Cher Public

Von Kopf bis Fuss

La Cieca is happy to present the following ready-made blind item: “[Calixto] Bieito is soon to work with New York’s Metropolitan Opera, in another co-production with ENO, but the details of what, when and how are closely guarded – possibly due to the likely degree of resulting fuss.” [The Independent]

  • rofrano

    “likely resulting fuss” : that could only mean he is replacing the Zeff Boheme!

    • Feldmarschallin

      wouldn’t be a day too soon, or maybe the Turandot.

    • A. Poggia Turra

      Or even better, replace the Dexter ‘Mahagonny’ with Calixto’s 2011 Vlaasme production :D

      • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

        Being a “Mahagonny” fanatic, I saw that production when it was shown in Graz in May. I had to miss the prima, so I was at the second night, on a weekend, and the house was less than half full. It was one of the worst nights I have ever spent in a theater. Don’t get me wrong: I adore Regietheater when it is done right (i.e. Konwitschny, Herheim, Guth, Wieler/Morabito) but, with the exception of the final scene in which the entire cast invaded the audience on every tier of the opera house, what went on onstage had little or nothing to do with what Weill and Brecht wrote. The senseless sex and violence (the opera opens with Witwe Begbick fucking a man on a wooden pallet being dragged around the stage, then she shoots him and Fatty and Dreieinigkeitsmoses piss on the corpse), particularly when performed by ugly and/or obese people, sort of had the effect of the nudity in Paul Verhoven’s ”Showgirls” (but not nearly as much fun): you just get numb to it very quickly and it becomes totally meaningless. But perhaps the worst offense was that the non-stop stage action involved so much ambient noise from plastic curtains and trash bags and the like that there was never a moment when you could just hear the music. At least they included the “Gott in Mahagonny” sequence, which is still missing from the Wiener Staatsoper production even after they restored most of the music which Kirchschlager couldn’t sing the first year. I recently got the Met DVD and the Dexter production is definitely overrated and doesn’t hold up well 34 years later. The best production I have ever seen was in Budapest, sung in Hungarian (except, of course, for “Alabama Sing” and “Benares Song”) with the house Verdi mezzo (Amneris, Azucena) as Begbick, and was, I believe, the only production I have seen which was totally uncut (I forget if the Ruth Berghaus production in Stuttgart was uncut since that was more than 20 years ago; even the Met makes minor cuts, including one verse of “Alabama Song”).

        Thanks to SilvestriWoman for the Münchner “Fidelio” clip, which (in addition to Kaufmann’s astounding performance) I found rather moving. Had I not known, I would not have guessed Bieito. Should one of his productions come my way in the future, I shall not avoid it. I always like being proven wrong.

        • Camille

          Welcome back, dear Marianne, for you have been missed.

          i hope your travels proved felicitous.


          • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

            Thanks, darlin’! I’m very happy to be at home and in my own bed again. Bregenz was basically dreadful, there was much to be enjoyed at Bayreuth, Grafenegg was magnificent (with one glaring and unexpected disaster: Salonen and the Philharmonia), and the actual vacation was just what I needed. Napoli itself is kind of loud and dirty, but getting out of town to the old Greek and Roman ruins (we hired a private guide/driver for two days), climbing Vesuvio, getting lost in Pompeii (and quite sunburned), having dinner on a terrace overlooking the bay in Sorrento, and absolutely everything about Capri made the non-stop buzz of scooters and clouds of exhaust fumes in the city more bearable. So far I’ve only been to “The Rake’s Progress” at Theater an der Wien (Skovhus made a delicious Nick Shadow), and have a Liederabend next week before the “Fanciulla” prima. And what have YOU been up to?

        • A. Poggia Turra

          Jungfer -- Marvelous to hear that you like the Weill-Brecht work as much as I do. I did see the Ghent premier in 2011, and I did respond more positively than you did (one’s mileage does vary, and I live divergent views). If you’d like to read my thoughts from 2011, they are here:

          For me, Konwitschny came closest to a great Mahagonny production in Hamburg in 2000, although it was marred by the cutting of both ‘Crane’ and “Benares’.

