Bayreuth festival in Bavaria Controversy

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lennygoran
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Bayreuth festival in Bavaria Controversy

Post by lennygoran » Fri Aug 02, 2019 6:25 am

A friend from England sent me this article. Regards, Len


In Richard Wagner’s opera Tannhäuser, the hero is shunned by his fellow mortals when they realise he has visited a parallel world of unbridled sexuality.

It is a feeling that Le Gateau Chocolat knows all too well. The black British drag artist has denounced the “abject shame” of Wagner enthusiasts who booed his appearance at the opening night of the Bayreuth festival in Bavaria, one of the most exalted events in the operatic calendar.

An audience including Angela Merkel and Katharina Wagner, the German composer’s great-granddaughter, watched as the performer from Brighton played a spirit accompanying Tannhäuser in a blond wig, heels and a pink tutu. At one point he unfurled a rainbow flag over the stage in what he said was an “incredibly historic” moment.

It is thought to be the first time that the opera festival, which is notorious for aesthetic clashes between the avant-garde and the bloody mindedly old-fashioned, has featured a drag act.

When he made his curtsey at the end he was loudly derided by a group of conservative viewers nicknamed the “Wagner ultras” in the German press. He later received racist and homophobic abuse over social media.

Le Gateau Chocolat, 37, speaking on the condition that he would only be referred to by his stage name, told The Times that the “deeply uncouth and antiquated” behaviour had left him reluctant to go back to Germany for the remaining performances of the opera.

“What prompted the booing can and must only be answered by those who booed,” he said. “It was loud enough for me to hear and for many in the audience to concur, both in the auditorium and in cinemas.”

The drag performer is best known in Britain for his portrayal of the fool Feste in Emma Rice’s production of Twelfth Nightat the Globe theatre in London and in Bertolt Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera at the National.

Bayreuth, however, is a famously tough gig. Conflict between experimental directors and reactionary critics or audience members is as much of a tradition as Mrs Merkel’s annual appearance at the opening ceremony.

Quite aside from Bayreuth’s chummy relationship with the Third Reich — the Tannhäuser overture is said to have been Hitler’s favourite piece of music, and he was a regular guest of honour — it has a history of controversies that have little to do with artistic niceties.

In recent years the festival has been troubled by rows over a Russian singer’s swastika tattoo, an egg thrown at the head of Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet leader, and the presence of Michael Gove and George Osborne.

Sections of the audience protested audibly when the creative team took their bow. There has also been criticism of Valery Gergiev, 66, the opera’s conductor, who is a prominent supporter of President Putin’s regime and its law prohibiting homosexual “propaganda”, although it was directed as much at his musical choices as at his politics.

The German reviewers, however, have generally applauded the decision to include a drag act. Le Gateau Chocolat said the “vociferous” support of Ms Wagner, the festival’s director, had persuaded him to return for the final four performances in spite of his misgivings.

“I shoulder a gargantuan responsibility in my attempts to authentically present a queer identity that may challenge people’s preconceptions on race, gender and sexuality . . . in the hallowed halls of Bayreuth,” he said.







https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/drag ... -rpqwjd02z

maestrob
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Re: Bayreuth festival in Bavaria Controversy

Post by maestrob » Fri Aug 02, 2019 10:05 am

Well! A drag queen at Bayreuth, indeed. Certainly, it fits into the decadence of the opening of the opera, so why not? As an old codger in this woke era, I don't suppose it would upset me at all.

lennygoran
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Re: Bayreuth festival in Bavaria Controversy

Post by lennygoran » Fri Aug 02, 2019 3:22 pm

maestrob wrote:
Fri Aug 02, 2019 10:05 am
Well! A drag queen at Bayreuth, indeed. Certainly, it fits into the decadence of the opening of the opera, so why not? As an old codger in this woke era, I don't suppose it would upset me at all.
Brian here's act 1. Regards, Len

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ma_NEen ... e=youtu.be

lennygoran
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Re: Bayreuth festival in Bavaria Controversy

Post by lennygoran » Sat Aug 03, 2019 8:13 am

Here's a review from the Telegraph-they liked it. Regards, Len


Mark Ronan

26 July 2019 • 6:32pm

The music of Richard Wagner is the essence of the Bayreuth Festival, but it also prides itself on originality in staging the Master's art. It’s well justified this year by Tobias Kratzer’s new production of Tannhäuser, the 1845 opera which takes us from the title character's obsession with the alternative world of the Venusberg to his return home and the eventual failure of his relationship with the loving Elisabeth. Here was an exhilarating production that was full of verve and on opening night it was received, deservedly, with a standing ovation.

