Cher Public

  • JackJack: We attended yesterday (May 29), and Camarena had jettisoned the wig! 8:27 AM
  • stevey: La C., this post made me love life more. “Slavering lunatic” is an absolute classic. Thank you! :-) 3:13 AM
  • Cicciabella: That shouldn’t be a problem. Assistant directors are not nincompoops. We’ve just had a run of the Claus Guth Don... 2:36 AM
  • Porgy Amor: Aw, thanks, Niel (and all others). This opera, I think, has done better in the recording studio postwar than it has on stage,... 1:59 AM
  • Niel Rishoi: Excellent review of one of my favorite Verdi operas. I am extremely partial to the 1955 Decca recording – all great... 1:24 AM
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Geherheimnis

“Since no opera company in the U.S. has quite got up the courage to present a Herheim production, this webcast offers us a chance to sample this director’s unique style of Regie: it’s simultaneously brainy and exuberant, somehow balancing strict intellectual rigor and the brashest theatricality. It’s a bit like hearing a treatise from TDR performed by Lypsinka.” Our Own JJ returns to the pages of Musical America with his latest Rough and Regie column. (Thanks to Likely Impossibilities for the very handy neologism in the headline!)

65 comments

  • 1
    Feldmarschallin says:

    Well after a google search I just discovered that Herheim and I share the same birthdate but a few years apart. 13.3. He will be doing the new Meistersinger in Salzburg in 2013.

    • 1.1
      mrsjohnclaggart says:

      You know, My lady, Herheim is quite a wonderful writer. Have you seen his plays and theater pieces? He is also a very brilliant man. I had a brief conversation with him a decade ago and was very impressed and sad that we segued for reasons unknown into the writing and personality of Uwe Johnson, Heinrich Boell, neither of whom I care for with great enthusiasm, and my adored Thomas Bernhard, a musical obsessive, TB doomed and gerontophile (his lady was almost 40 years older than he). Wittgenstein’s Nephew has to be one of the great novels, and the story of my life, The Loser, is also a favorite of mine. Herheim could quote long passages from these writers.
      Herheim is truly remarkable.

    • 1.2
      iltenoredigrazia says:

      Marschie, you may be interested in the Ring “special web page” to discuss the Ring and get comments from the public.

  • 2
    DonCarloFanatic says:

    “Our devotion to the beautiful music of Dvorak, Herheim seems to ask, is it really so deeply artistic and meaningful? Or is it as sterile a dead end as Vodnik’s stunted sexuality?”

    Paying serious attention to opera does lead me down a path not trodden by many anymore. I hope it’s not a dead end.

    If it is, then surely all the time I’ve spent looking at art in museums, or going to plays or the ballet, or doing anything that has the mark of culture, is also a dead end. In which case, I might as well hang out at home and watch action movies all day.

    • 2.1
      armerjacquino says:

      Asks. Not ‘states’.

      It’s a question worth asking, isn’t it?

    • 2.2
      derschatzgabber says:

      Where is that quote from? “Herheim seems to ask” is a lot different than Herheim stating, “I am asking.”

      • 2.2.1
        La Cieca says:

        It’s an indirect quote. Herheim never said that. However, JJ’s interpretation of the production is that is raises that question. Thus, “Herheim seems to ask.”

    • 2.3
      derschatzgabber says:

      P.S. I don’t think it’s fair to suggest that a production that challenges the viewpoint from which a work of art was created is necessarily challenging the ultimate worth of that particular work of art. Dvorak was probably only subliminally aware of the sexual issues in the Undine/Rusalka/Little Mermaid myth, while Herheim has the benefit of post-Freudian/Jungian approaches to myth. But I doubt that Herheim was really suggesting that the opera is not artistic or meaningful. If so, he certainly put a lot of time and mental effort into proving that the opera isn’t worth our time.

