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Camino unreal?

Peter Gelb says Calixto Bieito will direct at the Met. (“Calixto Bieto und Robert Lepage werden auch wieder an der MET inszenieren.”) [Kurier, via Intermezzo]


  • quinquin1 says:

    This must be a mistake…. He is quoted as “Lepage and Bieito will be back at the Met to direct…”

    Due to the fact that bieito Never direktestes the Met, he clearly can’t be “back”….

    • Fluffy-net says:

      My guess is that the newspaper twisted it. He clearly meant that Bieto is coming (good, maybe) and that Lapage is coming back (yuck, for sure).

      In the interview I sense that there might be a gentle change of course in the offing. He got the message, but we cannot expect him to renounce the past.

      Looks like the Met makes money on the movie theaters, so they, unfortunately, aren’t going to go away. Munich and Brussels provide a better service.

    • Rowna says:

      I know I am in the vast minority here, but my expectation when I go to a live performance of an opera is that once the curtain goes up, I want to be musically and dramatically transported into another world. Between the visuals and audio I hope to forget that I am sitting in a theater and be absorbed by the entirety of the production. When it is outrageously out of step with the libretto, all I can do is try to justify the director’s vision and my dream of a time travel journey is lost. The youtube clips of Bieito’s opera productions make my jaw drop in horror. Herheim, on the other hand, is thoughtful and while he presents an original interpretation, I can reconcile it all quickly and the music is well served. As my experience with these 2 directors is through Wagner, I would like to add that there is something primal about mythical stories. The timelessness of them engages me immediately and I don’t want to see trashy Las Vegas diners, crocodiles humping or people dressed up in saran wrap. This is just my OPINION. Everyone is entitled to theirs. Of course, we have no idea what kind of productions these 2 directors will give the public, but let’s hope they elevate this great art form which Pareterrians love so much.

      • Fidelia says:

        You know, Rowna, Bieito may be terrifying but sometimes he is really spot on. When his production of Fidelio was put on line by the Bayerischer Staatsoper I watched the 1st act in horror and almost didn’t come back for the 2nd, because it seemed so gratuitously trashy. Complete change of mind by the end of the opera : once you’d seen the whole thing, there was a coherence and sensitivity (yes!)in his viewpoint that completely justified the shock-effects. I’ll be really interested to see what he comes up with for the Met.

  • - If the audience doesn’t understand the story, it won’t come back.

    Wait, what?! How silly!

    Opera is a musical genre, and it is primarily musical. Obviously it is not just that but the music is the principal part.

    If one doesn’t come back just because they don’t ‘understand the story’, then almost surely opera is not for that person.

    • Orlando Furioso says:

      Opera is a musical genre, and it is primarily musical.

      That’s an opinion, not established fact. If good music were all that were needed for an opera to succeed, then the operas of Schumann and Schubert and Wolf, to go no further, would be repertory staples.

      Yes, the music is essential, and it’s how many (not all) of us got into opera. But it’s not enough by itself for lasting appeal. If the story it’s serving doesn’t come across onstage in a way to make the audience care, they indeed won’t come back.

      Actually, the definition of opera that makes the most sense to me is the one I saw stated thus (by a singer and voice teacher, I may say): “Opera is the dramatic genre whose essential communicative medium is the singing voice.”

      • aronocity says:

        Actually, I have to agree with Genevieve on this one. The basis of an opera is musical, not visual. That’s why we can revelatory experiences in records or concert performances. It is dramaturgy, but primarily conveyed in the music. Yes, the libretto will determine the structure of the music, but it’s the music that makes the story what it is, not the text, and certainly not the staging. If you want to try this out, Leonard Bernstein once hosted a program on Omnibus in the 1950′s about opera, and to show what effect the music has, he had actors perform the libretto of the third act of La Boheme (speaking) then peformed the same act of the entire opera. The show is available on DVD.

        • aronocity says:

          Whoops, I didn’t realize what Genevieve said at the end. While you don’t necessarily need to know the full story the first time around, (The first three times I listened to Turandot I had no idea what was going on) There’s a lot to be missed if you don’t know the story.

