29 March 2008

Helmut Pampuch (1940–2008)

Helmut Pampuch died on Good Friday, Festspiele.de reports. He was one of the Bayreuth Festival's most faithful servants, singing roles like Mime, 3. Knappe (Parsifal), Hirt (Tristan und Isolde), 2. Edler (Lohengrin) and Augustin Moser (Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg) for more than 30 years. Pampuch appeared at some major opera houses in the world, for instance La Scala, Metropolitan, Paris and Munich.

Pampuch appears as Mime (Das Rheingold) on DVD and CD in both Chéreau's and Kupfer's Ring from Bayreuth.

28 March 2008

Oh I want to take photographs of Waltraud Meier!

Multi artist Patti Smith talks about being an artist in an interview with Time Magazine Online. She says it's both a curse and a blessing. She has seen Waltraud Meier as Isolde at La Scala, and not surprisingly she wanted to take photographs of her.

Here is a fragment of the interview:

Patti Smith: Sometimes I wish I could just walk through a garden or a forest and be happy. But no, when I do I want to take a picture, then I want to write a poem. Sometimes I wish I could just relax, and appreciate life without wanting to continually transform all the good that I see into something else. But I think that's why I've always talked about the blessing and curse of being an artist — you have this special gift, but on the other hand you're never satisfied. The only time I have respite is when something is so great, and seems so perfect that I can't possibly, in any part of my conceit, think that I could improve upon it.

Time: When was the last time that happened?

Patti Smith: Tristan and Isolde at La Scala last December, with Waltraud Meier and Ian Storey. It was so beautifully conducted, so exquisitely directed, all the singers so touching that I was transported. It was five hours long, and I was wishing it were five hours more. Of course, though, as soon as time went by, I was like, 'Oh I want to take photographs of Waltraud Meier!'

Read the whole interview

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26 March 2008

Werner Herzog's Lohengrin in Bayreuth on DVD

I must confess: This is a very beautiful Lohengrin. The sets by Henning von Gierke were obviously made to please the eye. So if beautiful sets are what you are looking for in Lohengrin, this is the DVD you should buy. The beauty on stage is matched by an equally beautiful filming. Especially the video editing with wonderful dissolves between clips enhances the aesthetics on the stage.

Read more on Wagneropera.net

14 March 2008

Opus Arte's two Tristans

Opus Arte har two DVD versions of Tristan und Isolde, the Nikolaus Lehnhoff production from Glyndebourne and a production by Alfred Kirchner from the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona.

The Glyndebourne Tristan features Robert Gambill as Tristan, Nina Stemme as Isolde and René Pape as King Marke. Kirchner's Tristan is conducted by Bertrand de Billy and features John Treleaven as Tristan, Deborah Polaski as Isolde and Erik Halfvarson as King Marke.

Read more about the Lehnhoff Tristan on Wagneropera.net
Read more about the Kirchner Tristan on Wagneropera.net

I am stunned at the number of operas Opus Arte issue on DVD (and HD-DVD and Blu-ray). Take a look at their collection on Opusarte.com. For Wagnerians they have a number of interesting contemporary productions. Other than the Tristans, I am especially looking forward to seeing the Kupfer Ring from Barcelona and compare it to his laser ray Bayreuth production. A sneak peak tells me that this production has more agreeable sets than the gloomy Bayreuth sets.

Other Tristan versions of interest include Jean-Pierre Ponnelle's Bayreuth production (1983) and Peter Konwitschny's magnificent Munich production from 1998 (the one for Waltraud Meier devotees). Don't be surprised if you find me writing about these productions also later.


Tristan und Isolde on DVD

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13 March 2008

Mottl's Parsifal destroyed tension and turned grandeur to boredom (Did you know?)

When Felix Mottl – as the first conductor after Hermann Levi - conducted Parsifal in Bayreuth in 1888, he was criticised for his extremely slow tempi. According to Bayreuth historian Frederic Spotts, Mottl's treatment "was roundly and unanimously condemned. Critics complained that his tempi so dragged that the dynamics were distorted, tension destroyed and grandeur turned to boredom. […] It was widely assumed that Mottl, whom the critics respected, had bowed to Cosima's will."

How odd this is to read, considering that Mottl's Parsifal lasted 4:15, only 11 minutes longer than Levy's 4:04 (1882).

First Parsifal not conducted by Levi (Did you know?)

1888 was the first year Parsifal was not conducted by Hermann Levi in Bayreuth. He conducted all the performances in 1882, '83, '84 and '86. In 1888 Felix Mottl conducted.

08 March 2008

Germany Year Zero (Rossellini)

The ending of Roberto Rossellini's film Germany Year Zero (1948) was shown before the prelude of the third act in Warlikowski's new production of Parsifal at the Bastille Opera. This caused angry protests among some people in the audience.

The film is also known as Germania anno zero (Italia), Alemania, año cero (Spain), Allemagne année zéro (France), Deutschland im Jahre Null (Germany)

Opera Bastille, Paris

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To Wagneropera.net

06 March 2008

Warlikowski's new Parsifal at the Bastille Opera

Waltraud Meier stars as Kundry in a new and provocative production of Parsifal at the Bastille Opera in Paris.

