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Subject: Re: Wagner's Intentions/Anticipations
From: James Bodge <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:James Bodge <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 19 Aug 1998 08:39:37 -0400

text/plain (88 lines)

At 01:17 PM 8/18/98 EDT, [log in to unmask] wrote:
>        Per Backstrom mentions a friend of his fuming at the Kupfer "Ring"
>the scenery didn't conform to "Wagner's intentions." Without going down
>primrose path, I'd simply direct those interested in this scenic issue to run
>down the photographs (many of which were printed in the original libretti of
>the Solti "Ring" LPs) of the original Bayreuth stage sets, rampant w. ultra-
>realistic representational foliage, etc.

Those famous photos are NOT from the original 1876 RING Cycles, but from 20
years later, the production Cosima produced to welcome the RING back to
Bayreuth.  And she made a number of changes, despite her claim that she was
following the "Master".  There are no surviving photos of 1876, except of
the costumes, which, as you quote Cosima as saying, have an unfortunate
resemblence to American Indians - the Gods and warriors more than the
Nibelungs, I think.

>Today's spectators would, I suspect,
>find these impossibly camp, and no doubt they looked better as originally
>viewed--by the flicker of gas jets, rather than the pitiless gaze of the
>electric fresnel lamp.

Indeed, and we wouldn't want to watch Shakespeare staged as it originally
was too (except maybe for an instructive visit to the reconstructed Globe
Theatre in London).

>It's worth noting that, for all
>their hypocritical rhetorical kowtowing to the Wagner's "intentions" and the
>designs of the Bruckner brothers, the Schenk/Schneider-Seimssen/Levine
>creative Cerberus ultimately tacked toward an aesthetic that, to my eye at
>least, steers closer to the pared-down representationalism of Appia than the
>imitative naturalism of the Bruckners.

I recall no remarks that could be termed hypocritical about the approach
the MET team made to the RING.  They didn't say they were trying to
recreate the original scenery.  Claiming to heed Wagner's "intentions" is
pretty standard directoral rhetoric, and the MET did do that.  It is when
Schenk's staging ignores the libretto's stage directdions that he goes
wrong.  Certainly there is the influence of Appia, but I have been noticing
that in Schneider-Simssen's work since the early 1960s.  He always made it
clear that the task with the MET's RING (and TANNHAUSER as well) was to
create, with modern methodolgy and stagecraft, a realistic setting that
would tell the story and permit the actors to relate in ways dictated by
the libretto and score.  They fulfilled that pretty accurately.

I agree with you that operatic acting today is a far cry from that
described by Porges on Wagner.  But such a style is not what is desired by
those with negative reactions to Kupfer or others.  Real attempts at fully
fleshed out characters can be accomplished in abstract scenery (see Wieland
Wagner), expressionistic symbolism (whatever we want to call Kupfer or
Chereau) or "realistic" approaches (such as Schenk's at the MET or Hall's
at Bayreuth).  Productions such as these have risen or fallen for reasons
that go well beyond a simple "original intentions vs. modern relevance"

But we probably agree on that.

In another posting Warren ([log in to unmask]) said:

        "The SFO Ring next season. Maybe Schmidt will cancel, and we'll get anyone

Be careful.  You could get what you wish for.  The best possible
replacement would be West.  And what tenor who is BETTER than the erratic
Schmidt would want to sit around without scheduled performances for almost
a month.  They'd better pay him awfully well.  (I heard Schmidt's MET
Siegfried on a good night, but I grant there are bad ones.  A friend had a
good experience of him at Bayreuth)

The Met wish list:
Nozze di Figaro: I seriously doubt Bartoli can sing a credible Susanna,
but the rest of the cast would certainly be worth the time.

I must confess I dislike disparaging performers in advance, just because
they are trying to stretch.  Perhaps that's just the actor in me coming
out.  I see no reason why Bartoli shouldn't be excellent - she certainly
understands the style, the language, the character.  She has the lyricism.
Is it a question of having the high notes?  I seriously doubt it.  Her MET
CENERENTOLA was delightful. And Despina, which is the same vocal range as
Susanna, was fine.

Cheers from Boston:  Jim
Can anyone in the house sing Siegfried?

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