        • Camille says:

          Yes, I have that Omnibus, some of it available probably on Youtube, too, and I highly highly recommend it, if for nothing else, the Ramon Vinay--Marthe Mödl excerpt, here a brief sample:

          I know a lot of you already are familiar with this series but for some young kid aficionado out there I just cannot say enough good about it. Lenny at his most brilliant. Far preferable than those Young Persons Concerts I was forced to sit through and squirmed to. Bravo Bernstein

      • warmke says:

        False proposal: Schumann, Schubert and Wolf being great composers does not succeed in making the music for Corregidor, Genoveva or Zwillingsbruder particularly great or consistently compelling music. The first 8 string quartets of Schubert, Shumann’s late songs and piano works, and Wolf’s tone poems lack compelling musical qualities, so you’ve hardly destroyed the point with this weak argument. Putting a name brand that people recognize is no guarantee of quality. If you want to destroy the argument, go to Mozart’s letters where he describes how his music illuminates the psychology of Belmonte’s emotions in a letter to his father to understand that great opera composers grasp that if what they write is purely and primarily music, they’ve failed at writing an opera.

        • @ warmke

          If you want to destroy the argument, go to Mozart’s letters where he describes how his music illuminates the psychology of Belmonte’s emotions in a letter to his father to understand that great opera composers grasp that if what they write is purely and primarily music, they’ve failed at writing an opera.

          I realize this is not an endorsement of my position here but I’d just like to give David Littlejohn the final word because it really is a beautiful sentence:

          ”Because music is essentially nonreferential, because the meanings we assign to it are in the end so arbitrary and so personal, the most cogent, convincing, step-by-step written analysis of the “meaning” of a scene or a work, the most assured technical explication of the way a role should be played or a passage performed, can be shattered by the next performance we experience that makes it “work” a different way

          -- Essays Around and About Opera (xvi Preface)

      • @ Orlando

        But it’s not enough by itself for lasting appeal. If the story it’s serving doesn’t come across onstage in a way to make the audience care, they indeed won’t come back.

        When Doktor Faust and Moses and Aron premiered at the Met I attended almost every performance. I sure didn’t understand what these operas were about and yet I went back because of their wonderful scores. Maybe one day I will come to appreciate the texts but at the rate I’m going it is not very likely to happen.

        Does this make me an eccentric? I am positive that my aesthetic experience was much more powerful than the person sitting next to me who was fully conversant with the finer points of these dramas BUT who also softly chatted with his wife throughout the performance. It was infuriating.

        Anyway, Schoenberg or Busoni could have set the Berlin telephone book and it wouldn’t have mattered one bit to my enjoyment of their great operas.

    • alejandro says:

      Opera is a dramatic musical mashup. It’s what is so great about the genre. I think it’s a disservice to the great opera composers to say their music had no sense of theater. Wagner and Verdi and Puccini were incredible storytellers.

      If opera were primarily musical then why do productions? Why not just have everyone stand at a music stand?

      • armerjacquino says:

        alejandro (and orlando) You both make excellent points, but I’m afraid we’re not dealing with a reasonable debater here. He’s made the same point and ignored the same rebuttals a million times. By engaging all you do is guarantee yourself in next Sunday’s cut’n'paste tweetfest.

      • operaddict says:

        Maybe singers behind music stands would be an improvement over copulating crocodiles and blowjobs in some cases? At least the music would have a fighting chance of being heard…or am I just being pedestrian and old fashioned again?

        • armerjacquino says:

          Oh, is it not possible to hear the music in interventionist productions? I had no idea.

        • alejandro says:

          Well bad productions are bad productions (I can’t comment on that Ring Cycle firsthand, but from the reviews it sounds dreadful)… that said, as much as I hated much of Lepage’s Ring, the material was incredibly resilient and I was incredibly moved by the story and the music.

          I do think there is something sublime about those moments when theater and music come together and undergo a sort of alchemy. Callas is a great example of someone who understood how to put the two together very well.