      I genuinely enjoy the opera Werther. But the character of Werther is a bit creepy. Today, Charlotte would probably call him a stalker and ask her father to issue a restraining order to Werther. I was impressed by Francisco Negrin’s production of Werther for San Francisco, because it openly addressed Werther’s mental instability and his destructive influence on others. I suppose a production like this could come across as overly clinical. But Negrin made the human cost of unhealthy obsessions palpable. I was aware of the pain Werther was causing Sophie and Albert in a way that traditional productions hadn’t communicated to me. And the emotional damage to Charlotte was also intensified (it helped a lot to have Alice Coote singing and acting the role -- she was heartbreaking). It wasn’t a traditional Werther, but it was moving and thought provoking.

      • 2.3.1
        ianw2 says:

        Well I think you’re on one of the most challenging aspects of staging many operas- and Cosi is the gold standard here- where one has to asks whether they’re going to get the audience to try and put aside their 2012 sensibility; or whether they’re going to play to that 2012 sensibility. I think both approaches are valid (though I prefer the latter), but unless this question is answered I fear for a damp squib of a night.

        • 2.3.1.1
          derschatzgabber says:

          Hi Ianw2. Yep, you are right about Cosi. It’s an opera I love, but I have seen more misfires than successes on stage. I am prepared to accept either of the approaches that you mention. But I want a director with a point of view, with the gifts to allow him to share that point of view with the cast.

          As a teenage opera queen in the (relative) operatic hinter land of Seattle, I read a lot about Ponelle’s controversial productions (they seem pretty tame by current standards). When I finally moved to San Francisco and had a chance to see Ponelle productions for myself, what impressed me most wasn’t the “gimmicks” (e.g., Flying Dutchman as the Steersman’s dream), but the incredible dramatic performances he got from his singers. And also the incredible musicality of his stagings. He had a knack for linking movement on stage to the orchestral music in a way that helped me to hear elements in the score that I hadn’t noticed before. After his tragically early death, the revivals of his productions didn’t measure up to the dramatic intensity of the revivals that he re-staged himself.

          My experience with Ponelle productions taught me to avoid judging controversial productions by their most headline-grabbing elements. Opera productions can only be properly evaluated in the house, when we can see how the director has (or hasn’t, in some cases) been able to motivate the cast to give great dramatic performances.

  • 3
    papopera says:

    Obviously and sadly, this is not an opera by Dvorak, but a new opera by one Herheim.

    • 3.1
      La Cieca says:

      The creation of a “new opera” makes you sad?

    • 3.2
      The Wistful Pelleastrian says:

      Cheer up, papopera… A solution to all of this could be implemented one day:

      We once suggested, only half in jest, that every Regietheater Regie, whether of opera or of the spoken-word theater, should be hung by the balls (or an appropriate female equivalent thereof as the case may require) while being made to watch a year’s worth of reruns of Gilligan’s Island.

      […….]

      Let a law be established internationally that would make it a criminal offense, punishable by a stiff fine and/or imprisonment, to bill, advertise, or in any way promote a Regietheater production of a work as a production of that work of the same name by the work’s original creator. That would leave Regies perfectly free to do whatever their self-involved, self-serving little hearts desired as long as their creations were clearly identified as their creations and not the creation of the work’s original creator.

      http://www.soundsandfury.com/soundsandfury/2011/02/a-suggested-solution-to-the-regietheater-problem.html

      • 3.2.1
        papopera says:

        I’ll buy that, au poteau !!

      • 3.2.2
        Mrs Rance says:

        I enthusiastically support these proposals.

      • 3.2.3
        Clita del Toro says:

        ACD --yuch! Who wants to read that filth?

        • 3.2.3.1
          lorenzo.venezia says:

          I second that emotion, Clita. Why does person keep posting his crap??

          • The Wistful Pelleastrian says:

            Lorenzo,

            Why does person keep posting his crap??

            ****************

            It’s not crap.

            There are opera lovers out there who feel that Regie directors need to be verbally rebuked (and often) for their vandalism. We should be free to express our opinions too.

            Btw, here is a longer exposition:

            With opera, there’s just no getting around it. In the end, what controls and shapes the drama and determines what is and what is not permissible in its staging is not the text, and certainly not the “unique vision” of the stage director (i.e., his Konzept). First, foremost, and always, it’s the music, Stupid!

            http://www.soundsandfury.com/soundsandfury/2010/07/its-the-music-stupid.html

          • La Cieca says:

            La Cieca allows TWP to continue posting because she admires the subtlety with which he frames a complex aestheic question, e.g., “Regie directors need to be verbally rebuked (and often) for their vandalism.”

