Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Wim Wenders will not be directing the 2013 Bayreuth 'Ring'

Contrary to rumours that have been circulating for a while, Wim Wenders will not after all be directing the Bayreuth Ring for the bicentenary of Wagner's birth in 2013. Wenders had hoped to use the production as the basis for a 3-D film. Sadly, Die Welt reports that it is not to be (click here). Bayreuth had better hurry up and find someone, unless it wants a repeat of the last Ring production fiasco, Lars von Trier's pulling out being followed by Tankred Dorst's unimaginative staging. Perhaps Otto Schenk might still be available, New York at long last having been put out of his misery... Why in the name of Wotan was Stefan Herheim not asked?


The Unrepentant Pelleastrian said...


I would love to see the return of beauty and tradition at Bayreuth with the vision of someone like Otto Schenk.

Sadly, I think the repellent trend-setting mentality that pervades so much of the opera world today will remain for a very long time.

Mark Berry said...

Beauty can take many forms, I think, though those designs for the New York Met seem to me grotesque rather than beautiful. Whatever one thinks of that, though, surely tradition must involve some element of continuity and development. In what sense does such a production, bent on a Disney-like attempt to 'restore' something that never existed, continue or develop anything? It merely panders to reactionary, uncomprehending sections of (wealthy) public taste, which frankly would be better served by the likes of JRR Tolkien.

And what of ideas? If Wagner does not require such engagement, then I do not know who does, and it would be well-nigh impossible to accuse Schenk and his ilk of that. Wagner's stated desire for 'emotionalisation of the intellect' (Gefühlswerdung des Verstandes) does not entail its abdication.

Doundou Tchil said...

Brilliant last sentence, Mark, so well put ! You mknow your Wagner. The diktats come from Cosima and her ilk.

Mark Berry said...

And at least with Cosima, one can understand why she might have been protective of what she took to be her husband's memory. It is not at all clear to me why, for instance, matrons from the early twenty-first century Upper East Side think they have a privileged role or understanding. It would be far more 'faithful' to Wagner to follow his imperative, 'Kinder, macht Neues!' Not for nothing did Jean-Jacques Nattiez entitle a book: 'Tétralogies: "Wagner, Boulez, Chéreau." Essai sur l'infidélité.' Fidelity and tradition stand far closer to 'infidelity' than to what many people take it to be.

The Unrepentant Pelleastrian said...


"It merely panders to reactionary, uncomprehending sections of (wealthy) public taste"

Just for the record: I generally despise the operatic "establishment / culture"

"Matrons from the early twenty-first century Upper East Side think they have a privileged role or understanding"

I'm curious: Do you think these women discovered and fell in love with Wagner via audio recordings when they were teens or young adults?

Mark Berry said...

I really have no idea. I suspect that many of them will simply have been regulars at the Met. Sitting down and listening to a recording - directing the performance in one's head - strikes me as a little too much like hard work for them, though perhaps I am being unfair.

The non plus ultra of such cases would seem to be the estate of a Texas oil heiress, one Sybil Harrington, taking the Metropolitan Opera to court for allegedly violating the terms of a bequest made to support opera performed in the 'traditional manner'. Its 'Tristan' was consiered far too adventurous! Can you begin to imagine how (a) someone could leave such a ludicrous and indeed pernicious request? (b) someone could attempt to enforce it (c) the Met could be suspected of avant-gardism?

Mark Berry said...

Gérard Mortier knew how to handle such types, by the way. He took the money from the appalling Alberto Vilar, who had stipulated that it should fund a Salzburg production of an Italian opera. Busoni's 'Doktor Faust' was the excellent result.

Evan Tucker said...

Mark, I just read this line and I must be honest and say that that's an unfair generalization of the Met's aesthetic. No doubt the Met is far from an ideal institution, but it has, as Hans Sachs would say, preserved the integrity of Wagner in its own way.

Schenk's production was certainly conservative, but it was far from terrible or grotesque. I don't see the problem with upholding tradition so long as it is upheld with integrity and done with the maximum effort to preserve quality. There are so many opera lovers are so disgusted by liberties from the score yet are equally disgusted when the stage directions are interpreted literally (and I'm quite aware that there is much that Schenk disgarded). It's a terrible double standard that only inhibits people from enjoying much which opera has to offer.

I won't say that Schenk's Ring was one of the all-time great productions. But like all good music theater it was done as a process of engaging the text that with integrity and with an eye and ear to make theater that works, and that should not be spurned simply because someone disagrees with the results ideologically. Sachs might not have done it Schenk's way, but he would have approved.