          I come to opera from the theater but what I go for are the singers and what they’re able to do in performance. I remember the great performances from last season at the Met for me were great theater but didn’t involve a lot of razzmatazz. Peter Mattei in Parsifal was my favorite performances last season and all he did was sing the shit out of the music . . . and believe every note and every word of it. Breathtaking.

    • Edward George says:

      “Music in opera is far too predominant …. Nothing should impede the thrust of the drama.” Claude Debussy

      • armerjacquino says:

        Debussy, you say? That’s a quote from Debussy? Interesting that Debussy should say that.


      • @ Edward George

        “Music in opera is far too predominant …. Nothing should impede the thrust of the drama.” Claude Debussy

        No, it wasn’t Music that was too predominant. You have to place his remark in context… His main concern was creating a kind of music that sounded uniquely French, that wasn’t too much in the thrall of Wagner. He wanted to create a musical language that reflected the subtle meanings of the symbolist text.

        Dominick Argento said that Pelleas is one of the “most tuneful operas ever written”…. And he’s absolutely right! :-)

  • oedipe says:

    “Calixto Bieto und Robert Lepage werden auch wieder an der MET inszenieren.”

    Separately or together? It may make a difference.

    • Ilka Saro says:

      Bieito will be directing a production of Lakme, with Natalie Dessay as Nilakantha, set in a Nevada bordello. Lepage will add projections and a bunch of people walking on the ceiling.

      • phoenix says:

        Gérald -- O.J. Simpson
        Mallika -- Heidi Fliess
        rest of cast?

      • Milady DeWinter says:

        Ilka and I are on the same wavelength, conjuring Bieito and Lakme in the same breath. I did also, on another site, hoping for a Bieito/Met (at last!)Lakme with Maria Guleghina in the title role, set at the Battle of Little Bighorn, with random projected quotes by Ayn Rand.

      • derschatzgabber says:

        Ilko, comments like yours make me wish that this site had “like” icons.

  • havfruen says:

    Pigs flying is nice, but hell freezing over is more appropriate it seems to me.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    WOW -- announcements in the same week of Herheim and Beieto coming to the MET. Maybe all the harping on this here at Parterre has pointed the way for the powers that be at the MET. It would be nice if Beito would create something in NY for the MET and not just a remounting of one of his new productions from Europe.

  • laddie says:

    Maybe this will help with spelling the name correctly:


    They say if you can remember something for seven repetitions, you will never forget it……

  • laddie says:

    Please God…er…Gelb…let it be this one:

    • oedipe says:

      Are you nuts? For the Met? You mean, getting Bieito AND having to sit through a French baroque opera AT THE SAME TIME? Gelb would be sure to get assassinated by an irate mob of Met regulars!

      • Hippolyte says:

        Platee has been done numerous times in New York--twice at New York City Opera in Mark Morris’s production as well as in the late 80s at BAM in a production by Moses Pendleton of Pilobolus and Momix fame with Renee Fleming in one of her first local appearances as La Folie, Clarine and Thalie. Les Arts Florissants performs it at Lincoln Center in April starring the unlikely Simone Kermes.

        • oedipe says:


          How many French baroque operas has the Met produced so far (even without Bieito)?

          BTW, the Platée coming to Lincoln Center in April must be next season’s Opéra Comique cast (Kermes included). The Opéra Comique production will be by Carsen.

          • Hippolyte says:

            There have been as many French baroque operas produced as the MET so far as have been produced at Covent Garden, La Scala, the Liceu, and the Berlin and Wiener Staatsopers, etc. French baroque opera doesn’t work so well when not performed by specialists, who were mostly in place at Glyndebourne only to be sabotaged by Jonathan Kent’s ridiculous production. The ENO’s recent Medee, based on the broadcast, wasn’t so hot musically.

            Yes, Platee was just done in Stuttgart and Nurnburg but the broadcast from Nurnberg suggested the musical values were mixed at best, and the Komische Oper is doing Barrie Kosky’s Castor et Pollux (in German!) next season which wasn’t very well received at the ENO.