          • A. Poggia Turra

            “love” divergent views ;)

          • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

            Thanks for the link, and your very detailed and interesting commentary. Things may have changed somewhat by the time the show got to Graz. For one thing, it was cast entirely with house ensemble members (except for Herbert Lippert as Jimmy; he got through it – as he did in the second season at Wiener Staatsoper – but the voice is just too damn small for the role) including a geriatric Begbick with very little voice left, and they all seemed secondary to the production. It was as if all the action with the Statisten was staged first, and the singers were brought in as an afterthought. Had they been more connected to the production, perhaps it would have worked better. But most of them were vocally overmatched (I have heard the Jenny many times in Graz and often thought she was a marvelous leggiero coloratura, but here she was truly dreadful) and most seemed embarrassed at the action given them (or going on around them). Also a pretty bland reading from the conductor and orchestra (when I could concentrate on them; I was very close to the stage and the non-stop ambient noise from the production was really distracting). I did, however, love the end when the entire cast virtually attacked the audience. They were on every level, and since there were so many empty seats, they were climbing over them, perching on top of them, and really in your face.

            I would KILL to see the Konwitschny! Crossing over to another, more popular board, I went to Bratislava three times just to see his “Onegin” (and have the DVD, too). I wish there was some way I could post it, but I don’t think I have the technical toys on my computer to do so.

        • operaassport

          I can’t imagine that replacing Mahagonny would result in a fuss. I doubt more than 6 people would notice.

  • Krunoslav

    The pic is L’AMICO FRITZ, right?

    • Feldmarschallin

      No it is the Münchner Fidelio.

      • SilvestriWoman

        I consider Kaufmann’s single greatest achievement his ability to not only sing this bitch of a cabaletta while climbing one story on steel frame, but to sing the final phrase, with relative ease, while pulling himself over the top. How many tenors would be able to do this, let alone agree to do so while singing?

        • Feldmarschallin

          He cancelled his Wiener Liederabend today. Hope we get to see his Dick which will be shown on TV.

          • manou

            Please do not display any vulgar jokes in this space.

            • Feldmarschallin

              Manou his Dick Johnson :) or is it better to day Ramirez?

          • damekenneth

            I also would not mind seeing Jonas’s dick on t.v.

            • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

              I get to see it live on opening night. Unless that is the performance being broadcast (which I kind of doubt) I will promptly report.

            • reedroom

              Or his “Johnson”…

        • FragendeFrau82

          I think this may have been the second thing I saw Kaufmann in (livestream), the Met Walküre broadcast being the first. I was very impressed! However, I assume Stuart Skelton will be another tenor up to the challenge. :-)

      • Chanterelle

        Currently playing (or about to open) at ENO.

      • LittleMasterMiles

        Also, it appears to be one of the only opera productions ever to be inspired by a screensaver:

    • MontyNostry

      It looks a lot like a set in an old opera book of mine for, I think, Pizzetti’s Murder in the Cathedral. Lots of floating buildings.

  • bjamcob

    I know that my question is off topic but can anyone answer this question for me.
    What is the name of the rehearsal pianist featured in Becoming Traviata ( Dessay in Aix 2011) To my mind she is the surprise star of that movie.

  • Todd

    That’s indeed the Fidelio set (which looks like his Carmelites set for the Komische Oper in Berlin). But I rather like the Flimm production--of all the productions at the Met that should be replaced (which is to say: virtually all of them) that wouldn’t be anywhere near the top of my list.

  • operaassport

    “Likely degree of resulting fuss”

    Made me laugh out loud. Now, that’s an understatement.
    Lets hope it’s the Boheme. It’s time.

  • Dawn Fatale

    So, I don’t think ‘likely resulting fuss” necessarily gives a clue about the opera. I think it simply refers to the fact that there are enough people who will got all agitated about the prospect of Bieito directing an opera, no matter what it is.

    The “safest” choice would be a brand new work. I’m not aware of anything in the pipeline for the Met past “Two Boys”.

    So, the next safest choice would be a work that is new to the Met’s repertory. Here the possibilities get interesting. My prediction, strange as it may seem, is that it’s a Baroque work. Based on nothing in particular, I would propose Alcina. The ENO hasn’t done a production of Alcina in a while.

    Otherwise, it would be something in the Met rep that’s in dire need of a replacement, but not a major warhorse. Gelb can’t risk another Tosca fiasco. So, I would suggest Tannhauser since it would be new to the ENO.

    • laddie

      And we would get a stellar, Met-favorites cast for Tannhäuser too, I imagine.

    • LittleMasterMiles

      I won’t claim to understand the Mind of Bieto, but it seems that his schtick relies on playing against text and convention, so a standard-rep opera would be the only choice, no?

      • I don’t know about that. Bieito had a big success with Il trionfo del tempo e del disinganno which is not exactly a household name. The Boris he did recently in Munich was a non-standard version of the text (i.e., the earliest). Le Grand Macabre, Mahagonny and From the House of the Dead are also not exactly bread and butter operas.

