Tommasini Weighs In On Return of Met Ring

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lennygoran
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Tommasini Weighs In On Return of Met Ring

Post by lennygoran » Mon Mar 11, 2019 4:31 am

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These words from the review caught my eye:"My main issue was that Mr. Lepage seemed to have scant interpretive insight into a work that, since its 1876 premiere, has been seized upon by generation after generation as an allegory about roiling issues of the time: a Marxist narrative of class struggle; a cautionary tale about the corrupting influence of power; a warning about environmental destruction; an absurdist reflection of nihilistic leadership." Regards, Len


Review: The Met’s ‘Ring’ Stops Creaking, but Still Doesn’t Work

By Anthony Tommasini

March 10, 2019

The Machine is back. But does it still creak?

This question loomed over the return, on Saturday afternoon, of Robert Lepage’s production of Wagner’s “Das Rheingold” to the Metropolitan Opera after a six-year absence.

Mr. Lepage’s ambitious staging of Wagner’s four-opera “Ring” cycle relies on a massive, complex set: 24 planks that rotate like seesaws on an axis that can rise and fall. This 44-ton “Machine,” as it became widely known, was prone to glitches on a Wagnerian scale, starting when “Das Rheingold,” the first installment, was introduced in 2010.

The planks can be twisted into sculptural set pieces and bathed in intricate video imagery. Debate among Wagner lovers over the Lepage “Ring” was heated from the start. But there was one thing everyone agreed on: The Machine too often squeaked and groaned when it kicked into action.

After a major retooling, it has been tamed — well, mostly. There were occasional creaking sounds on Saturday. But things seemed to work smoothly.

Those who were captivated by the staging years ago will be pleased to see the three mermaidlike Rhinemaidens, suspended from wires, seeming to cavort in the actual waters of the river, video-projection oxygen bubbles floating from their mouths to the surface, and pebbles on the riverbed rustling to their touch. We get an aerial view of the god Wotan and his trickster ally Loge walking sideways on a grand staircase down to the realm of Nibelheim in search of the dwarf Alberich.

But for me, the noises and the glitches were never the real problem with this production. My main issue was that Mr. Lepage seemed to have scant interpretive insight into a work that, since its 1876 premiere, has been seized upon by generation after generation as an allegory about roiling issues of the time: a Marxist narrative of class struggle; a cautionary tale about the corrupting influence of power; a warning about environmental destruction; an absurdist reflection of nihilistic leadership.

There’s certainly much in our world with which the “Ring” resonates. But if Mr. Lepage has ideas about the relevance of the cycle today — or even about who Wagner’s characters are and how they relate to each other — little of that comes through.

Even though the set seemed to be working, the cast is clearly distracted by the physical demands of the production. It was hard not to fear for the feisty tenor Norbert Ernst, making his Met debut as Loge, when he had to walk backward up steep planks to report on the approach of the two giants. Why backward? Well, the wire securing him was attached to his back. There was no way Mr. Ernst could make this moment look natural.

The good news is the eloquent and urgent performance of Wagner’s score that the conductor Philippe Jordan drew from the orchestra. Back at the Met for the first time since 2007, Mr. Jordan, 44, currently the music director of the Paris Opera, will assume the directorship of the Vienna State Opera in 2020.


I hope this busy conductor can make time to appear at the Met in the future. He led a refreshingly lithe and transparent account of “Rheingold,” keeping things fleet and colorful during playful stretches, but drawing out dark, heaving undercurrents when the music turned ominous. There were a few too many passing fumbles in the brasses to ignore. Still, Wagner’s two-and-a-half-hour score seemed to flow right by.

The standout member of the cast was Tomasz Konieczny, a powerhouse bass, in a breakthrough Met debut as Alberich. I tend to prefer portrayals that bring out Alberich’s suffering and bitterness; with a big, penetrating voice that can slice through the orchestra, Mr. Konieczny made Alberich sneering and dangerous.


Once he steals the gold, forges the magic ring and becomes the gods’ powerful nemesis, this Alberich dominated the rest of the opera, rather than, as usual, a stentorian Wotan. In that role, the bass-baritone Greer Grimsley was solid, but for whole stretches his voice was leathery and dry.

He came across as the suffering one, a god who already feared his time had come and gone. He seemed outmatched by this Alberich, with a breast-plated costume, looking like a kitschy reject from “Game of Thrones,” that didn’t lend him dignity.

As Fricka, Wotan’s wife, the mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton seemed to be holding back some of the natural power in her voice. The result, though, was an unusually lustrous-toned and feminine Fricka. The soprano Wendy Bryn Harmer brought gleaming sound and intensity to the frantic goddess Freia, whom Wotan glibly promises to the giants Fasolt and Fafner (Günther Groissböck and Dmitry Belosselskiy, both excellent) as payment for building his castle in the sky.