            Right up there with such thoughtful, deeply-considered ACD musings as “First, foremost, and always, it’s the music, Stupid!”

          • armerjacquino says:

            “First, foremost, and always, it’s the music, Stupid!”

            Well, that’s CAPRICCIO told.

          • lorenzo.venezia says:

            TWP, some people love self-flagellation and that’s fine with me too. Everyone knows where to read ACD if they want to; my objection is to your continually posting that crap here. Most people here are content to post their own opinions about things operatic (and not) and are not touts for a pompous windbag who posts his crap (thankfully) somewhere else.

          • lorenzo.venezia says:

            TWP, some people love self-flagellation and that’s fine with me too. Everyone knows where to read ACD if they want to; my objection is to your continually posting that crap here. Most people here are content to post their own opinions about things operatic (and not) and are not touts for a pompous windbag who posts his crap (thankfully) somewhere else.

        • 3.2.3.2
          The Wistful Pelleastrian says:

          Clita,

          ACD –yuch! Who wants to read that filth?

          ***************

          Well let’s see. Mrs. Rance, Papopera, myself and many other lurkers I’m sure…

          :-)

    • 3.3
      Clita del Toro says:

      Pap, it’s not the end of the world, there will be other productions, other venues. Don’t worry, there will always be eggs, mother!

  • 4
    CruzSF says:

    Dearest La Cieca, have you or JJ seen the Michael Haneke-directed Don Giovanni (currently at ONdP but premiered in 2006)? I’d be interested in your opinion. Thank you

    • 4.1
      Clita del Toro says:

      I don’t know about Haneke’s DG, but I adore his films.

      • 4.1.1
        CruzSF says:

        I found it to be the most consistently well-sung, best acted, frightening Don Giovanni I’ve ever seen (keep in mind that I’ve only seen DG 4.5 times — 3.5 of those have been since October 2011). It was very effective theater, and despite knowing the story, I had the sense that anything could happen at any time. I was tense the whole evening. But, much of the comedy had been drained away, leaving mostly terror and horror. Unfortunately, I was able to attend only one performance.

        • 4.1.1.1
          louannd says:

          Such a crime that this production is NOT on film or tape or stream…

          http://opera-cake.blogspot.com/2012/03/don-giovanni-in-paris-peter-mattei.html

          • CruzSF says:

            louannd, your future ex-husband Peter Mattei sang very well, gloriously, in fact. I don’t remember any shouting, only pure singing, and he maintained a Type-A bully aspect throughout, without a trace of softness (as dictated by the director, I believe).

          • Camille says:

            Lu—
            One of your other husbands, Mr. Polenzani, did very well by the first act of Traviata just now.

            I bailed after the first act and am now watching the inimitable Mme. Renee!

          • louannd says:

            You forgot to mention my newest secret husband, Bernard Richter, Peter Mattei’s younger, cherub-faced-tenor brother.

          • louannd says:

            @Camille -- Thank you for mentioning MY MATTHEW!

          • louannd says:

            @Cruz- I am incredibly envious Mr. SF. I HATE YOU!

            BTW -- Peter Mattei is singing another new production of DG next year in Zurich, I believe. People are just throwing wads of money at that lovely Swedish man, just for a little Deh vieni alla finestra.

          • ianw2 says:

            This looks amazing.

            Cruz, if you want to continue your DG binge, the Bieito Liceu DG used to be all on youtube, with Keenlyside as DG. Absolutely shattering, and has made me incapable of accepting frothy-swashbuckler versions of DG ever since.

          • CruzSF says:

            @louannd: I get that reaction a lot. But get yourself to Zurich, if you can. I’m sure Mattei’s intepreratation will be encore different, to suit the Director’s vision, as he was different in Paris than he was at the Met.

          • CruzSF says:

            @ianw, I’d like to see any Bieito, at least once, before I pass on. Don G seems as good as any for a start. Thanks for the pointer to YouTube.