        Let’s face it, anyone who directs opera these days is going to be offered mostly “standard” pieces, because those works make up the bulk of every theater’s repertory. Bieito’s way of approaching these classic works is, I think, more thoughtful than most, not so much “playing against text” (any fool can do that) but rather playing meanings in the text that are not immediately apparent.

        • LittleMasterMiles

          You’re right—typing on my phone led me to be overly simplistic (also I was a little drunk and waiting to see Anna Nicole (which I mostly hated)).

          What I meant to say is that Bieto’s goal of subverting audience complacency about engaging opera as provocative theater is better served by warhorses, about which audiences are more likely to be complacent. I don’t assume that Bieto is only interested in standard-rep opera, or that he doesn’t do good work with less standard fare, only that his shock tactics (to the extent that he uses them) can be most effective in (over-)familiar works.

          • Bieto’s goal of subverting audience complacency about engaging opera as provocative theater

            That’s a lot of reading in between the lines. I honestly don’t know that Bieito thinks in terms of subversion: he certainly doesn’t state that goal explicitly despite the fact that he talks a lot about his work.

            I think you can see how a director might at least see himself (however inaccurately) as performing an action of revelation rather than one of subversion in trying to explore less-traveled meanings in the text. Bieito’s talk about his production of Die Entführung, for example, goes to what he sees as values deeply rooted in the text, e.g., a patriarchal fear of women’s sexual agency, especially in the presence of a threatening other. I don’t think he sees this as a “subversion” or even a reinterpretation of the text, but rather a way of focusing attention on what he sees as the deeper meaning that is ordinarily obscured.

            I object to the term “shock tactic” because it presupposes a motive, i.e. to shock. I don’t think that’s what Bieito is after: an attempt to shock is an attempt to make the audience member turn away in disgust. I think Bieito’s intention rather is to make the audience look more closely at the situation, to react to it emotionally and to consider its moral implications. That is the opposite of shock.

            • LittleMasterMiles

              I didn’t say that Bieto subverts texts—I said that he subverts audience complacency, and for exactly the reasons you describe. By rendering the sexual anxieties of Entführung in unexpectedly vivid terms, he jerks listeners out of their uncritical consumption of overly familiar “pretty music” and prompts them to consider what the opera is actually saying—and that requires him to épater la bourgeoisie.

    • Regina delle fate

      Dawn -- the McVicar Alcina is not that old and it has never been revived so I can’t honestly see that as a priority for them. They have never done Tamerlano, for example, which would surely be higher on their of Handel operas to do.

  • whatever

    y’all do know that la cieca labels all her pics, and that if you hover your mouse over them a little yellow pop-up with the title will appear … yes?

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Yippie! This is great news for opera in NY.

  • Todd

    In a way bringing Bieito to the Met is brilliant on Gelb’s part since unless Bieito really does something good (and something Met audiences are able to understand as good because the NYTimes told them it was) the whole fiasco will simply serve to “prove” that Eurotrash should stay in Europe and middling talents like Eyre, LePage, McVicar, and Sher are the only possible alternative to Schenk and Zeffirelli.

    I’m aware that Tcherniakov and Herheim complicate my argument here, though the latter I think is tipping more towards banal spectacle with each production and I’m not sure the former tends towards the same degree of provocation as some others. The fact that Kosky’s American debut is with LA Opera, and that it’s Bieito and not Konwitschny, Guth, Neuenfels or Kusej serving as the sacrificial lamb, says a lot to me.

    • Yes, this is a much less complicated explanation than the gnarled reasoning that supposes Gelb takes his job seriously and wants to bring what he sees as the best of the world’s directors to the theater he directs. Your double-reverse fakeout scenario (complete with the collusion of LA Opera) obviously has Occam’s Razor on its side.

      Well done!

      • Todd

        La Cieca you can’t honestly propose that, of all the (in)famous directors I mentioned, Bieito is the best--much less that Gelb would, he who thinks LePage and Sher represent the best operatic direction there is, and who has gone on the record multiple times deriding “European” opera production.

        That’s not to say that Bieito lacks talent or insight, much less that he engages in shock tactics. Those are canards, and obvious ones at that. But has Bieito ever reached the level of Neuenfels’s Entführung or Nabucco? Konwitschny’s Lohengrin, Don Carlo, Land des Lächelns, or Götterdämmerung? Guth’s Figaro or Messiah? Kusej’s Rusalka? Kosky’s Figaro, Rusalka, or (judging from YouTube) Siegfried?

