jueves, 20 de junio de 2019

Video review: Der Ring des Nibelungen, directed by Frank Castorf, at the Bayreuth Festival. 2016.

To conmemorate the Bicentenary of Wagner's birth, the Bayreuth Festival commissioned to the enfant terrible director Frank Castorf a new production of The Ring. It was a controversial production, and as most of the times in the post-Chéreau era, firstly booed and finally acclaimed.

Castorf is one of the major directors in German theatre. For this production, he set on stage one idea which has been discussed and thought in Wagnerian circles: The Ring's story, as well as Bayreuth's, is also a reflection of German History. He takes the most significant elements of this complex epic and transports them to recent times: oil is the new gold, and as a result, the superpowers fight to get the control of it. Here, the superpowers are the Cold War ones: United States and Soviet Union, as well as the occupied Berlin East and West.

The result is one of the most original Rings ever produced in Bayreuth, as well as the sets by Aleksandar Denic are one of the most stunning  ever seen, not only in Wagner's theatre but in any opera house in the last decade. They consist in a giratory scenic platform, able to recreate until four sets. The sets are accompanied by video projections by Andreas Deinert and Jens Crull, which will let us to see the parallel actions to the main story, that usually are not shown. Castorf delves deeply on the characters' links and emotions, in many cases being faith to Wagner's original profiles, resulting in a good dramaturgy. On the other hand, there are also some nonsense details, and it has been criticized for some lack of unity, but this has been seen in more Ring productions in German Theatres.

In 2016, the channel Sky telecasted the complete cycle live from the Festival, so this is the first complete filmed Ring since the Barenboim/Kupfer one in 1991-1992. There is no news for a release on DVD, but it's for purchase in webs like Wagnerdisco or HouseofOpera, and recently, uploaded to Youtube, and able to see in this playlist.

Das Rheingold is set in a motel in Texas in the 60s-70s. The curtain rises to reveal a noir-like scene of the Rhinemaidens relaxing in the patio of the motel, drinking a beer, Wellgunde frying a sausage. Alberich steals the gold from the pool and while he leaves the scene, the maidens without losing the smile, call to Wotan, who is lying in the bed with Fricka and Freia. The second and fourth scenes will happen in  the room of the motel. Gods are low-rank thugs, as well as the giants. The Goddesses are just sexual objects to their male counterparts. The Nibelheim is a gas station, and at the beginning Wotan and Loge tie the nibelungs but they escape in order to the action can happen. Erda is a prostitute who flirts with Wotan (who gives her a lustful eye). At the end, Donner hits his hammer in the rooftop of the motel, and as well as the Rhinemaidens are seen in the screen and the former confederate flag is replaced by a rainbow flag, the curtain falls.

Die Walküre is set in Azerbaijan, in the Soviet Union, during the years of World War II. Now the action is set in a more conservative time, linked to the state of maturity the gods and their siblings have to face. The first act is set in a farm, quite rural. Sieglinde even feed two real turkeys. Act two represents the arrival of the progress and richness, with elements like the Pravda newspaper which Wotan reads or the cigarettes Brünnhilde smokes. There is a big wooden tower, sign of a oil refinery. The Walkyries are dressed firstly in conservative and then in pagan dresses. They climb the wooden platform over the dead bodies of the heroes driven to Walhalla. At the end, the tenderness of Wotan's farewell is disrupted by the kiss in mouth Wotan gives Brünnhilde, much to her shock. She will recover from that and will go herself to sleep. After hitting his spear, a big barrel is turned on and the real fire illuminate the whole Festspielhaus.

Siegfried  is set in East Berlin, during the Cold War. It has only two sets, but unforgattably amazing: during the first act and parts of the second and third, there's a recreation of the Mount Rushmore, but instead of the U.S. presidents, we see the faces of Karl Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao. There is a van (already seen in Rheingold), where all characters seem to live. Siegfried is, as well as his grandfather, an spoiled, nasty and violent thug. Even when he forges a sword, Nothung is really a rifle. The other set is a recreation of the Alexanderplatz station and square in Berlin. Here the Forest murmurs will happen. The woodbird is a vedette. The scene of Wotan and Erda is the re-encounter of two lovers with no love, but only reproaches between them while dinning in a restaurant. But before Siegfried arrives, Erda gives Wotan a fellatio which is stopped by the hero's approach, and leaves her with the bill to pay. Siegfried awakes Brünnhilde, after removing the plastic bag which was above her. The final part of the duet, Alexanderplatz is back, and while the lovers are singing, some crocodiles apppear to invade the stage. The woodbird had been swallowed by one, and Siegfried liberates it, and then the lovers embrace.