            The funny thing about the Haneke DG: the singing was fantastic, the acting amazing, the orchestra very good and relevatory. I thought about the production, and the updating for a solid 24 hours, to the exclusion of much else. I was, in short, impressed and haunted. But I don’t know that I can say that I enjoyed it. I was sickened and horrified, tense and terrified, stimulated and intrigued. But “enjoyed”? I don’t know.

        • 4.1.1.2
          Chanterelle says:

          Cruz, I too missed the Giocosa that Haneke omitted from the Dramma. Was disappointed by the ending, and a few touches rather gimmicky, but mostly thought it worked. It didn’t hurt that Mattei is quite convincing in his Masters of the Universe suit.

          Back to Rusalka: one element that doesn’t come through in the video is the theatrical experience. La Monnaie is a small house, and audiences are used to adventurous and engrossing productions there. There were a few (not many) defections from the performance I saw, but mostly there was a kind of complicity, an open-mindedness among this (mostly local midweek) audience. There’s a trust, an expectation that the theatrical experience will be worthwhile.

        • 4.1.1.3
          A. Poggia Turra says:

          I find this critique of the 2006 run (on a cinema website, no less) to be especially perceptive:

          http://homecinema.thedigitalfix.com/content.php?contentid=63985

    • 4.2
      Feldmarschallin says:

      The Neuenfels Don Giovanni in Stuttgart is also not to be missed.

  • 5
    TShandy says:

    Can someone please copy paste the Alex Ross piece in The New Yorker about the Met Ring, the one with the following quote: “Pound for pound, ton for ton, it is the most witless and wasteful production in modern operatic history.” I’d love to read it but don’t have a subscription and I can’t find a copy anywhere.

    • 5.1
      The Wistful Pelleastrian says:

      TShandy,

      I can send you a copy right now.

      Here is my email:

      opera1902@gmail.com

      • 5.1.1
        TShandy says:

        Thank you Wistful. Truthfully, I was hoping the Ross piece would be wickedly insightful (like our Cieca), but I don’t think it was. Actually, it was kind of juvenile, if you want my opinion. A lot has been written about the Met’s new Ring, and it hasn’t been all that bad. I’m still looking forward to seeing it in the movie theater. I believe a lot of the exploding heads and stuff will be worked out like the kinks Bondy fixed with his Tosca. I also think the current New Yorker magazine bears little resemblance to the wonderful New Yorker of Harold Ross and William Shawn. The collapse started by Tina Brown seems to have been completed by David Remnick. Feh! :)

        • 5.1.1.1
          The Wistful Pelleastrian says:

          Actually, it was kind of juvenile

          I agree, Tshandy.

          Especially this:

          And when Valhalla burns, the heads of statues representing the gods explode. Yes, they explode! As this amateur-hour Ragnarök unfolded, I heard around me sounds suggestive of suppressed giggles, and fought the urge to make noises of my own. But my main impulse was to bury my face in my hands

          One shouldn’t get so worked up over a production no matter how ‘inadequate’ it may appear.

          And I have no idea what this means:

          The operatic news is being made elsewhere. Both London companies, Covent Garden and the E.N.O., have offered contemporary pieces on contemporary themes. European houses from Bayreuth on down grapple with Wagner in serious terms

          What, Otto Schenk, Horst Stein, Gotz Friedrich and others were not ‘serious’?

          His article brought to mind a different form of this:

          http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4051/4424573538_6ccb7801bb.jpg

          :-)

          • whatever says:

            fwiw, the author’s experience with the exploding statues mirrors my own experience precisely — both what went on around me and what went through my own mind.

            i don’t think that is “so” worked up at all … after investing five hours in gotter-d (and sixteen hours (and hundreds of dollars)) over 16 months in the four new productions, this expressed a completely proportionate level of disappointment in how the climax was shaping up.

            or maybe i just feel that way because it was the same as my own. ;)

            and, further justifying the reaction, things only went downhill from there, culminating in perhaps the lamest ever (professional) staging of the immolation scene … wenarto does better work!!!

            (to be clear: not opining on the piece as a whole, just on this bit.)