The rich-toned mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill, as the all-knowing earth goddess Erda; the reedy tenor Gerhard Siegel, as Mime, mercilessly bullied by his brother Alberich; Adam Diegel and Michael Todd Simpson, as the gods Froh and Donner; Amanda Woodbury, Samantha Hankey and Tamara Mumford, as the three Rhinemaidens: All sang strongly.


But the singers never came together as a cast and seemed too often stranded on their own, a continuing shortcoming of this production.

During the ovation at the end, the backstage crew came onstage to share in the applause. It was a generous gesture. They are the real heroes of Mr. Lepage’s “Ring.”


https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/10/arts ... epage.html

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Re: Tommasini Weighs In On Return of Met Ring

Post by John F » Mon Mar 11, 2019 6:37 am

In other words, Lepage's production does not have a concept like Chéreau's at Bayreuth that put Eurotrash on the international map. Fooey.

Not that Lepage has the full measure of the work. As a realization of Wagner's theatrical requirements, this production is brilliant - the most faithful to the letter as well as the spirit of what Wagner wrote. But at least in the previous performances, Lepage has hardly directed the singers at all in their roles. They move about here and there in order not to stay still for too long, but the dramatic motivation is missing. This revival is being directed not by Lepage but by J. Knighten Smit of the Met staff, who's done no original productions that I know of but has a lot of experience directing productions-in-being. Since the Met's Ring casts aren't exactly star-studded by normal standards, maybe he and the singers can do some serious work about characterization this time.
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Re: Tommasini Weighs In On Return of Met Ring

Post by lennygoran » Mon Mar 11, 2019 7:28 am

John F wrote:
Mon Mar 11, 2019 6:37 am
As a realization of Wagner's theatrical requirements, this production is brilliant - the most faithful to the letter as well as the spirit of what Wagner wrote.
Thanks so much for stating this-if you get a chance I'd love it if you could elaborate some more on this. Regards, Len

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Re: Tommasini Weighs In On Return of Met Ring

Post by John F » Mon Mar 11, 2019 10:11 am

One example from the first season of "Die Walküre," which had Bryn Terfel as Wotan and Deborah Voigt as Brünnhilde. In Act 2, Wotan's long monologue confides to his daughter, who is his alter ego, how things have gone so badly that he will have to sacrifice his son's life. This is one of the key scenes of the whole cycle, and Wotan and Brünnhilde must be totally absorbed in it. But in the performance I saw, Wotan wandered aimlessly about the stage, ignoring Brünnhilde and much of the tgime with his back to her. It begins at about 36:00 here:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhLU5J9dnwE

I doubt that Lepage directed Terfel to do this, my guess is that he provided no direction at all, and Terfel had nothing much in mind either except maybe to avoid boredom.
Last edited by John F on Mon Mar 11, 2019 10:27 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Tommasini Weighs In On Return of Met Ring

Post by lennygoran » Mon Mar 11, 2019 10:20 am

John F wrote:
Mon Mar 11, 2019 10:11 am
One example from the first season of "Die Walküre," which had Bryn Terfel as Wotan and Deborah Voigt as Brünnhilde.
Thanks I seem to recall something like that. Still what makes you say this:"As a realization of Wagner's theatrical requirements, this production is brilliant - the most faithful to the letter as well as the spirit of what Wagner wrote."

I remember you discussed this at great length before and I found it most informative-I searched CMG but couldn't find it-your thoughts were very informative for me. Regards, Len

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Re: Tommasini Weighs In On Return of Met Ring

Post by John F » Mon Mar 11, 2019 10:29 am

After your reply, I went back to my message and added a YouTube link so you can see for yourself what I'm talking about. As for a previous discussion, that would have been in 2011 and probably back in the CompuServe Music Forum. For comparison, here's Wieland Wagner's Bayreuth production as telecast in Osaka, in which the moves are very few but significant - beginning at about 1:30:00.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4J15bIMPTk
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Re: Tommasini Weighs In On Return of Met Ring

Post by lennygoran » Mon Mar 11, 2019 12:54 pm

John F wrote:
Mon Mar 11, 2019 10:29 am
As for a previous discussion, that would have been in 2011 and probably back in the CompuServe Music Forum. For comparison, here's Wieland Wagner's Bayreuth production as telecast in Osaka, in which the moves are very few but significant - beginning at about 1:30:00.
Thanks, I wish I had saved your comments-I checked my document section but couldn't find your work-I did have this. Regards, Len


Musical Events
Diminuendo
A downturn for opera in New York City.
by Alex Ross March 12, 2012


For the “Ring,” Robert Lepage has adopted a clumsy comic-book approach.