Jorg von Uthmann has a review for Bloomberg News of the production which is directed by Krzysztof Warlikowski.

Uthmann comments that Warlikowski does his best to play down the religious side of the opera. The slow tempi that has been a trademark for this "holy" opera, is rejected by conductor Hartmut Haenchen. I guess his fast reading (3 hours and 55 minutes, according to Uthmann) is part of the de-sanctifying project of this production.

Much of Act I is performed as an oratorio with the singers sitting in front of a screen on which, from time to time, primitive drawings appear. If you know the story, you recognize the Cross, the lance and the chalice. If not, you are as lost as a blameless fool.

Before the prelude of the third act, there were angry protests among the audience when the final scene of Roberto Rossellini's 1948 movie Germany Year Zero, showing the suicide of a boy in the ruins of Berlin, appeared on the curtain.

Uthmann is more satisfied with the orchestra (led by Hartmut Haenchen) and the soloists than the direction. He is satisfied with Waltraud Meier (of course), Evgeny Nikitin (Klingsor), Franz Josef Selig (Gurnemanz) and Victor von Halem (Titurel).

Opera Bastille, Paris
Read Uthmann's review on Bloomberg.com here
Hartmut Haenchen's homepage

Other reviews:
Mostly Opera
Le Monde
International Herald Tribune

05 March 2008

Bayreuth Parsifal (1981) on DVD

Cover ParsifalTo call Wolfgang Wagner's production of Parsifal from 1981 intellectually stimulating would be an exaggeration. Indeed, if you find any of Wolfgang Wagner's productions intellectually stimulating, you belong to a minority.

This does not necessarily force me to reject the DVD completely. For in spite of all its weaknesses, this may actually be the right introduction Parsifal if you are new to the work or to Richard Wagner. Wolfgang Wagner is rather faithful to his grandfather's scene instructions and the spirit of the work. He doesn't want to interpret the work, more or less just show it.

Read more on Wagneropera.net

The Fly as opera: Be afraid - be very afraid

<Composer Howard Shore has turned the soundtrack of David Cronenberg's horror movie The Fly into an opera. Film director David Cronenberg will make his opera debut when Los Angeles Opera in a coproduction with Théâtre du Châtelet will produce The Fly. The world premiere of the opera will be on 2 July 2008 at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. The U.S. premiere will be 7 September 2008.

A scientist (Seth Brundle, played by Jeff Goldblum in the film from 1986), is gradually transformed into a fly, or rather a mixture of insect and human, when he tries to "teleport" himself. Unfortunately a fly gets into the "telepod" with terrible consequences. The scientist tries to convince his girlfriend (played by Geena Davis in the film) to redo the experiment with him to stop his bodily disintegration and transformation (read: decay), but for some obscure reason she is not attracted to the idea.

General director of Los Angeles Opera Plácido Domingo will conduct.

The Fly on DVD (the movie by David Cronenberg)

Go to main page: Wagner Opera

Los Angeles Opera
Théâtre du Châtelet
The Fly (IMDB.com)

04 March 2008

Bayreuth Festival schedule 2008

For the latest updates,
see Wagneropera.net


25. Juli Parsifal I
26. Juli Tristan I
27. Juli Meistersinger I
28. Juli Rheingold I
29. Juli Walküre I
31. Juli Siegfried I
02. August Götterdämmerung I
03. August Parsifal II
04. August Meistersinger II
05. August Tristan II
06. August Parsifal III
07. August Meistersinger III
08. August Rheingold II
09. August Walküre II
10. August Parsifal *
11. August Siegfried II
13. August Götterdämmerung II
14. August Tristan III
15. August Meistersinger IV
16. August Parsifal V
17. August Siegfried *
18. August Tristan IV
19. August Meistersinger V
20. August Rheingold III
21. August Walküre III
23. August Siegfried III
25. August Götterdämmerung III
26. August Tristan V
27. August Meistersinger VI
28. August Parsifal VI

Search for Bayreuth Festival recordings

The artists


Dirigent Daniele Gatti

Inszenierung Stefan Herheim
Bühnenbild Heike Scheele
Kostüme Gesine Völlm
Amfortas Detlef Roth
Titurel Diógenes Randes
Gurnemanz Kwangchul Youn
Parsifal Christopher Ventris
Klingsor Thomas Jesatko
Kundry Mihoko Fujimura
1. Gralsritter Arnold Bezuyen
2. Gralsritter Friedemann Röhlig
1. Knappe Julia Borchert
2. Knappe Ulrike Helzel
3. Knappe Clemens Bieber
4. Knappe Timothy Oliver
Klingsors Zaubermädchen Julia Borchert Martina Rüping Carola Guber Anna Korondi Jutta Maria Böhnert Atala Schöck
Altsolo Simone Schröder