          • La Cieca says:

            What, Otto Schenk, Horst Stein, Gotz Friedrich and others were not ‘serious’?

            How you can derive that from Ross’s straightforward statement is beyond me. What he’s saying is that other theaters are doing more important work in presenting opera than the Met is. The London companies have recently presented premieres of new works, which the Met has not. Various European companies are currently creating new stagings of Wagner operas that attempt to delve into the meanings of the works; meanwhile, the Met has spent millions of dollars on an essentially meaningless bit of technology that doesn’t even work as it’s supposed to.

            Horst Stein and Gotz Friedrich are not actively engaged in any current movement in opera production because they are busy being dead, and Otto Schenk last created a new Wagner production almost 20 years ago, a reactionary take on Meistersinger that even the New York critics dismissed as old-fashioned.

            I realize that for you, opera production is a sort of annoying frill, a necessary evil you put up with to hear those lovely noises welling up from the orchestra pit, but some people (like Ross) do have ideals about what an artistic organization should aspire to. And when one of the world’s greatest opera houses fails utterly (in his opinion) to achieve its artistic goals, yes he does think that’s something to get worked up about, no matter how much you roll your eyes before going back to cutting and pasting ACD.

          • grimoaldo says:

            our doyenne wrote:
            “I realize that for you, opera production is a sort of annoying frill, a necessary evil you put up with to hear those lovely noises welling up from the orchestra pit”

            If you will allow me a tiny cavil here, cara la Cieca, from what I remember of previous exchanges I have had with TWP in his (?) previous incarnation as TUP, he is unlikely to hear those lovely noises welling up from the orchestra pit as he prefers to listen to recordings at home.
            He has expressed the view that people who go to see operas are too lazy to stay at home and listen to recordings:

            http://parterre.com/2011/10/30/intermission-feature-19/comment-page-2/
            The Unrepentant Pelleastrian says:
            “…I really hate Regietheater in all its forms and feel that its followers are either a) frauds who lack aesthetic sensitivity towards music OR b) essentially lazy bums who find it too difficult to sit down and listen to a recording.”
            on October 31, 2011 at 10:39 PM
            In this he resembles the person whose writings he seems to feel need to reach a wider audience, ACD, who, I remember from when I was still reading opera-l, huffed and puffed with outrage at the Decker production of Traviata at the Met, whilst adding that you could not pay him to sit through Verdi’s “soap opera”. I asked him why, in that case, he cared what kind of production it was. He did not reply. I think he saw some photos of the production and that was his experience of it.
            I don’t read opera-l anymore because I cannot stand that insufferable twit and a lot of the equally pompous old farts over there.

          • TShandy says:

            Hi Wistful… I stand by the assessment that the Alex Ross piece about the abysmal New York Opera Scene was juvenile and I might add “snarky.” There is no way one can consider Bayreuth productions serious Wagner anything. As a matter of fact, not since the Nazis overran the place has such ridiculous thinking reverberated around the theater. NO WAY can one consider Bayreuth “serious.” The Royal Opera House is a step below the Met and judging from YouTube clips, the Met is fortunate to have as many great productions as it has compared to the rest of the world. Alex Ross is drinking the Kool Aid over at The New Yorker!

        • 5.1.1.2
          ianw2 says:

          The Ross piece was shocking because it had a vehemence and fury that is very unlike usual Ross writing.

          Also, a lot of it rang true. The Met Opera has wasted an incredible amount of money on a Ring that is at best a disappointment and at worst witless and wasteful. Between The Levine Chronices and Gelb’s astonishing ability to engage non-opera-experienced directors and let them flounder, Ross’ frustration at the current artistic leadership of the Met is understandable.

          • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

            Joun Updike: THE FISHERMAN AND HIS WIFE: “Man oh man, if man you be… or flounder, flounder in the sea.” As a verb, “founder” means “to fill with water and sink.” It is also used metaphorically of various kinds of equally catastrophic failures. In contrast, to flounder is to thrash about in the water (like a flounder), struggling to stay alive. “Flounder” is also often used metaphorically to indicate various sorts of desperate struggle. If you’re sunk, you’ve foundered. If you’re still struggling, you’re floundering. Reminds me of Gelb and his founders!