        And I never said LA Opera was colluding. They simply are better at bringing in talent: first Freyer, now Kosky.

        • Feldmarschallin

          Well those directors all are known and some of them have been around for quite some time. I recall when I was still a very young girl and frisch aus dem Kloster that Neuenfels did an Aida in Frankfurt which was for those days a scandal and which later became much beloved. The three Konwitschny Wagner productions the Bayerische Staatsoper has are all considered to be almost traditional now and are much beloved. Certainly not avant-garde by todays standards. If you really want something fresh you can go with people like Nunes or Bosse or Fioroni. Those are up and coming people.

          • Todd

            Absolutely, Feldmarschallin. And I’d love to see more by Baumgarten or Himmelmann as well. Konwitschny and Neuenfels in particular are certainly old hat and by now their better days are probably behind them. But for the Met--indeed for North America--they’re still very much enfants terribles. And that’s what I meant in the original comment, i.e. that Gelb seems set on bringing in a representative of what Americans think of as European Regietheater, of which nobody is more infamous than Bieito. But infamous isn’t the same as smart, interesting, or insightful, and although Bieito has his moments (some of Don Giovanni, some of Parsifal, some of Armida) I don’t know anyone who would say that *on average* he’s at the level of the other directors I mentioned. The whole thing seems to me like an experiment designed to fail.

            • And you have proof, then, that Gelb has not approached any of the directors you named, or has deliberately not considered them because he is worried they might have too big a success?

              Neuenfels is 72 years old and has never directed in America. His current schedule shows only two new productions this season. Konwitschny is 68 and actually for a time was retired; he’s returned to directing in the last couple of years. He also has a fairly light schedule, working in places like Graz and Bratislava.

              In other words, neither of them is likely interested in working at the Met, or at least in committing to a rehearsal schedule four or five years from now, which is how scheduling at the Met works.

              You have every right not to like Bieito’s work or think it’s not any good. My problem here is that you extrapolate so wildly from your opinion: because I don’t care for Bieito’s work, that means it’s objectively bad, and since anyone can see at a glance that the work is bad, then Peter Gelb must be choosing the work because he knows it is bad (or rather, will be bad) and he wants it to fail. That is, Gelb is committing millions of dollars to a project that he intends to be a fiasco, and that will cover him with shame, in order to score a point in his argument that the Met doesn’t need good directors in the first place.

              The Met was in negotiations with Kusej, probably to share with the BSO a new production of Forza, but the Met’s participation in that project has (at last report) been abandoned, possibly for financial reason (that is, given the current crop of Verdi singers, the Met isn’t likely to get much use out of a new Forza production) and possibly because one or more of the star singers on the wish list for the project (e.g., Anja Harteros) doesn’t look to be available. These are reasons a production is canceled in the real world. By your reasoning, though, the Kusej Forza must have been 86’ed because Gelb saw the preliminary sketches and realized that the production would be a massive artistic and commercial success and therefore killed it for fear it might engender a love for Regietheater among the New York public.

              Well, I’ve said what I have to say on this subject. I realize it’s pointless to try to argue with people who think they can read minds.

  • PushedUpMezzo

    Fidelio to be seen shortly at ENO starring Emma Bell and Stuart Skelton
    Though it does remind me of Celebrity Squares

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    As long as there’s a flame thrower in the production, everything will be fine.
    Viewer discretion with this videos!

  • alejandro

    My issue is that his productions usually look so ugly. The lighting, the costumes, the concepts . . . there’s a vulgarity there that’s just hard to look at. There are a lot of contemporary theater directors who do the same thing--use of fluorescent lighting, power suits from Ann Taylor and Today’s Man, industrial scaffolding, digital video, cluttered set design . . . and it’s just well unappealing to look at, IMO.

    Maybe I’m just too romantic. I prefer my regie to look like the Willy Decker Traviata. Very clean lines and staging and design. As a theater artist, that has always been my preferred aesthetic--minimalist romantic.

    • I’ve seen a lot of chunks of Bieito’s productions on YouTube (and hope to see one in person one day). While I wouldn’t go as far as ugly or vulgar, I would agree that his productions generally have a very grim, gritty look to them that I don’t particularly like. The direction is always very thoughtful but I wish his insight into the operas were tied to a more appealing visual aesthetic.

      I found Decker’s Traviata interesting but overrated, but I did love the look of it.

  • zinka

    I KNEW they would now find a place for the old toilet bowls in the Family Circle!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!