            I question Christie’s “clout” to some degree--I suspect the Carsen Platee was offered to BAM and turned down, and Christie couldn’t get a complete Trisha Brown Hippolyte et Aricie done at Aix a few years ago--it ended up Pygmalion and just chunks of Hippolyte.

            And Kermes is actually the second choice--the soprano originally cast got a better offer. And I suspect the odds are about the same on Kermes appearing in Platee as they were on her and the Baden-Baden Zauberflote and we know how that turned out.

            • oedipe says:

              Well, there are plenty of French baroque specialists around, if only (non-French) houses cared to import them!

              The Met is of course not alone in this policy of neglect, but we were talking specifically about the (im)possibility of staging Platée at the Met, so…

              As for Kent’s Glyndebourne production, he stated in an intermission interview that -I am paraphrasing- in French baroque opera anything goes. Basically, he didn’t understand that the work is quite structured, based on a set of myths which are considered a given, and where the free invention comes primarily from the characterizations of the mythical figures.

            • armerjacquino says:

              Why would ANYONE want to see Platee at the Met? Be like watching a chess match in a stadium.

              I’d much rather see it an an appropriately-sized house, cheers.

            • Indiana Loiterer III says:

              French baroque opera doesn’t work so well when not performed by specialists…

              The same could be said of Italian baroque opera ten or twenty years ago. Amazing how we’ve come to take Handel for granted nowadays.

          • Indiana Loiterer III says:

            About the “size of the house” canard--the same could be said for ninety percent of the operas already in the Met’s repertory. But French baroque opera actually has certain advantages that might make it more plausible in Sybil’s Barn than, say, Italian baroque opera. First of all, the French baroque orchestra is generally more massive than the Italianate baroque orchestra. Second of all, French baroque opera has a lot more in the way of special effects, which is something a house like the Met can do very well when they put their mind to it.

            • armerjacquino says:

              Just because big houses put on a lot of inappropriate rep doesn’t, I think, make ‘this house is too big for this opera’ a canard.

            • kashania says:

              I agree. The Met is too big to be an ideal house for many operas (including all those Mozart operas they put on regularly) but that doesn’t mean that those opera can’t still be successful there.

              And your comparisons to Italian baroque are spot on. If anything, French baroque suits a grand house better than Italian. The most important thing, I think, is to have singers who can really put the language across. Italian baroque is more about the singing while French baroque is more like a sung play.

        • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

          We get the same production, cast, orchestra, and conductor here at Theater an der Wien for six performances in February 2014. Do you have any idea if the production is having (or already had) its premiere in Paris, or will we get the first sight of it? The house seats 1,000, so it’s a good venue for Baroque opera. Which space at Lincoln Center will be used?

          • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

            I just checked the Opera Comique Web site and it plays there in March, so the production will have its premiere in Wien.

            • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

              I also see that NYC will get only a single performance in April of a “concert version based on the production of the Theater an der Wien (Vienna) and the Opéra Comique (Paris)” at Alice Tully Hall, so I have answered both of my questions! How did we ever live without Google?

            • oedipe says:

              I’ve just done the same thing, Jungfer. Google is indispensable, indeed.

              So you will be the first to see/hear the Platée. BTW, I think it’s a great idea in these times of crisis to leverage a production/cast in this manner, by taking it to several cities. But you probably have to have Christie’s clout to pull something like this.

            • oedipe says:

              …to pull something like this off.

            • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

              oedipe, I tend to agree about co-productions, especially with respect to more obscure and contemporary repertoire. Take for instance the Chéreau production of Janácek’s “Z mrtvého domu” which played all over the place (and which premiered at Theater an der Wien). Would the Met have done this opera without a co-production that was universally praised long before it got to New York? Probably not. The same with “Nixon in China,” which was not only an ENO production, it was (as far as I could see from the broadcast) a virtual recreation of the original 1987 Houston production with all the changes Peter Sellars had made to it by the time it played Los Angeles (I saw it in Houston, Brooklyn, D.C., and L.A.).

