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Day for knight

kaufmann_thumbThe premiere of Lohengrin at the Bayreuth Festival (starring, of course, Jonas Kaufmann) has just started.

You can listen to the live broadcast here.

Conductor: Andris Nelsons
Director: Hans Neuenfels
Stage design: Reinhard von der Thannen
Costumes: Reinhard von der Thannen
Lighting: Franck Evin
Video: Björn Verloh
Dramaturgy: Henry Arnold

Lohengrin: Jonas Kaufmann
Heinrich der Vogler : Georg Zeppenfeld
Elsa von Brabant: Annette Dasch
Friedrich von Telramund: Hans-Joachim Ketelsen
Ortrud: Evelyn Herlitzius
Der Heerrufer des Königs: Samuel Youn
1. Edler: Stefan Heibach
2. Edler: Willem Van der Heyden
3. Edler: Rainer Zaun
4. Edler: Christian Tschelebiew

62 comments

  • Billys Butt says:

    You want me to dish the dirt? ;) Well, Neuenfels started screaming already during Act I, and if you listened to the interview just now on the radio, you know what his voice sounds like. That’s what more than 50 years of chain-smoking and heavy drinking do to your voice. So whenever something went wrong on stage, he started cursing, and his assistants were running around like mad, obviously scared to death. He calls his assistants riff-raff. Officially and publically. There was heavy booing from several people in the audience after Act I, so before Act II started, an assistant stepped in front of the curtain and reminded the audience that it’s a rehearsal and that the management ask the audience not to boo. During Act III, at the beginning of Scene 3, there was an odd moment when everybody expected Dasch to enter -- but she didn’t, and the King had to address Elsa without Elsa being there. Neuenfels screamed “Stop!” again and again, “Stop the rehearsal!”, assistants were running, but the rehearsal continued. Without Elsa. After about ten minutes, Dasch’s cover jumped onstage in private clothes and took over. Neuenfels left the auditorium in protest. (Dasch had an off-stage accident during a costume change and couldn’t go on; a mirror from the current “Parsifal” production fell on her)

  • violadamore says:

    For naifs such as myself who will never get to Bayreuth, its website has a handy video guide with 3-minute videos about different aspects of the Festspeil.

    http://videoguide.bayreuther-festspiele.de/english/index.html

  • violadamore says:

    I thought I could hear muffled smirking at the rise of the ACT II curtain.

    Could someone fill me in?

    I know the music is nearly perfect, to my orchestrally tuned ears, but what’s the stage picture?

    • Billys Butt says:

      When the curtain opens on Act II, there’s a dead black horse on the floor in front of a black carriage. Ortrud and Telramund, both dressed in silver lamé suits, are tied to the carriage, while a bunch of rats are emptying the large trunks that are filled with gold and money. I’m guessing that Ortrud and Telramund were trying to escape, taking their possessions with them, and were stopped and robbed by the rats.

      • Billys Butt says:

        However, this was one of the many scenes that didn’t make any sense to me, because it didn’t fit in the concept of “the experiment”. Why would Ortrud run away? She has a plan and a goal, which is to break Elsa’s trust, to make her ask the question, to destroy “the experiment”, to destroy the chance for humanity… I’d say the last thing she would do is escape…

        • La Cieca says:

          That I would have to see. I wonder, though, how formed Ortrud’s plan is at the beginning of Act 2. Telramund has certainly determined to flee, because she scolds him

          Vor allem gilt’s, von hinnen nicht
          zu fliehn; drum schärfe deinen Witz!

          Could it not be that Ortrud works out the details of her plan in real time, after deciding that she has to do something to get revenge? The specifics of her goal might emerge as she tells them to Telramund? To me this is more interesting dramatically.

    • Regina delle fate says:

      The smirking, I think, was because someone began knocking on one of the locked doors to the auditorium. I suppose some people thought a member of the public was late for Act II, but that would never be allowed by the fearsome ushers, so presumably it was part of the production, but don’t ask me why. There was lots of laughter, especially at the plucked oven-ready swan that descended from the flies at the end of Act I, and the Wedding CHorus -- the pink sugar-rat children were very cute.