Last fall, Peter Gelb, the general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, raised eyebrows on both sides of the Atlantic when he talked to the Times about the production history of Nico Muhly’s opera “Two Boys,” which had its première at the English National Opera last June and is scheduled for the 2013-14 season at the Met. “London was really the equivalent of doing something out of town,” Gelb said, implying that the E.N.O. is to the Met as smaller theatres are to Broadway—places where new work is tried out before it is ready for the big time. There were clucks of disapproval from Londoners, who don’t see themselves as minor leaguers. Gelb later explained to Opera magazine that he had been speaking “partly in jest.”

Gelb’s words rang particularly false because the quality of operatic programming and production in New York has lately plummeted, to the point where the city may no longer qualify as a pace-setting opera capital. The Met still puts on big, starry shows, with hundreds of gifted people laboring behind the scenes to bring them to life. But one staging after another has failed to catch fire, and the most ambitious undertaking of the Gelb era, Robert Lepage’s production of Wagner’s “Ring,” is a very damp squib. New York City Opera, meanwhile, has teetered on the edge of extinction, its board and management accused of hard-heartedness and ineptitude. Last month, having been priced out of Lincoln Center, the company decamped to the Brooklyn Academy of Music to present “La Traviata” and Rufus Wainwright’s “Prima Donna.” Neither show felt like a turnaround.

The operatic news is being made elsewhere. Both London companies, Covent Garden and the E.N.O., have offered contemporary pieces on contemporary themes. European houses from Bayreuth on down grapple with Wagner in serious terms. The San Francisco Opera, the Houston Grand Opera, and the Minnesota Opera pay more heed to American work. New York has yet to see Messiaen’s “Saint Francis,” Birtwistle’s “Gawain,” Saariaho’s “L’Amour de Loin,” and a dozen other modern masterpieces. The city has, in truth, seldom been on the front lines of operatic art, but it now seems almost peripheral—even “out of town.”

“Götterdämmerung,” the final installment of Lepage’s “Ring,” arrived in January, rounding out what must be considered a historic achievement. Pound for pound, ton for ton, it is the most witless and wasteful production in modern operatic history. Many millions of dollars have been spent to create a gargantuan scenic machine of creakily moving planks, which have overshadowed the singers, even cowed them, without yielding especially impressive images. When Lepage was announced as the director of this “Ring,” his Wagner credentials were questioned, but he was at least expected to provide some high-tech razzle-dazzle, along the lines of his work with Ex Machina and Cirque du Soleil. “Rheingold” had its striking moments, such as Wotan and Loge’s journey down to Nibelheim, with acrobats seen in overhead perspective. Since then, wonders have been few. The Met’s previous “Ring,” the picturesque Otto Schenk staging, lingers more vividly in the memory. As for the psychological depths of the “Ring” story, Lepage’s clumsy comic-book approach suffers in comparison with many Hollywood superhero movies, never mind the visions of Wieland Wagner and Patrice Chéreau.

Undaunted by criticism, Lepage saved the worst for last. In the final scene of “Götterdämmerung,” as Brünnhilde delivers her monologue of world-redeeming love, we see Siegfried’s funeral pyre being assembled in the background: logs are piled up, the body is set in place, and it is festooned with multicolored streamers, evidently left over from a Maypole dance. Then Brünnhilde calls for her horse, Grane, and a puppet animal with a bouncing head is brought onstage, looking, in the words of the critic James Jorden, like “nothing so much as a mechanical bull in a country-western bar.” And when Valhalla burns, the heads of statues representing the gods explode. Yes, they explode! As this amateur-hour Ragnarök unfolded, I heard around me sounds suggestive of suppressed giggles, and fought the urge to make noises of my own. But my main impulse was to bury my face in my hands. It’s an embarrassment that this catastrophically vapid spectacle is what New York will be offering to the world when the Wagner bicentennial arrives next year.

When I criticize Met shows these days, I sometimes receive letters protesting that they look better in the company’s Live in HD transmissions, which have found large audiences around the world. In the case of the “Götterdämmerung” finale, I can imagine that tasteful cross-cutting made more sense of the scene. The night I was there, Katarina Dalayman was giving a fairly forceful performance as Brünnhilde—substantial in volume, dark in color, a bit edgy on top—but she was undermined by the business going on around her. I wonder whether it is almost unfair to review new Met stagings from the point of view of one sitting in the house, since they now seem designed more for the camera operators. And there is the looming problem. If opera fails as live theatre, people will stop coming, and cinema receipts will never make up the difference.