              Also, sharing the costs among several companies allows for more productions overall. But the practice has its downside, too. Some productions (i.e. Robert Carsen’s “Dialogues des Carmélites”) are toured so far and wide, that a DVD is out before it gets to your town (as is the case with the Poulenc; the DVD of the La Scala performance was out for quite a while before the production was brought to Theater an der Wien). This may actually backfire and discourage people from going to the theater, either because they have seen the DVD, and/or read negative reviews from other venues. I believe a similar debate is being waged in the USA over whether the Met HD cinema broadcasts are deterring people from attending live performances (a problem which hasn’t hit here… yet).

              Our forthcoming season in Wien has more co-productions that I can recall in any one season. At least the “Platée” will start here, but Theater an der Wien is also importing the Los Angeles production of “I due Foscari” with Domingo (which will sell out no matter what may have been written about it) and Peter Konwitschny’s “La traviata” which opened about two years ago in Graz to great acclaim (and where I attended the premiere) and moved to ENO, where it totally tanked. So bringing it to Wien is rather anticlimactic (although I won’t mind seeing it again, and hearing the magnificent Marlis Petersen). Over at Staatsoper, the David McVicar “Adriana Lecouvreur” which was, I believe, originally done at Covent Garden for The Artist Formerly Known as Mrs. Alagna and has played every opera house between there and Dubuque, is being brought in, and the DVD (with a better cast) has been out since early 2012. Also a “Lohengrin” is coming from Zürich (and of all things, you’d think Staatsoper would want its own “Lohengrin”). Even Volksoper is importing a few productions, including the “Albert Herring” which Brigitte Fassbaender directed when she was still running Tiroler Landestheater (Innsbruck).

              Our festivals are starting more co-productions, too: Osterfestspiele Salzburg will do a new “Arabella” that will go to Dresden (although probably not with Fleming and Hampson), and for the Salzburger Pfingstenfestspiele, Bartoli is bringing the Rossini “Otello” from Zürich.

              I view it as a mixed blessing, and I can’t say I really understand the logic in many cases. Staatsoper will do its own productions of “Rusalka” and “Príhody lisky Bystrousky” (I believe the Parterre Box message board doesn’t accept haceks) next season, but neither are co-productions. As much as I love my Czech composers, I have to ask how often these productions will be used, as opposed to something like a new “Lohengrin,” which the house will use virtually every season, as it does with the “Ring,” “Parsifal,” and most other Wagner.

              So I guess that operas on the opposite ends of the spectrum – the very new and the very old – benefit the most from sharing. But there is always that thrill, particularly at world-class stagione houses, like the 1,000-seat Theater an der Wien which mostly uses productions for no more than six performances, of knowing that you are part of a very exclusive group of people who will get to experience something which may be absolutely unforgettable. Sometimes you just don’t want to share.

            • oedipe says:

              I hear you loud and clear, Jungfer.

              I agree that for rarely performed operas, the economic and risk-sharing advantages of co-productions are evident and essential. I would go even farther and say that I see benefits in using the same casts, like Christie can afford to do, for instance: it gives American audiences the very rare opportunity to hear francophone singers live. As for the excitement of seeing new-new and exclusive productions, I think it’s really a matter of taste: personally, I am perfectly content to know that YOU will be the “guinea-pig” and that by the time the Platée arrives in Paris some of the initial problems will have been worked out.

              For the more widely staged operas, I’d say “It depends!”, as your many examples clearly show. Sometimes a co-production is shared by houses of very different sizes, which significantly changes the experience. For me, that was the case with the Girard Parsifal, which I saw in Lyon and then at the Met. In other cases, seeing the same production in different houses with different casts can make you reconsider it. That was for me the case with Adriana Lecouvreur, which is not an opera that I am fond of, and which I saw at the ROH (AG/ JK/Schuster) and then at Liceu (Frittoli/ Alagna/Zajick): the Liceu cast created a magic that was absent at the ROH.
              In general, I much prefer revisiting a good production, rather than discovering “new” productions that turn out to be “me too”, shallow duds.

