Cher Public

A thousand words is worth a picture

Parsifal_stuttgartYou know how La Cieca gets when one of her darling Regie productions gets dissed sight unseen, as happened on these shores with last Sunday’s unveiling of the Hans Neuenfels Lohengrin at Bayreuth. (Not so much on this site, because La Cieca is happy to report that here at dear parterre.com all schools of opinion—even stupid ones—are given a full measure of respect.)

So anyway, a photo or two of choristers in rat suits do not the experience of a production make. Ten minutes of video highlights is not the ideal solution either, but until some enterprising impresario in the U.S. imports Calixto Bieito‘s take on Parsifal (or we all charter a package tour to Stuttgart), the following selection of video highlights will have to do as conversation fodder. (Anyone who finds extended video of the Neuenfels Lohengrin is asked to alert your doyenne!)

Note: there is a glimpse or two of nudity in the following video, so workers should be cautious.

  • Jay

    How is Lance “Boromir” Ryan faring in today’s Bayreuth Siegfried stream? Had to miss nearly all the first two acts, catching only the last few bars of Act II.

  • Thanks cara Cieca for your comment 20.1. Discussions like these are what makes Parterre one of the most intelligent AND entertaining sites ever.

    I loved every minute of this trailer. Beito’s ideas here stike me as thought-provoking and legitimate, and he can produce a highly charged, electric atmosphere and eclicits extremely committed performances from his cast, as you saw fit to mention earlier.

    Richards seems to have found a very fit role. He looks great and sings pretty well here. His last act outfit looks like Joseph and the Amazing Tech meets Bernstein’s Celebrant but the butt is a boon! The flower maidens scene has more ‘shocking’ value but is immensely effective, I thought. I’d like to see this production.

    • Jack Jikes

      20.1 roars -- great!

  • brooklynpunk

    While I’m not sure what I would really think, after seeing it in …Its ENTIRETY….

    …I WOULD LOVE TO SEE THIS…. preferably in an live performance, to see how it works, in the flesh (pun maybe intended…..)..BUT… but it would be interesting as a DVD , as well…

    I am VERY eager for a Bieto production to make it to this side of the Atlantic…someday..just so I can make up my own mind as to how “sick” he is…or isn’t…….

  • jvhovig

    Can Bieito truly be considered a genius before he deconstructs Carmen and Wozzeck into works brimming with purity, love and good fortune?

      • jvhovig

        I missed the part of the video above where Carmen was given a flower instead of a knife — or where, upon ultimately falling, her immortal and whitened soul was transported to heaven as previously-deadened staffs of wood sprouted leaves — but I shall await patiently for further reviews of the production before saying more.

        I also hope my comment was not misconstrued. I simply wondered whether it would be considered an equal act of genius to turn a seemingly bleak work like Wozzeck into an uplifting one, as it currently seems to be when turning a purportedly uplifting one like Parsifal into a “questioning” one. In other words, I only wonder whether regie-genius is only defined in one direction.

        • jvhovig

          Though I guess in keeping with the konzept, it would need to be the cigarettes that were sprouting new leaves, wouldn’t it. This regie stuff sure is difficult.

        • BETSY_ANN_BOBOLINK

          Ooooo. Yeeeesssss. An Elektra where the palace walls open to reveal Klytemnestra in primal scream therapy, and ending with Lassie licking her end as she and Elektra embrace tearfully.

          Or a Forza del Destino with Don Carlo saying, “Fuck it. I’ve got an Econ test tomorrow. You and Leonora do what you want.”

          These unhappy endings are such downers.

        • BETSY_ANN_BOBOLINK

          “end” should have been “hand”.

          I think.

          . . . on the other hand. . . .

          (or end)

        • m. croche

          I recall a Darmstadt Dutchman where Senta, instead of throwing herself into the sea at the opera’s conclusion, pulled out a revolver, first contemplated shooting herself, then plugged Daland and Erik, tossed the gun aside and did an elegant turn as Ginger Rogers to the Dutchman’s Fred Astaire as the curtain fell.