Fabio Luisi, the Met’s new principal conductor, did not save the evening in musical terms. He cut a deft figure on the podium, leading in lucid and propulsive style. There were fine touches in this “Götterdämmerung,” notably in the diaphanous music that follows Hagen’s Watch, in Act I. Much of the rest, however, was routine; the orchestra does not play as sumptuously for him as it did for James Levine. The final scene was disconcertingly businesslike, and the blissful closing theme in the violins, rendered without much of a crescendo and with an oddly abrupt fade at the end, came across as trivial. Luisi has said that he wishes to dispense with “heavy German tradition,” but he seems also to have discarded Wagner’s term Ausdrucksvoll—“full of expression.”

The best moments came from the deep-voiced villains: Hans-Peter König’s Hagen, implacable behind a treacherously convivial façade; Eric Owens’s Alberich, passionate in hate. Owens has been the great discovery of this “Ring,” singing the first Wagner of his career, and Gelb deserves credit for promoting him. Gelb has also done well by the surging bel-canto soprano Angela Meade, building a revival of “Ernani” around her. Other casting choices have been more dubious, but singing at the Met remains at a generally high level. The chief defect is theatrical: despite Gelb’s promises of modernization, stagings are less sure-footed, less cohesive, than they were in the Joseph Volpe era—no golden age, to be sure.

Now that Levine is on prolonged medical leave, the major decisions are falling to Gelb, with erratic results. Opera is, of course, a perilous business, and even the finest managers have dozens of flops. Yet Gelb has stubbornly defended Lepage, and invited him back to direct Thomas Adès’s “The Tempest” next fall. In an editorial for the Huffington Post, Gelb wrote, “Because our ‘Ring’ is revolutionary, not everyone supports it.” Whether or not he believes that preposterous statement, he is acting more like a publicist than like a leader. As Anthony Tommasini stated in the Times, the Met needs a vigorous artistic presence on its staff if it is to halt its slide.

The decline of City Opera has been swifter and sadder. The critic Fred Cohn, in recounting the sorry tale for Opera News, assigns a substantial portion of the blame to the investment banker Susan Baker, who became the chairman of the board in 2004, and presided over a string of oblivious decisions. A big-spending European impresario was hired; a hugely expensive renovation forced the cancellation of an entire season; the impresario never showed up; and the company became a gaunt ghost of its former self. In five years, City Opera has gone from presenting more than a hundred performances a season to presenting sixteen. George Steel, who became general manager and artistic director in 2009, has yet to revivify the company; his seasons have been jumbled and befuddling.

Wainwright’s “Prima Donna,” which had its première at the Manchester International Festival in 2009, tells of Régine Saint Laurent, an aging soprano who cancels a planned comeback and chooses to retire with her memories. It is several notches above the efforts of Paul McCartney, Elvis Costello, and other pop stars who have dabbled in composition: the lyrical passages manifest an individual harmonic style, rich in added tones and unexpected shifts. With the assistance of the composer Bryan Senti, Wainwright has devised an effective orchestral palette, leaning on Massenet, Debussy, and Puccini. The vocal writing is sometimes indulgent—why must a sweetly folkish aria for Régine’s maid end on a shrill high E?—but the lead role made a natural fit for the warm-voiced soprano Melody Moore, who led the cast at City Opera.

What stymies “Prima Donna” is the static, stylized plot, which requires a more resourceful score than the songlike set pieces and pastiche exercises that Wainwright supplies. When Régine experiences her crisis of confidence, the orchestra devolves into an iPod-shuffle hurly-burly, complete with deafening progressions out of “Salome.” The libretto, a French-language creation credited to Wainwright and Bernadette Colomine, aims for high camp but too often sounds wooden. (“This is the last album I’ll ever sign” isn’t quite “It’s the pictures that got small.”) Still, the work has its charms, and ends winningly, with a buoyantly wistful aria that should have set the tone for the whole.

Such a feast of nostalgia, wrapped in celebrity hype, hardly serves to differentiate City Opera from the Met. (In fact, Wainwright’s piece was originally intended for the Met; Gelb rejected it, ostensibly because of the French libretto.) The “Traviata,” a Jonathan Miller production borrowed from the Glimmerglass Festival, looked anemic compared with the Met’s current staging of the opera, a visually bold though emotionally frigid affair, directed by Willy Decker. So far, City Opera shows little evidence of being rejuvenated.

This has been the most dispiriting opera season since I began reviewing music in New York, twenty years ago. Although the economic crisis has taken its toll, the problem is less a lack of money than a lack of intellectual vitality. Both the Met and City Opera are committing the supreme operatic sin: they are thinking small. ?


Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/m ... z2LX57lxJJ

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Re: Tommasini Weighs In On Return of Met Ring

Post by maestrob » Tue Mar 12, 2019 11:07 am

Wow! That's heavy criticism for sure. I wish I could speak to it in general terms, Len, but I'm not able to attend the MET except by TV broadcasts, and there haven't been many of those recently. I'm one of those who thought initially that the new Ring staging was clumsy, ineffective and overly expensive, preferring the Otto Schenk which was a proud highlight of the MET's programming.

That said, taking on the MET so harshly seems over the top for me. They still have a massive schedule, and some performances are bound to be inferior. That's not news. With Nezet-Seguin at the helm, things are bound to improve. Alagna as Samson? Not really an ideal match, but then neither was Domingo when Levine was in charge.

Thanks for posting that. JohnF, I look forward to your comments.

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Re: Tommasini Weighs In On Return of Met Ring

Post by lennygoran » Tue Mar 12, 2019 11:33 am

Brian I liked schenk's too. Len

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Re: Tommasini Weighs In On Return of Met Ring

Post by THEHORN » Tue Mar 12, 2019 3:35 pm

"Passing fumbles in the brass ?" Das Rheingold is a killer for brass players . The other Ring operas are grueling enough for them, but Rheingold is two and a half hours non stop .
One of my horn teachers, the late Arthur Goldstein , who used to play in the Met orchestra, said to me "When you play a complete Wagner performance in the opera house, your lips are tired before the curtain goes up ! Playing Wagner for horn players makes the New York marathon look like a stroll in Central Park !

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Re: Tommasini Weighs In On Return of Met Ring

Post by THEHORN » Tue Mar 12, 2019 3:36 pm

This article was written some time before the Met's acclaimed production of "L'Amour de Loin" .

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Re: Tommasini Weighs In On Return of Met Ring

Post by John F » Tue Mar 12, 2019 6:03 pm

Generally I like Alex Ross's New Yorker stuff, but I think he's better at writing about music than reviewing performances, which after all is based on personal opinion and taste, so it's always provisional at best. One thing I will say: the cost of a production is or should be irrelevant to everyone except those who actually have to pay for it.

Despite how it may seem, I'm by no means wedded to the kind of Romantic realism as in the Met productions by Schenk and Lepage. The first Ring cycle I ever saw, minus "Das Rheingold," was Karajan's in Vienna designed by Emil Preetorius in something like Romantic realism; the second, five years later, was by Wieland Wagner at the Stuttgart Opera, and the third was Wieland Wagner's last Ring at the Bayreuth Festival. In the first of these, the gods looked classical Greek rather than Germanic and the scenery had a somewhat abstract quality; the second had a prehistoric primitive look, with Freia concealed behind the pile of gold in the form of a fertility idol like the Venus of Willendorf.

Image

In both productions Wieland Wagner created a world relevant to the drama, remote from our own, within which the events of the story could believably take place. This is the opposite of the Eurotrash approach in which the story - often a different story - takes place implausibly in the real human world.

Unlike either of Wieland Wagner's approaches, the objective of Romantic realism is to create a world as near as possible to what Wagner envisioned, as we know it from his stage directions in the scores and the scenic designs for the Ring cycle he directed at Bayreuth. Schenk uses the conventional materials of stage scenery, plywood and plaster and paint, and the result is necessarily artificial; we never forget that we're sitting in a theatre watching a performance. Lepage creates an illusion of reality beyond anything I've ever seen except in the movies, so that nature is not inert as in most theatrical settings but in motion and alive. At times the technology that creates this illusion doesn't work well, and because it usually succeeds we're jarred when it doesn't, in a way that a conventional theatre production doesn't do. But maybe this time everything will go well.

What's missing, as I've said before, has been deep and persuasive characterization from the singer-actors. I'm not sure who today can measure up to the achievements of Hans Hotter, Astrid Varnay, Jon Vickers, Wolfgang Windgassen, and the other great Wagnerians of the past, not just as singers but as penetrating actors, or to Wagner conductors like Karajan, Knappertsbusch, and James Levine; Bryn Terfel, Deborah Voigt, and others in the Met's original cast certainly didn't, and I'm not expecting much from this season's conductor Philippe Jordan..
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Re: Tommasini Weighs In On Return of Met Ring

Post by John F » Tue Mar 12, 2019 8:20 pm

THEHORN wrote:
Tue Mar 12, 2019 3:35 pm
"Passing fumbles in the brass ?" Das Rheingold is a killer for brass players . The other Ring operas are grueling enough for them, but Rheingold is two and a half hours non stop .
And the horn players' troubles begin in the first minutes, with the slow rising figure for all 8 of them in canon, one after another. Never except in studio recordings have I heard it played without at least one clam.
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Re: Tommasini Weighs In On Return of Met Ring