  • Niel Rishoi says:

    Here are the pics of the production…Blanche, there are HUNDREDS of rats in the attic!

    http://intermezzo.typepad.com/intermezzo/2010/07/let-there-be-swans-and-a-few-rats-first-pictures-of-new-bayreuth-lohengrin.html

    have a look at the production

  • Billys Butt says:

    The concept is that our society is loveless, dull, indifferent, and numb, stuck in a one-way street and no-way-out situation. That is symbolized by the white, coldly lit lab. The lab rats, consequently, are supposed to be us, human society. Every once in a while, Neuenfels claims, we get a chance to better ourselves, to become better people, to become more human, to come closer to an utopia of perfect humanity. This chance is symbolized by Lohengrin. However, we can only achieve this new level of humanity through complete, unconditional trust. At first, this seems possible, so at the end of Act I, the rats peel off their rat skins, under which they wear bright yellow dress coats. However, they still have their huge rat claws and paws. In Act II, everybody is again costumed as rats (obviously, the humanisation has set-backs), but the skins are peeled off again, and now the male “human rats” wear black dress coats, while the female rats wear extremely colorful, knee-length cocktail dresses -- but their rat tails are still sticking out. In Act III, shortly before Elsa asks Lohengrin the forbidden question, a black coffin filled with swan feathers emerges between the sheets of the marital bed. Telramund and his followers are rats in this act, but everybody else looks more or less human, dressed in black uniforms with a white “L” on the front. Lohengrin’s message of humanity has been misunderstood by the people who have formed some sort of militant army of followers. With Elsa asking the question, the “experiment” has failed. When Lohengrin is supposed to transform the swan back into Elsa’s lost younger brother Gottfried, he reveals a huge egg out of which emerges a hideously ugly, monstrous baby (possibly Neuenfels’ idea of what mankind is really like). The baby gets up and tears his umbilical cord into pieces which he then throws at the crowd that collapsed on the floor. The pieces of the umbilical cord look exactly like the rats’ tails… so everything starts all over again…

    • violadamore says:

      Billys Butt,
      Thanks so much for the description of the mise en scene. You’ve gone beyond the call of duty and I appreciate it.

      It sounds as if Neuenfels is looking at Lohengrin as a “savior” of mankind?

    • stevey says:

      Wow, B.B.- thank you! Your analysis is both enlightening and informative. You’ve actually made SENSE of Neuenfels!!! And what’s more is that it doesn’t actually sound all that bad. (Now do you think you could PLEASE try and turn your attention towards his infamous ‘Nabucco’- the one with Abigailles synchronized dancing bees?? I’ve been trying for years to figure that one out…)

    • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

  • operaman50 says:

    Poor Jonas! First the crappy Munich production …and now this!! Where will it end?

  • Olivero is my Drug of Choice says:

    How does Jonas Sound?????????????????????

    • BETSY_ANN_BOBOLINK says:

      Easy, OIMDOC, Jonas fulfilled all expectations and then some. He sounded like Lohengrin, a ballsy, intelligent male uber-mensch, lyric, clear, and a complete delight to listen to. Some found him tired during “In fernem land,” but he rose to the climaxes beautifully, I thought. He sounds like warm chocolate cake with pecans

  • Harry says:

    Looks like Bayreuth these days needs a artistic pest fumigator in….not singers.

    • BETSY_ANN_BOBOLINK says:

      Not so, Harry; think it through. I was on tour once and we were moving into lodgings in a new town just as the fumigators were finishing. One of them grumbled so I could hear, “Actors cause cockroaches.” That became my mantra, and in a way it’s true.
      The rats in this production are the prevailing specie and the whole idea is that they must get rid of the “pests,” the Elsas, the Lohengrins, which they ultimately do. If Bayreuth were to call in a fumigator, it would be to get rid of the grumblers, the old guard, the “un-visionary.” It has always been so and it shall always be; those in a position of power can only maintain that power by silencing dissent.

  • m. croche says:

  • hab mirs gelobt says:

    darn just started listening halfway through the loveduet in act 3 … i have to say that dasch doesnt sound bad (much much better than when she sang the countess in figaro a couple of months ago!), in wagner her vibrato seems less obstrusive than in mozart. kaufmann is heaven if u ask me (but then i have only listened to 10 minutes so far) ;)