A major problem in staging this opera is how to deal with the usual debauchery of the Venusberg scenes yet still represent the minstrel knight Tannhäuser's conflicted desire to return there, realised mainly in the music. Kratzer’s solution is to take a wildly modern approach, converting the alternative world to a collection of misfits divorced from polite society and combining everything into a seamless stage narrative.

The Venusberg was replaced by a crew of four: Venus herself, a dwarf, a black drag queen, and Tannhäuser dressed as a clown, all living out of a camper van. In Act I they run down a security guard who sees them stealing petrol, Tannhäuser bails out on the highway and re-encounters his old friend Wolfram, the other minstrels and the Landgraf. As Act II gets underway for the song contest its venue is replaced by the Festspielhaus in Bayreuth, where the misfits manage to get in and wreak havoc (a source of huge amusement for the audience). In Act III while Tannhäuser seeks forgiveness in Rome, Wolfram takes Elisabeth's virginity in the camper van.

Although these might sound like tiresome gimmicks intended to shock, it's actually a very clever take on the opera. For example, Wolfram is allowed to express real desire for Elisabeth rather than the abstract yearnings that so often render the two of them ineffective ciphers.

The singing was outstanding. American heldentenor Stephen Gould exhibited great dramatic and vocal power in the title role, with Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen beautifully lyrical as Elisabeth, and Danish bass Stephen Milling was commanding in a sympathetic portrayal of the Landgraf. In the vital role of Wolfram, Markus Eiche showed strength and incisiveness well suiting the production, and in the song contest Kay Stiefermann was notable as Biterolf. As the free spirits of the anarchist group, Russian mezzo Elena Zhidkova made a glamorously strong Venus, with cabaret star Le Gateau Chocolat thoroughly enjoying himself as the drag queen, and acclaimed German actor Manni Laudenbach as the dwarf had a certain toughness while maintaining a twinkle in his eye.

It was also visually riveting with video footage playing a huge role which, in particular, refreshed the song contest where we saw the action from different angles. Then as the stage plunged into blackness at the end, a feral yelp from the audience quickly turned to cheers. In fact, the famous booing at Bayreuth was largely absent, except for a moment in the first act (possibly when conductor Valery Gergiev, in what was otherwise a fine Bayreuth debut, allowed the chorus and orchestra to diverge ).

When Bayreuth productions try too hard to do something new, they often misfire. But this imaginative production was riveting throughout.

John F
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Re: Bayreuth festival in Bavaria Controversy

Post by John F » Sat Aug 03, 2019 11:12 am

Mark Ronan wrote:Wolfram is allowed to express real desire for Elisabeth rather than the abstract yearnings that so often render the two of them ineffective ciphers... while Tannhäuser seeks forgiveness in Rome, Wolfram takes Elisabeth's virginity in the camper van.
Just one of many production "ideas" that contradict the story told by the words and music of Wagner's opera. The conflict at the center of "Tannhäuser" is between the sensual and sexual license symbolized by Venus in her erotic kingdom and the rigid conventional morality of the Landgraf, his court, and his society. When Tannhäuser mocks that morality in his competition song, saying that true love is not to be found in straight society but in the Venusberg, all are scandalized and make to kill him until Elisabeth shields him. But if the "angel" Elisabeth and even the inhibited Wolfram help themselves to nonmarital sex, where's the scandal? For that matter, if the Venusberg is inhabited only by Venus, a dwarf, a transsexual, and Tannhäuser dressed as a clown (say what?), where's the eroticism? And for what has the Pope eternally damned Tannhäuser? Kratzer has made it all nonsense.

Unconventional direction and casting in "Tannhäuser" goes back a long way. Wieland Wagner's 1961 production featured the "black Venus" of the young Grace Bumbry, a sensation in Germany at the time, and the near-pornographic Venusberg bacchanale choreographed by Maurice Béjart. These heightened the contrast between the Venusberg and the Landgraf's court, not just visually but symbolically - sin/black vs. virtue/white, black queen vs. white queen on a floor like a chessboard. Here's the crisis in Act 2, in Wieland Wagner's Stuttgart production (much like Bayreuth 1961), with Wolfgang Windgassen in 1974.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3fmIlnTfGg

While I'm posting, I just came across a film of Windgassen in the Act III Rome narrative. Tannhäuser was one of his greatest roles, he sang and acted it with such passion, and I hope this clip is taken from a film of the whole opera.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNv2axsRZQU
John Francis

lennygoran
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Re: Bayreuth festival in Bavaria Controversy