Post by lennygoran » Wed Mar 13, 2019 5:39 am

:(
John F wrote:
Tue Mar 12, 2019 6:03 pm

In both productions Wieland Wagner created a world relevant to the drama, remote from our own, within which the events of the story could believably take place. This is the opposite of the Eurotrash approach in which the story - often a different story - takes place implausibly in the real human world...Unlike either of Wieland Wagner's approaches, the objective of Romantic realism is to create a world as near as possible to what Wagner envisioned, as we know it from his stage directions in the scores and the scenic designs for the Ring cycle he directed at Bayreuth. Schenk uses the conventional materials of stage scenery, plywood and plaster and paint, and the result is necessarily artificial; we never forget that we're sitting in a theatre watching a performance. Lepage creates an illusion of reality beyond anything I've ever seen except in the movies, so that nature is not inert as in most theatrical settings but in motion and alive. At times the technology that creates this illusion doesn't work well, and because it usually succeeds we're jarred when it doesn't, in a way that a conventional theatre production doesn't do. But maybe this time everseason's conductor Philippe Jordan..
John thanks for going into this but I admit I'm having trouble grasping it. I'm thinking of why the Met's update of Falstaff works so well-isn't it taking place in a real human world? As for material used I'm having trouble understanding-don't both the schenk and lepage versions use stage scenery, plywood, plaster and paint? Also could you say more about wagner's instructions-what he envisioned. Again I admit what your saying may just be so far above me I just can't get it. Len :(

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Re: Tommasini Weighs In On Return of Met Ring

Post by barney » Wed Mar 13, 2019 6:09 am

John F wrote:
Mon Mar 11, 2019 10:11 am
One example from the first season of "Die Walküre," which had Bryn Terfel as Wotan and Deborah Voigt as Brünnhilde. In Act 2, Wotan's long monologue confides to his daughter, who is his alter ego, how things have gone so badly that he will have to sacrifice his son's life. This is one of the key scenes of the whole cycle, and Wotan and Brünnhilde must be totally absorbed in it. But in the performance I saw, Wotan wandered aimlessly about the stage, ignoring Brünnhilde and much of the tgime with his back to her. It begins at about 36:00 here:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhLU5J9dnwE

I doubt that Lepage directed Terfel to do this, my guess is that he provided no direction at all, and Terfel had nothing much in mind either except maybe to avoid boredom.
I reckon that is pretty astute guesswork, JohnF. I think it very likely you are right.

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Re: Tommasini Weighs In On Return of Met Ring

Post by John F » Wed Mar 13, 2019 8:24 am

lennygoran wrote:John thanks for going into this but I admit I'm having trouble grasping it. I'm thinking of why the Met's update of Falstaff works so well-isn't it taking place in a real human world? As for material used I'm having trouble understanding-don't both the schenk and lepage versions use stage scenery, plywood, plaster and paint? Also could you say more about wagner's instructions-what he envisioned. Again I admit what your saying may just be so far above me I just can't get it.
You're asking a lot, and I don't have time to write a book just now, so I'll keep it short.

"Falstaff" is set in the world of real people with human motives, feelings, and failings. The Ring is set in a timeless, unreal world of gods, demigods, dwarfs, giants, dragons - you name it. As for updating, you happen to like the Met's new production, but it's for you to say why. I don't, particularly, but since the characters and story are not inseparably rooted in the 1590swhen Shakespeare created the play, there's no objection in principle to setting it where and when you like.

Schneider-Siemssen's scenery for the Schenk Ring was solid and weighed several tons. The scenery in the Lepage production is almost all light projections; the physical set (the machine) isn't so much scenery as a background on which the light-scenery is projected. You shouldn't have needed me to tell you that.

As for Wagner's instructions, that's for you to find out for yourself. His stage directions should be printed in librettos of the operas. The scenery for his original production of the Ring survives in the artists' drawings, mainly those of Josef Hoffmann, which you'll find online if you google his name. Here's what "Die Walkure" Act 1 looked like after Siegmund has pulled the sword Nothung out of the tree:

Image

Wagner was the stage director of the Bayreuth Ring cycle, leaving the conducting to Hans Richter. An assistant, Heinrich Porges, took notes of Wagner's direction and published them as a book, which is available in English as "Wagner Rehearsing the Ring" :

http://www.porges.net/WagnerRehearsingRing.html

Not that everything always went as Wagner would have wished, but there it is.
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Re: Tommasini Weighs In On Return of Met Ring

Post by maestrob » Wed Mar 13, 2019 11:28 am

That picture, JohnF, is worth a thousand words and contributes much to this discussion. Thank-you. It's obvious that Wagner would have admired the Schenk production. As for the effectiveness of the three productions you've seen, well, I leave that to you to judge since I haven't seen them. (I did see, and enjoy, the Boulez on TV, but that was broadcast before home recording devices were invented so I haven't seen it since.) I still think that the Machine is over the top, and I agree with you that Voigt cannot be compared favorably to Birgit Nilsson et al, but I liked Bryn Terfel as Wotan. And yes, of course I've heard Hotter in 1955 when he was in his prime, as well as in the Solti recording (when he was not), George London and James Morris (the latter live and on TV).

