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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2016 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Happy Birthday, Harry Kupfer!

We here at Superconductor would like to take this opportunity to raise a glass and wish a Happy 75th Birthday to the German director Harry Kupfer.
Simon Estes in Der Fliegende Höllander, Bayreuth, 1985

Harry Kupfer
Beginning his career in the theater in East Germany, Mr. Kupfer first drew the attention of opera lovers in 1978, with his surreal, nightmarish staging of Der Fliegende Höllander at the Bayreuth Festival. His vision of the work made Senta the center of the drama, as the entire opera took place in a nightmare which she was having. At the end of the work, she threw herself off the "cliff" and lay dead on the stage.


A similar image opened Kupfer's next Bayreuth staging, a titanic 1988 production of the Ring cycle. Mr. Kupfer set the entire opera on a dark, mysterious "road of history" receding into the distance. This post-apocalyptic production showed gods, mortals and monsters interacting in a poisoned, ruined world.

The world-ash tree was carbonized and ruined. Hunding lived in an underground bunker, and Mime's cave was half of a broken missile silo. Fafner's cave was a giant pothole on the "road", and the Rhinemaidens were reduced to living in a pumping station, their hair falling out from the poison in their river. Best of a ll, the final apocalypse in Götterdämmerung took place on television, watched mutely by a horrified humanity.

Did we mention that it had really cool lasers and an awesome conductor in the person of Daniel Barenboim? Here's an excerpt from Das Rheingold:

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This production of the Ring was revised, updated and filmed a second time in Barcelona. It looked like this:



Other notable Harry Kupfer productions include a Parsifal from Berlin which took place in a bank vault, a memorable Palestrina and his forthcoming version of Ariadne Auf Naxos.
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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.