domingo, 19 de agosto de 2018

Video review: Tannhäuser in the 2014 Bayreuth Festival.

The next one in my list of Bayreuth video productions was the Tannhäuser which was scheduled from 2011 to 2014 editions. This production was severely booed every year and it wasn't renewed for a fifth year. I have to say that this has been by far the most incomprehensible staging I have seen on video not only from Bayreuth but also from any theatre to have set Tannhäuser ever.

Sebastian Baumgarten sets Tannhäuser in an alcohol factory. The work is just a part of the daily living of the workers there. Indeed, prior the performance and during the intervals there is a performance in which actors dressed in uniform do their job, even in second intermission they attend to a liturgy, which was booed after the chants, not at a decent choir level to tell the truth. There is no curtain, and from the beggining we see the factory-like installation. It has three levels, machines to produce alcohol, mainly with waste; a metaphor of double moral and human misery: the same with dreams erotically with the Venusberg pleasures and later judges Tannhäuser for have the braveness to be there and enjoy them. At the bottom, there is a screen where some projections are seen.

The Overture begins with rare projections of alcohol producing? bacteries? and the first act begins with a cage emerging, representing the Venusberg. There, we can see at the beginning Tannhäuser and Venus making love while the bacchants dance. Venus is pregnant, and while the hero praises her, some figurants disguised as spermatozoids make a creepy dance around. In the second scene, the Holy Virgin is a projection of a woman in topless and with her bare feet in closeup. In Act 2, the Guest March is a encounter and celebration of all workers in the factory, and Venus is invited to the song contest. While the knights sing their songs, Tannhäuser is on the top level, judging their rivals. He descends to sing his praise embracing and in affectionate attitude towards Venus, much to Elisabeth's shock. In this moment the scene is illuminated in red and focusing in the feelings of the characters, with Elisabeth hurting herself and applying her blood in Tannhäuser's sleeves, showing her sufferance. In Act 3, we can see the old pilgrims in  factory customs, making strange, robot-like movements. At this point, after looking for her beloved knight, she kills herself after her prayer, by entering into the Biogas machine, to evaporate and becoming raw material. Wolfram dances with Venus while he sings his famous aria. At the end, Tannhäuser lies dead at the top of the Venusberg- cage and the choir fills the scene; while Venus shown the baby she has just had with Tannhäuser.

Axel Kober conducts rutinarily the orchestra, with slower tempi at the overtures, but not doing bad at all. Conservative conduction, accompaigning the singers.

Torsten Kerl sings Tannhäuser with resistance, but tired at the end of the act. High notes are suffering from his tireness at second act. His voice, however, is not ugly and sounds good in middle register.
Camilla Nylund has a beautiful voice, but her Elisabeth despite being well acted is not very expressive. Michelle Breedt is not the best Venus but her singing is nice and her acting steals the show whenever she appears on stage. Markus Eiche sings Wolfram with a proper technique, but the voice despite being good, reveals a cold performance.  Kwangchul Youn sings beautifully his Landgrave, as the accomplished bass he is, with great authority despite the limitations of the staging. Lothar Odinius is the great surprise, singing his Walther with a heroical voice. Thomas Jesatko and Katja Stuber sang well their parts as Biterolf and the Young Shepherd.

This production won't make any history, neither musical nor scenically. In fact, it has been so disliked that maybe it will remain as one of the less celebrated Tannhäuser productions ever seen in Bayreuth. Tobias Kratzer and Valery Gergiev have the challenge next year to overcome this.

My reviews are not professional and express only my opinions. As a non english native speaker I apologise for any mistake.
Most of the photographs are from the press and belong to its authors. My use of them is only cultural.

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