Tristan und Isolde

Dirigent Peter Schneider
Inszenierung Christoph Marthaler
Kostüme & Bühnenbild Anna Viebrock
Tristan Robert Dean Smith
König Marke Robert Holl
Isolde Iréne Theorin
Kurwenal Jukka Rasilainen
Melot Ralf Lukas
Brangäne Michelle Breedt
Junger Seemann Clemens Bieber
Ein Hirt Arnold Bezuyen
Ein Steuermann Martin Snell

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

Dirigent Sebastian Weigle
Inszenierung Katharina Wagner
Bühnenbild Tilo Steffens
Kostüme Michaela Barth
Hans Sachs Franz Hawlata
Veit Pogner Artur Korn
Kunz Vogelgesang Charles Reid
Konrad Nachtigall Rainer Zaun
Sixtus Beckmesser Michael Volle
Fritz Kothner Markus Eiche
Balthasar Zorn Edward Randall
Ulrich Eisslinger Hans-Jürgen Lazar
Augustin Moser Stefan Heibach
Hermann Ortel Martin Snell
Hans Schwarz Andreas Macco
Hans Foltz Diógenes Randes
Walther von Stolzing Klaus Florian Vogt
David Norbert Ernst
Eva Amanda Mace
Magdalene Carola Guber
Ein Nachtwächter Friedemann Röhlig

Das Rheingold

Dirigent Christian Thielemann
Inszenierung Tankred Dorst
Bühnenbild Frank Philipp Schlößmann
Kostüme Bernd Ernst Skodzig
Wotan Albert Dohmen
Donner Ralf Lukas
Froh Clemens Bieber
Loge Arnold Bezuyen
Fasolt Kwangchul Youn
Fafner Hans-Peter König
Alberich Andrew Shore
Mime Gerhard Siegel
Fricka Michelle Breedt
Freia Edith Haller
Erda Christa Mayer
Woglinde Fionnuala McCarthy
Wellgunde Ulrike Helzel
Flosshilde Simone Schröder

Die Walküre

Dirigent Christian Thielemann
Inszenierung Tankred Dorst
Bühnenbild Frank Philipp Schlößmann
Kostüme Bernd Ernst Skodzig
Siegmund Endrik Wottrich
Hunding Kwangchul Youn
Wotan Albert Dohmen
Sieglinde Eva-Maria Westbroek
Brünnhilde Adrienne Dugger
Fricka Michelle Breedt
Gerhilde Sonja Mühleck
Ortlinde Anna Gabler
Waltraute Martina Dike
Schwertleite Simone Schröder
Helmwige Edith Haller
Siegrune Wilke te Brummelstroete
Grimgerde Annette Küttenbaum
Rossweisse Alexandra Petersamer


Dirigent Christian Thielemann
Inszenierung Tankred Dorst
Bühnenbild Frank Philipp Schlößmann
Kostüme Bernd Ernst Skodzig
Siegfried Stephen Gould
Mime Gerhard Siegel
Der Wanderer Albert Dohmen
Alberich Andrew Shore
Fafner Hans-Peter König
Erda Christa Mayer
Brünnhilde Adrienne Dugger
Stimme des Waldvogels Robin Johannsen


Dirigent Christian Thielemann
Inszenierung Tankred Dorst
Bühnenbild Frank Philipp Schlößmann
Kostüme Bernd Ernst Skodzig
Siegfried Stephen Gould
Gunther Ralf Lukas
Hagen Hans-Peter König
Alberich Andrew Shore
Brünnhilde Adrienne Dugger
Gutrune Michaela Kaune
Waltraute Christa Mayer
1. Norn Simone Schröder
2. Norn Martina Dike
3. Norn Edith Haller
Woglinde Fionnuala McCarthy
Wellgunde Ulrike Helzel
Flosshilde Simone Schröder

Search for Bayreuth Festival recordings

Fühlt und seht ihr's nicht?

Waltraud Meier in yet another Liebestod. La Scala 7 December 2007. Daniel Barenboim conducting, Patrice Chéreau stage director. Can the Liebestod scene be more moving?

(BTW: See Barenboim's reaction when the first brava shout comes!)

More versions of Liebestod on Wagneropera.net

I Follow a Voice Within Me - a documentary about Waltraud Meier

Die Presse
Mostly Opera

02 March 2008

Götterdämmerung on DVD (Rosalie/Kirchner)

Cover Götterdämmerung Bayreuth 1997 Rosalie/KirchnerThe Kirchner/Rosalie Ring was shown in Bayreuth in 1994-99. The only part of it that was filmed was the Götterdämmerung. I saw this Ring in 1997, and I made interviews with Poul Elming (who played Siegmund in Die Walküre) and John Tomlinson (who was Wotan in Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, and Siegfried). You can read the interviews (only in Norwegian) here. I appreciated the visual power of this Ring (the set design and costumes were by Rosalie), and seeing Götterdämmerung on DVD later hasn't changed my positive feelings, although I must confess that I am also ambivalent.

Read more about Kirchner's Götterdämmerung on Wagneropera.net