          Does that count, jv?

        • richard

          Betsy_Ann,

          I liked “end” better than “hand”.It has a kinkier feel to it.And it also has an ambiguous
          quality. Who’s “end”? Lassie or Klytie?

          Sometimes it’s best to go with your original thought.

    • Quanto Painy Fakor

      Bieto only does that which he is asked to do. In other words, it’s not like he says I want to do a Carmen or a Wozzeck and they do it.

      • Harry

        That I think EXPLAINS EVERYTHING… Q.P.Y!
        These regie jerks get commissioned to ‘do an opera’. Did someone perhaps check out whether they even knew the existence of the opera, heard it, or studied its intricacies? NOPE! So then, their confused conceptual vomit is staged and silly people sit around and try to nut out what the discernible strange residue chunks in the mental slop, are intellectually all about!!! L.O.L

        • I don’t think this is the talk of someone who never “knew the existence of the opera, heard it, or studied its intricacies.” (Note that Bieito is not speaking in his native Spanish but a language he has in common with most European viewers. I’m not sure how strong his German is: apparently not fluent enough to carry on a televised interview.)

  • jvhovig

    Parsifal himself weighs in:

    Andrew Richards -- Regie Rant

    […] Some people might boo for a Bieito or Warlikowski production, but most people refrain from it. Most people want to appear like they “got it.”

    Well, most of the time, I’m onstage and I don’t get it.

    Is it just me, or is anyone else in Europe tired of going to the opera and rather than have a good story told thru music, have to struggle with all the hyper-stimulus and hidden meanings?

    […] Why can’t opera just be opera? […] Is the form of opera so despised it must be totally done away with? […]

    • ianw2

      Why can’t opera just be opera?

      And what would that be, exactly?

    • It might be noted that a couple months earlier Richards posted:

      The transition from absolute freedom and play and exploration in the Calixto Parsifal to this production where — on the first day of rehearsal being plopped down in a chair and shown the entire opera of Carmen in dvd form, and then told: “So, that’s your blocking. That’s what you’re going to do…” — stunk. I’m thinking: “Erm, I’m in rehearsal for 5 weeks. Why?!” We pay our own apartments in cities, and pay for homes, and miss beloved families and I am going to be made to do what’s on a DVD?! Great. So much for art.

      Right now he’s at the Arena di Verona singing Carmen in a production by Franco Zeffirelli, so he’s certainly getting his wish for “opera being just opera.”

      Note that this is not calling Richards a hypocrite (my impression is that he’s a pretty sincere guy) but rather suggesting that maybe he changes his mind from time to time depending on his moods, the way most of us do?

      • Quanto Painy Fakor

        Richards is sort of the second coming of Jacques Trussel, only 100x better in every way. I wonder if kids in conservatories these days have any idea of what to expect when they are faced with reality of a Bieto.

        • If I could give the kids advice, what I would say is: you have to trust and believe 100% and give all you can. What you end up doing on stage may be ridiculous on an intellectual level, but the public is going to react primarily to the level of commitment in the performance. If you believe passionately in what you’re doing onstage, then the public will believe in you.

    • yappy

      Word.

      I note for those who remain staunchly against “Euro-trash” that I’ve never had an artistic experience where the Big Issues of our time have been so vehemently talked about, by the artist, in the press, in the foyer. I now understand how important it is to not simply consume art, but argue and fight and disagree and discuss what we take in, what we worship.
      (Here.)

      And more (including a crossover mp3) here.

      As an occasional reader I was wondering what had happened to Mr. Richards with that Regie Rant post. Thanks La Cieca. He’s simply human.

  • Melot's Younger Brother

    Andrew Richards, the tenor in question, fretted quite a bit about flashing his butt.

  • jvhovig

    My only question is whether one can make any statements about the commitments of singers and the amount of dedication and emotion they invest in a role — as I think was done above? — when one of those singers doesn’t necessarily appear to show an unmitigated investment himself. Just a question.