Post by lennygoran » Sat Aug 03, 2019 3:06 pm

John F wrote:
Sat Aug 03, 2019 11:12 am
Mark Ronan wrote:Wolfram is allowed to express real desire for Elisabeth rather than the abstract yearnings that so often render the two of them ineffective ciphers... while Tannhäuser seeks forgiveness in Rome, Wolfram takes Elisabeth's virginity in the camper van.
Just one of many production "ideas" that contradict the story told by the words and music of Wagner's opera. The conflict at the center of "Tannhäuser" is between the sensual and sexual license symbolized by Venus in her erotic kingdom and the rigid conventional morality of the Landgraf, his court, and his society.
John thanks for all the info-Sue and I watched a little of the work on you tube but after about 10 minutes we had had enough-I told Sue about this business with Wolfram and both she and I were not happy they changed the story. Barone from the NYTimes also liked the production for being clever but also found it confusing-forgot if I posted his review--it's below? Regards, Len

Image

Image

Image



A New ‘Tannhäuser’ Brings Burger King to Bayreuth

With a drag queen and lowbrow pop culture, a rambunctious production transports Wagner’s opera to the present.

By Joshua Barone

July 26, 2019

BAYREUTH, Germany — The Wartburg castle, so central to Wagner’s “Tannhäuser” that it’s part of the opera’s full title, makes an appearance only briefly in Tobias Kratzer’s new production, which opened the Bayreuth Festival here on Thursday. At the beginning of the overture, a video projected onstage shows the medieval fortress in sweeping drone footage fit for a tourism commercial. Then it’s gone.

Instead, the camera’s focus turns downward, to a scrappy Citroën van driven by a merry band of anarchists. There’s Venus, their leader, at the wheel, looking crazed and sultry in a sparkling black unitard. With her are a raggedy clown, a drum-playing dwarf and a drag queen named Le Gateau Chocolat.

This is “Tannhäuser,” I swear. It’s just that in Mr. Kratzer’s rollicking production — intelligent and surprisingly wrenching, though not quite fully formed — the Venusberg is not the libretto’s mythical pleasure realm so much as a lifestyle of young, brash artistry. That pathetic clown, it turns out, is Tannhäuser, joining Venus and company to litter the German countryside with signs saying: “FREELY WILLING. FREELY DOING. FREELY ENJOYING.”

Those words are Wagner’s, from his bad-boy days as a revolutionary in Dresden, where “Tannhäuser” had its premiere in 1845. He revised the opera in 1861 for a production in Paris, incorporating the groundbreaking musical language he used in “Tristan und Isolde” and patching some of the plot’s leaks. It wasn’t perfect, but it was better; Wagner had aspirations to continue revising it for the rest of his life.


Today, you’re likely to come across the Paris version, or some hybrid. But here, Mr. Kratzer has opted for the original Dresden score — because, he said in a program book interview, it’s truer to Wagner’s revolutionary spirit.

Regardless of how persuasive that argument may be, there was little case for it in the orchestra pit, where Valery Gergiev was making his Bayreuth debut. Throughout the evening, his interpretation of the music was unreliably thoughtful, and at times lackadaisical. The overture began promisingly, sedate and serene — with the Pilgrim’s Chorus theme, which returns near the end in the brasses, played over quiet, downward chromatic scales in the strings. But instead of a light, buzzing sound from the violins, he drew something heavier, jabbing and overly present.


The baked-in filmic qualities of the overture provided a fitting soundtrack for the movie that is the foundation of Mr. Kratzer’s production. (Manuel Braun is the video director.) Venus’s Citroën arrives at a Burger King, where her gang scams the restaurant out of a free meal. When they leave, they are cut off by a police officer on foot. Out of desperation, Venus runs him over and kills him — a sobering end to all the fun, and the beginning of Tannhäuser’s doubts about her way of life.

As the film ends and the curtain rises, we see the Citroën pulled over at a roadside food stand with the Disneyland look of a faded fairy-tale cottage. Here, Tannhäuser (the mighty tenor Stephen Gould, with ever-increasing despair) sings his ode to Venus but eventually begins to beg for escape. She can be awfully persuasive, though, especially as performed by the charismatic Elena Zhidkova. (A late replacement for Ekaterina Gubanova, she showed no signs of insufficient rehearsal time.)

So Tannhäuser gets back in the van, until he can’t take it anymore and throws himself out the door and onto the highway. A cyclist — in the role traditionally presented as a shepherd boy but here never clearly defined — rouses him and says to listen as pilgrims pass through on their way to Rome.