Götterdämmerung is set in West Berlin and it's the most spectacular part, with four sets. The prologue is set in an abandoned building, with posters from the 70s, and the Norns do a voodoo rite. The Gibichung palace is the rear courtyard of two old and ruined buildings, with a food-truck of Döner Kebab (a symbol of the inmigration to West Germany in the 60s-70s) and an abandoned grocery wood stand. The Gibichungs are lead by Hagen, who is a scary mafious who manipulate the puppet leader, Gunther, who is irrelevant in front of him and behaving as a spoiled child. Gutrune acts like a lolita. The other set is a big with a neon advert of the rubber company Buna, with its logo "Plaste und Elaste aus Schkopau", a symbol of GDR pop art. In the Act 2, the choir is shaking flags of the Allied occupying powers. In the middle of Act 3, the famous Wall Street appears. Hagen will kill Siegfried with a baseball bat, and he dies alone, with a barrel lighting with fire illuminating the scene. At the end, Brünnhilde and the Rhinemaidens will spread oil through Wall Street in order to build it. After giving Woglinde a hug, she delivers her the Ring. The Rhinemaidens throw the ring into the burning barrel, much to Hagen's despair. As they are sat to see it desintegrating into the fire, a screen shows Hagen dead going the river inside in a funerary boat at the smiling gaze of the Rhinemaidens, and the curtain falls.

Marek Janowski made his debut in Bayreuth conducting this Ring, replacing Kirill Petrenko. The veteran conductor is a renowned Wagner conductor, but maybe the nerves of the first time conducting such a work take their toll on him. The Bayreuth Orchestra and Chorus are in their usual superb level, so Janowski can give correct performances in Rheingold and Walküre, but he started to be inspirated in Siegfried and Götterdämmerung. In the third journey the interludes are splendidly conducted but in the final one they have a fast tempo, convenient to Siegfried's Trip but not to the Funeral March. He was in sum applauded but he got some boos at the end.

The cast has different results, but in most cases they go from a decent to a good level.

Wotan is sung in Rheingold by Iain Paterson, whose portray was not enough vocally despite his good acting skills. John Lundgren was a powerful Wotan in the two following journeys, with his dark bass voice, with an beautifully sung Farewell. In Siegfried he seems to be a bit tired, but in Act 3 he regains his good level again.

Catherine Foster is a surprise as Brünnhilde, despite her voice is a bit lighter for the role than usual. Her high notes are remarkable, but they are brief. In Walküre she gaves a splendid performance, but in Götterdämmerung she appears tired too. However, she sings a good Inmolation.

Stefan Vinke is Siegfried. He has some problems in high register but his high notes are heroic, as well as his middle register. He gave great high notes in the Forging, the unusual one in the Love duet with Brünnhilde and in his last intervention of Act II. In Siegfried's account of his first years in Act III, a miracle happened: Vinke's voice reached a spectacular heldentenor tone, and sung the monologue with a stunning virility, resulting in an unforgettable performance, which will be remembered.

Albert Dohmen, the Wotan of the Thielemann/Dorst Ring in Bayreuth, is now Alberich. He still has a good bass-baritone voice, but it results lighter for Alberich. With his acting skills he portrays a scheming and sometimes brute villain, with his best moment in the duet with Hagen.

Christopher Ventris and Heidi Melton are Siegmund and Sieglinde.Ventris has trouble with high register in Act 1, but he recovers. Melton is a good Sieglinde. Georg Zeppenfeld sings Hunding very well, portraying him as a hideous and violent local chief. Sarah Connolly has a voice not very suitable for Wagnerian roles, not bad but out-of-style. While she reaches a good singing in Rheingold, in Walküre the role surpasses her, until she sings her aria. Fortunately, her acting skills convey a great portrait Fricka. Andreas Conrad is a good Mime in Siegfried. Gunter Groissböck and Karl-Heinz Lehner sing and perform very well their roles as the giants. Albert Pesendorfer is an impressive Hagen, with his deep dark voice and his scary portrait of the brute villain. Markus Eiche and Allison Oakes are convincing in their roles of the bratty Gibichungs. Roberto Saccà is a comical  Loge, and his character tenor voice fits well in the ironic character. Marina Prudenskaya is one of the big surprises of the cast, with her seductive, velvet-toned mezzo-soprano voice, with beautiful low notes. Nadine Weissmann acts better than sings her Erda: her voice has a good middle register but lacks the impressive low notes and some powerful volume required for this mystical goddess. Ana Durlovski's good singing for the Woodbird is a luxury cameo. 

The rest of gods, walkyries, norns and Rhinemadens are at the usual good level found in supporting role singers at Bayreuth.

A special mention for the actor Patric Seibert, an assistant to Castorf's dramaturgy, appearing in most journeys as clerk, Siegfried's human pet, waiter, a desperate running man. His presence is so constant that when he dies in the beggining of Götterdämmerung Act III, a relief of having get rid of this annoying character is felt. He was reportedly severely booed.

Each Ring in Bayreuth is an adventure. An epic adventure which always leaves a mark in the spectator, viewer or listener. Next year a new Ring will be set, and we hope it will offer an interesting view as well as this production; which  will be remembered and even missed for many years in Bayreuth due to its spectacular sets and its originality.

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 internet and belong to its authors. My use of them is only cultural. If someone is uncomfortable with their use, just notify it to me.

Any reproduction of my text requires my permission.

1 comentario:

  1. nein nein nein .. the WORST THEATRICAL-MUSICAL SHOW in the history of Theatre - Music. Mount Rushmore, Florida, Rheintochter puttaine .. nein .. This is Wagner's true TOTES STADT