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Re: Tommasini Weighs In On Return of Met Ring

Post by John F » Wed Mar 13, 2019 12:47 pm

For me, Bryn Terfel was definitely a bourgeois Wotan, not to be compared with Hotter, Theo Adam, Schorr, Bockelmann, etc. Maybe a beard would have helped. :mrgreen: There are so many touchstones of greatness in the "Walkure" Wotan, and Terfel makes little of them.

One of them comes in Wotan's Act 2 monologue. In desperation he sings:

Auf geb' ich mein Werk,
Nur eines will' ich noch:
Das Ende! Das Ende.

Hotter, sings vehemently through the first "Das Ende," but then he does something extraordinary. Here it is in 1953, at 39:50:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGH9KZ2DbR0

After the first "Das Ende," a long, long pause, as if Wotan is only realizing what he has just said after saying it, then "Das Ende" repeated almost inaudibly in a tone of wonderment, as if he's now taken in the implication. Terfel does something like that - it's in the score - but to nothing like as meaningful and daring effect.

Another is in Wotan's farewell, at 54:00:

Denn einer nur freie die Braut,
der freier als ich, der Gott!


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nH3dbUEw6l0

Hotter sings "der freier..." with such sorrow that I'm always deeply moved. With Terfel - well, hear for yourself. The Met telecast isn't online so this is a concert performance. See 2:40:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_23p8K7qXXE
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Re: Tommasini Weighs In On Return of Met Ring

Post by lennygoran » Thu Mar 14, 2019 7:20 am

John F wrote:
Wed Mar 13, 2019 8:24 am
"Falstaff" is set in the world of real people with human motives, feelings, and failings. The Ring is set in a timeless, unreal world of gods, demigods, dwarfs, giants, dragons - you name it. As for updating, you happen to like the Met's new production, but it's for you to say why. I don't, particularly, but since the characters and story are not inseparably rooted in the 1590swhen Shakespeare created the play, there's no objection in principle to setting it where and when you like.
John thanks-funny but I thought you rather liked the Falstaff as an update-I sure was happy with the old one though. Same for the Ring-Lepage gives you a spectacular show but sticks to the story. I enjoyed Schenk's too. AAMOF I just loved the new Met production of Samson-spectacular and yet stuck to the original story. Regards, Len

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Re: Tommasini Weighs In On Return of Met Ring

Post by John F » Thu Mar 14, 2019 9:21 am

lennygoran wrote:I thought you rather liked the Falstaff as an update-I sure was happy with the old one though.
Where did you get that idea? I've never said or thought any such thing.
lennygoran wrote:Lepage gives you a spectacular show but sticks to the story.
More than just that, he's faithful to every detail of the libretto, word by word, and the stage directions Wagner wrote into the score. The only outright failure is the ride of the Valkyries in "Die Walküre" Act 3, which is impossible to stage convincingly - Wagner used merry-go-round horses in his production, Schenk had the Valkyries dismount offstage out of view and walk onto the stage which is probably the best compromise.

But I say again, "Der Ring des Nibelung" is timeless as are the ancient myths on which it is based, there's plenty of room for original staging, as long as the director does not tie it down to a specific historical period and thereby weaken its universality. Which is what Patrice Chéreau did in the notorious Eurotrash Bayreuth centennial production, which some people admire, I can't imagine why.
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Re: Tommasini Weighs In On Return of Met Ring

Post by lennygoran » Fri Mar 15, 2019 5:29 am

John F wrote:
Thu Mar 14, 2019 9:21 am
lennygoran wrote:I thought you rather liked the Falstaff as an update-I sure was happy with the old one though.
Where did you get that idea? I've never said or thought any such thing.
I had read these comments of yours but I didn't find anything in CMG where you said anything critical of it but maybe there's more from you on it--I couldn't find it? Again I say I loved the old traditional Met production but as an update I thought the new Falstaff came off pretty well-in general you must know by now I'm pretty much against updates. Regards, Len


1. Re: Met Falstaff HD Style Rockaway Mall NJ

Post by John F » Sun Dec 15, 2013 4:16 am
I heard it on the radio - a very happy 3 hours. My only objection is that the first four scenes are now run together into a single act (followed by an excessively long intermission), despite Boito's and Verdi's careful planning and brilliant execution of an emphatic close to the second scene. Levine was in his element, and the orchestra not only played brilliantly but gave the many tiny solos for woodwinds their full character - not all the comedians were on the stage. Look forward to seeing it soon.

2.
19 for me. You probably need to be an Italian to know all those species of pasta.

By the way, in the intermission for the "Falstaff" HD transmission, we saw the Falstaff, Ambrogio Maestri, cooking risotto with mushrooms and sausage on the stage set for the 4th scene, a gigantic 1950s kitchen. The recipe was said to be on the Met's web site somewhere.

