly, tempers in a theatre without air conditioning can become very short. And what a storm it was.

Some will be rightly squeamish about what took place. Booing is nasty and cruel. In Germany, it comes freighted with a dark history, too. It is particularly devastating for singers, who are doing their best, often in difficult circumstances. But Castorf seemed to revel in it, almost as if the audience verdict was a badge of honour or a vindication. He stood on the stage for more than 10 minutes, mocking his detractors with a thumbs up, ironic applause and dismissive waves. Castorf's response enraged the audience even more. There is no way to know who would have won this battle of wills had not Petrenko diffidently put his head around the curtain to remind Castorf that the orchestra still had to take its traditional end-of-cycle bow. (The orchestra was cheered to the heavens.)

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You might also want to read his reviews of the individual dramas here and here