That city, and the pope within it, are treated metaphorically, changing with each act. In this case, “Rome” is the Bayreuth Festival Theater, revealed in miniature atop a hill toward the back of the stage. The “pilgrims” are a mirror image of the audience: making their way to Wagner’s theater in tuxedos, gowns and formal lederhosen, fanning themselves with program books. (Outside on Thursday, the temperature was nearing 100 degrees Fahrenheit.)

The theater, in a somewhat confusing turn, is also a stand-in for the Wartburg; its minnesingers — Tannhäuser’s fellow knight-troubadours — approach him wearing the lanyards you might see off-duty singers wearing around the festival grounds. Tannhäuser, it turns out, is a cast member of “Tannhäuser,” returning at last to his colleagues.


This sets up a play-within-a-play premise for Act II, a “Tannhäuser” by way of “Kiss Me, Kate.” The lower half of the stage is a traditional set for the opera’s singing contest; the upper half is a screen showing film of life backstage, adding both comedy (a lot of it) and moments of psychological clarity. We see, for example, that Elisabeth — Tannhäuser’s saintly love, sung by the soprano Lise Davidsen in an astonishingly mature Bayreuth debut at just 32 — is faithful, but not a simple archetype. She is far more complicated, her devotion to Tannhäuser almost pathological and her behavior self-destructive.

When she returns in Act III — years after Tannhäuser leaves to seek redemption in “Rome,” now meaning jail because he took the fall for the officer’s death at Burger King — Ms. Davidsen’s Elisabeth is in a downward spiral. She finds the dwarf, Oskar (Manni Laudenbach), who is living out of the decrepit Citroën, and joins him in waiting for Tannhäuser to return alongside other newly released prisoners.

He doesn’t, and her prayer that follows, which has heavenly purity on a recent Decca recording, is here more forlorn, with a dark turn to a shocking sex scene with the knight Wolfram (Markus Eiche, who sculpted a tender “Song to the Evening Star”). She forces him to dress like Tannhäuser the clown, then appears to die, though it’s not clear how or when.

That’s because Mr. Kratzer’s production begins to muddle in the third act, not always aligning with the libretto as he aspires to illustrate the divergent paths artists’ lives can follow. Oskar is homeless; Le Gateau Chocolat, we learn from a luxury billboard, sells out; Venus never changes; and Tannhäuser, back from jail, has nothing to return to. He dies — maybe — holding Elisabeth’s body and imagining the road trip they would have shared, smiling and riding into the sunset, if only he hadn’t met Venus.

Some confusion aside, Mr. Kratzer’s reading of the opera is both novel and clever. I left the theater thinking of Wahnfried, Wagner’s house in the center of Bayreuth, where an exhibition is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Wolfgang Wagner, the composer’s grandson, who is credited with establishing the “Bayreuth Workshop” model of the festival today. The idea is that our interpretations of Wagner are ever-evolving; that’s why directors are hired for several years, to tweak their productions with each revival.

Even for Wagner, “Tannhäuser” was always a work in process; for Mr. Kratzer, returning over the next few years, it will be, too, with the potential to keep refining and improving. The festival, for its part, can help by hiring a new conductor.

Tannhäuser



https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/26/arts ... Position=1

lennygoran
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Re: Bayreuth festival in Bavaria Controversy

Post by lennygoran » Sun Aug 04, 2019 5:05 am

I just had a chance to watch the end of act 2-Venus, the drum-playing dwarf and the drag queen named Le Gateau Chocolat have gotten into the opera house-the police are summoned by opera house management which you see projected on the screen, Tannhauser gets a chance to get in some kissing with Venus, the police storm in--eventually Tannhauser is led off to someplace in handcuffs right after he sings out he's heading out to Rome. I did enjoy the singing. I wish there were surtitles in English. Regards, Len :lol:

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Re: Bayreuth festival in Bavaria Controversy

Post by david johnson » Sun Aug 04, 2019 5:18 am

Perhaps a rainbow flag should be saved for the Rainbow Bridge in Das Rheingold.

lennygoran
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Re: Bayreuth festival in Bavaria Controversy

Post by lennygoran » Sun Aug 04, 2019 5:24 am

david johnson wrote:
Sun Aug 04, 2019 5:18 am
Perhaps a rainbow flag should be saved for the Rainbow Bridge in Das Rheingold.
Maybe he's working on that as he attempts to fine tune his production! Regards, Len :lol:

barney
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Re: Bayreuth festival in Bavaria Controversy

Post by barney » Sun Aug 04, 2019 5:36 pm

david johnson wrote:
Sun Aug 04, 2019 5:18 am
Perhaps a rainbow flag should be saved for the Rainbow Bridge in Das Rheingold.
Excellent idea. With a pot of fool's gold at the end, if the production is by this director.

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