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Re: Tommasini Weighs In On Return of Met Ring

Post by John F » Fri Mar 15, 2019 6:46 am

"I heard it on the radio." Repeat: "heard." Eventually I saw the "Falstaff" production on PBS. Found it rather tiresome, as I remember, but obviously I didn't feel like saying anything about itthen and I don't now - this thread is about the Ring.
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Re: Tommasini Weighs In On Return of Met Ring

Post by lennygoran » Fri Mar 15, 2019 6:52 am

John F wrote:
Fri Mar 15, 2019 6:46 am
"I heard it on the radio." Repeat: "heard." Eventually I saw the "Falstaff" production on PBS. Found it rather tiresome, as I remember, but obviously I didn't feel like saying anything about itthen and I don't now - this thread is about the Ring.
Yes and we liked the new Ring from the Met in general-I taped them all-I just posted A Goerke NYTimes article. Regards, Len

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Re: Tommasini Weighs In On Return of Met Ring

Post by John F » Thu Mar 28, 2019 11:42 am

From this interview article, it seems that at least two of the principal singers have positive things to say about the "machine."

The Met’s ‘Ring Cycle’ Stars Explain How the ‘Machine’ Affects Their Singing
By Mary von Aue
03/26/19

Christine Goerke admits she was nervous the first time she stepped onto the “machine.” Before rehearsing for her Met debut as Brünnhilde in Die Walküre, Goerke was already familiar with the infamous and once-controversial set design for the Robert Lepage’s 2012-2013 production of Wagner’s epic Der Ring des Nibelungen. The large wall can morph into a gateway to Valhalla or a ladder to the sky, but once came with a slew of issues ranging from noise distractions to the threat to actors’ safety.

The Met’s 2019 production of the Ring Cycle invested more time and innovation into the intimidating set piece, reworking the machine so that it would be quieter as it transforms from deep seas to mythic skies. “They not only reworked the machine to make it quieter and to ensure that it runs more smoothly,” Goerke explained, “but they have also put a huge amount of safety features that weren’t necessarily there the first time. And I have to say it’s really kind of fun.”

Whereas Goerke, who has sung the role of Brünnhilde to wide acclaim in Chicago, Houston and Canada, has only known the updated version of the “machine,” her costar Greer Grimsley is returning to his role as Wotan, which he held in the 2012-2013 season, but working with a whole new structure. “I was still feeling somewhat new on the machine but I was having fun exploring it,” Grimsley told Observer. “With things safer, we’re able to trust things more and actually get out there and really play on it, which is fun. I knew what to expect coming back and [am] pleasantly surprised at the improvements that they made.”

Each of the four parts of the Ring Cycle—Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung—requires actors to heavily rely on the machine when suspended in air as they climb the vertical structure or balance on one of its several shifting beams. Now that the set’s latest iteration comes with several new safety features, Goerke and Grimsley say they can experiment more with space and engage with the structure in new and visually breathtaking ways. “It was encouraging this time around to have a fresh look at not just how we interact with the machine but how we’re also clarifying our relationships as well,” said Grimsley.

Beyond the gravity-defying feats that are expected from the actors, the unusual set piece also creates a unique challenge for performers by way of acoustics. A structure as large as this will no doubt create new sound barriers onstage, and the ways in which actors are suspended in air can influence their vocal choices. With these new variables in mind, Goerke came prepared: “One of the very first things that I check in any theater is the acoustics and how sound travels around the theater. Having been up there, I had to wander [the machine] and see what hard surfaces we have, how much space there is and how far upstage I am.”

What Goerke discovered is that structure encapsulates voices from where they stand, even when suspended in air. “The machine ends up acting as an acoustic shell, which is kind of brilliant if you’re singing Wagner. When you are up in the air on it, you know if it’s going to help or hinder you and then make a decision as to how much focus, how much space you get around your voice. But I think that we’re really quite lucky with this machine because it does, in fact, act as a shell more often than not.”

As a Wagner veteran at the Met, Grimsley noted that he makes subconscious adjustments based on where he is situated on the massive structure. “A lot of times it does act as a shell and that helps with a lot of scenes,” Grimsley said. “When you’re up on the second deck, though, I, as a singer, don’t miss anything behind me because the acoustics in the Met are so good. And I feel I get just a little boost being up there anyway because I’m shooting out over the orchestra instead of being so close and having to sort of wedge my way through the middle of them.”

While the machine still comes with its own unique set of physical demands, the structure creates new opportunities for Goerke, Grimsley and their colleagues to experiment with their characters on stage. “I find that it necessitates concentration on the characters and on their relationships,” Goerke explained. “And if you watch Game of Thrones, you’ll love this.”

https://observer.com/2019/03/christine- ... e-machine/
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