    • That’s a good question. There’s a difference between commitment onstage and “investment” offstage. In other words, the singer might well buy enthusiastically into the process created by the director, how rehearsals are run and how excited the director is about his own work, but meanwhile not necessarily agree with the director on every intellectual idea that goes into the production.

      The creative process is about just that, process, more than it is about content. This is particularly true for recreative artists like singers. Or actors, who from time to time do scripts of no particular literary value because they enjoy taking on the various acting challenges posed by a shallow but exciting play.

      Another point here, one that I posted to Richards’ blog earlier today, is what Martha Graham called “the divine discontent.” Artists are chronically dissatisfied with their work and think it falls short of their ideal of what it might have been. As such, they’re never really happy with the work in retrospect and may come up with various reasons why it didn’t go they way they hoped it would. But according to Graham (who cribbed the idea from Goethe) that sense of dissatisfaction is in fact to be cherished because it’s the goad that leads the artist on to take on new and greater challenges. Satisfaction would lead to complacency and so no more art.

      So when I talk about commitment of singers, dedication and all that, it’s not referring to loyalty to a director’s personality or even belief in the ideas he spouts. Rather, that sense of passion arises from the artist’s striving to surpass his limitations, to overcome the “divine dissatisfaction.” It’s an impossible task, but it’s what Emerson was counseling when he said “hitch your wagon to a star.”

      That’s my take, anyway. I would venture to say that this “divine dissatisfaction” is one of the forces that tempts singers to attempt roles for which they are not ideally suitable-- which, again, inspires some of the greatest opera performances. This has its dangers too of course, but as La Cieca has said elsewhere, all life is a gamble, and the best we can do is to try to understand the odds before placing our bets. (Say, is that a neat metaphor or what?)

      • Jack Jikes

        In the realm of verbal theatrical coinage, Graham is in her own ‘divine’ authority. My favorite ballet title of all time is her “Deaths and Entrances.”
        Cara Cieca, you surfed on her wave.

  • papopera

    Dégoutant…..Mr Beito should be beheaded

  • Buster

    Hard to judge on the basis of this clip -- some productions of Parsifal just need a little time. People still discover new things in the Stefan Herheim Parsifal, for example -- and that was first done in Bayreuth in 2008.

  • Veloce49

    Inspired by George Romero!!

    I’ll assume these are highlights ad can therefore dismiss it as more eurotrash.

  • From the clips I’ve seen of his productions (Don Giovanni and this Parsifal), Bieito’s visual aesthetic is not always something I like but he is clearly a director with fascinating ideas and strong ability to get his singers to engage in the presentation of those ideas. I would gladly go to experience one of his productions first-hand.

  • If I get any free tickets kashania I’ll be sure to give them to you :)

    • Excellent! Just be sure to throw in some plane tickets. :)

  • SanDiegoSuzanne

    I attended two performances of the Bieto Parsifal in Stuttgart last April. I went with some trepidation having seen cuts of previous Bieto productions. What I experienced was possibly the most affecting production of opera in my some forty years of opera attendance. The dramatic force of the production built continually and I was simply amazed by how well the production communicated the universal mythical elements of Parsifal. Perhaps because I saw the production well into the run (the faint of heart having been warned away), but I found that the audience was totally in sync with the production.

    Because the any Bieto production is such a personal statement by the director, the performances of the singers are not as commonly discussed. However, it should be noted that in the Stuttgart Parsifal, the cast was as close to perfect as a cast can get. Especially notable were: Andrew Richards as Parsifal, Stephen Milling as Gurnemanz, Gregg Baker as Amfortas and Christiane Ivan as Kundry. If you are not familiar with the charismatic Andrew Richards, check out the clips of his performances on YouTube and read his amusing and insightful blog at http://tenorrichards.blogspot.com/. Folks following this thread will especially enjoy his blogs on the Parsifal rehearsals.

  • Andrew_Richards

    Thanks to everyone for your comments. I have posted replies to many of them on my own blog HERE.

    Andrew Richards
    aka Twin Peaks Bob