  • 6
    louannd says:

    Waiting for Manon. Lot’s of Dessay promotion going on for the met upcoming hd. 40 minutes worth.

  • 7
    louannd says:

    No 40 minutes of Broadway/Met promotion. And d
    Dessay.

  • 8
    Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    Rare video of Netrebko and Ildar in their student days starring in The Boyfriend

  • 9
    lorenzo.venezia says:

    RE: Herheim’s Rusalka. I have my own reading of this spectacular production, somewhat different than “yours,” but it works for me. That is part of how this sort of theater works, opening Pandora’s box as it were, and allowing the many possible versions of a story to play out rather than being limited to one orthodox view. This does not bother me. At its weakest regietheater annoys me (as any bad production does) and at its best it transports me, often beyond the limits of traditional productions. I have been going to the opera since 1957 (Tannhauser, SFO, Shrine Auditorium, LA); like many of us I have seen many, many, many operas in many many many places. I love the adventure of seeing something new which is relatively hard with opera since most of them are old and we’ve seen them many times. We pay our money and take our chances, hoping for something special. But with traditional productions we also take our chances when we buy our tickets. As has been noted here, so aptly, there will always be another Tosca or Boheme or Masked Ball in picturesque period productions; a Herheim Rusalka does not preclude anything else, but it does give us a chance to flex our imaginations and our instruments of creative perception. It gives us a new and unique experience of the beauty of the music and its marriage to the stagecraft (pace TWP et al). The same week as I watched this Rusalka I also went to see Bieito’s Camino Real. While not entirely successful, the Camino Real was thrilling theater, and since I carefully read the 16 block version of the play before going, I can honestly say Bieito was, for me, an improvement on a weak play that never quite nails what it’s after. As far as types of theater and opera productions, I hope we continue to get the kinds of variety and brilliance, the creative opportunities that Herheim and Guth and Carsen and Bieito et al provide. What a thrilling moment to be alive in in terms of stagecraft; maybe we don’t have the voices we had when I was young (and that’s a whole other argument) but we have a level of stage magic that I could only have dreamt of when I was young.

  • 10
    lorenzo.venezia says:

    RE: Herheim’s Rusalka. I have my own reading of this spectacular production, somewhat different than “yours,” but it works for me. That is part of how this sort of theater works, opening Pandora’s box as it were, and allowing the many possible versions of a story to play out rather than being limited to one orthodox view. This does not bother me. At its weakest regietheater annoys me (as any bad production does) and at its best it transports me, often beyond the limits of traditional productions. I have been going to the opera since 1957 (Tannhauser, SFO, Shrine Auditorium, LA); like many of us I have seen many, many, many operas in many many many places. I love the adventure of seeing something new which is relatively hard with opera since most of them are old and we’ve seen them many times. We pay our money and take our chances, hoping for something special. But with traditional productions we also take our chances when we buy our tickets. As has been noted here, so aptly, there will always be another Tosca or Boheme or Masked Ball in picturesque period productions; a Herheim Rusalka does not preclude anything else, but it does give us a chance to flex our imaginations and our instruments of creative perception. It gives us a new and unique experience of the beauty of the music and its marriage to the stagecraft (pace TWP et al). The same week as I watched this Rusalka I also went to see Bieito’s Camino Real. While not entirely successful, the Camino Real was thrilling theater, and since I carefully read the 16 block version of the play before going, I can honestly say Bieito was, for me, an improvement on a weak play that never quite nails what it’s after. As far as types of theater and opera productions, I hope we continue to get the kinds of variety and brilliance, the creative opportunities that Herheim and Guth and Carsen and Bieito et al provide. What a thrilling moment to be alive in in terms of stagecraft; maybe we don’t have the voices we had when I was young (and that’s a whole other argument) but we have a level of stage magic that I could only have dreamt of when I was young.

  • 11
    Arianna a Nasso says:

    The Ross article seems to be available now without subscription.

    http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/musical/2010/03/29/100329crmu_music_ross?currentPage=all