            • Often admonished says:

              (I believe the Parterre Box message board doesn’t accept haceks)

              It’s got enough of its own.

      • Often admonished says:

        This solves so many issues I don’t see how you could possibly object.

        • Often admonished says:

          Contextual realignment:
          Are you nuts? For the Met? You mean, getting Bieito AND having to sit through a French baroque opera AT THE SAME TIME? Gelb would be sure to get assassinated by an irate mob of Met regulars!

          This solves so many issues I don’t see how you could possibly object.

    • whatever says:

      I was going to second Laddie’s prayer, but I thtink QPF is right: Bieito should create something in New York.

      On an unrelated note: that man’s arms are extraordinarily hairy.

  • MonCoeurSouvreATaVoix says:

    Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Beito is not worthy.

  • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

    I was just about to shut off the computer for the night (Mrs. Sun is about to make her next deadly appearance in Wien – the forecast temperature for Wednesday is 39°C and 41°C on Thursday) and decided against my better judgment to have a glace at what was happening on Parterre Box and found this thread. Yikes! I have been lucky enough have seen several of Herheim’s productions (including the Bayreuth “Parsifal” every year it was on, his utterly glorious “Carmen,” “Madama Butterfly,” “Manon Lescaut,” etc.) and the man is truly a genius and you can tell how much he loves the music with which he is working. I think he would be very appreciated at the Met. I have only seen one Bieito production up close and live (and do I get a bonus point for spelling his name right?), and a bit too close for my taste: I was in the third row for his “Mahagonny” in Graz in May, and the only correlation I can make is that it was kind of like Paul Verhoeven’s cult film (as in it’s so gloriously awful, it’s fun) “Showgirls,” except “Showgirls” was at least funny. “Mahagonny” opened with Witwe Begbick fucking some guy being dragged around the stage on a wooden palate, then shooting him and Fatty and Dreieinigkeitsmoses taking a piss on the corpse. Then nine trailers – mobile homes – rolled in or dropped from the flies and stacked on top of each other, all of them peopled and with flashing neon signs (i.e. “FUCKING”) and non-stop distracting movement and ambient noise. It wasn’t just that you couldn’t hear the music, you were so numbed out by the stage action – from the non-stop simulated sex (including a guy molesting a nude 200 kilo woman, naked men and women in a glass-sided trailer, and a bit of male genital torture for good measure) and extreme violence to a guy watching Disney cartoons on a TV – that it all became meaningless drivel. It’s like in “Showgirls” – if you see one more set of silicon tits or one more bad simulated sex scene (how ever did Kyle MacLachlan’s career survive?) you just want to scream, but after more of it you merely get numbed-out. From this experience, plus what I have seen on video and what I have read and heard, Bieito is just an egocentric provocateur with no regard for the music and even less for the libretto, and Met audiences would not stand for his desecration of whatever work he might attempt there. He makes Peter Konwitschny (who, despite his reputation, is an exceptionally musical director) look like Otto Schenk! I also need to mention: the house at the second performance of “Mahagonny” was at less than 50% capacity. OK – I’ll shut up now. Besides, it is so hot (at 05:45) that I must now close the windows and shades and shut off this heat-producing machine. Maybe I’ll catch you later before I roll up to Bayreuth (and, hopefully, cooler temperatures) on Saturday. Ciao!

  • Signor Bruschino says:

    I wonder if Gelb stuck around Salzburg for Damiano Michileietto’s Falstaff and if he will be joining the directorial ranks…

  • AlvaroNYC says:

    It would seem to me that the only reason Gelb would bring in Bieito to direct an opera is that he sees the amount of press his productions get in Europe, and that the Met could use some of this publicity.
    Surely the Met audiences aren’t clammoring for a Bieito
    Euro-trash production. The Met audiences are by and large and older crowd and I can’t see a Bieito show being a hit with them.
    Just my opinion…..


  • johnkb says:

    I remember Howard Crabree’s off-Broadway production of this with fond memories…