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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 © 2019 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Rant: Bayreuth on the Hudson?

New York opera lovers, and particularly that strange, obsessed, (occasionally helmeted) subset who love the works of Richard Wagner, are a spoiled bunch. We have been ever since the arrival of the production team of Otto Schenk and Gunther Scheider-Siemssen, whose productions of the major Wagner operas have provided the Met with a complete Wagner renaissance and a steady flow of box office, thanks to periodic revivals of the duo's spectacular 1989 production of the Ring Cycle.

Starting with their 1978 production of Tannhauser, the Schenk/Schneider-Siemssen team went on to stage Lohengrin, The Ring, Parsifal and Meistersinger. Each production was designed and staged in a thoroughly traditional style that would have made Cosima Wagner proud. Their underground caverns looked like caverns. Dwarves skulked, Grail knights marched and Nuremberg burghers paraded in proud order. These productions (with the exception of the Lohengrin have been popular and long-running, filling the theater on a regular basis. The Schenk/Schneider-Siemssen Ring was filmed with great success, exposing a whole new generation of listeners to Wagner, including this writer.

Yet twilight is setting on this world of realistic Wagner productions. Robert Wilson's stark Lohengrin restaged the legend of the swan knight with minimal sets and light-boxes. Next year's run of the Ring will be the last for this venerable production. In 2010, the Met will explore a brave new Ring, designed by French-Canadian iconoclast Robert LePage, whose past credits include the Lorin Maazel opera 1984 at Covent Garden, numerous stagings of Cirque du Soleil and stage design and direction for Peter Gabriel's last three tours. I am sure that there will be controversy, there will be name-calling, and there will be rounds of booing from the ultraconservatives at the opening night of the new Rheingold.

Me, I can't wait. A little controversy in the opera house, a little booing, some loud opinions are all better than the audience being asleep at the switch.

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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats