31 August 2009

Stukas (1941) - scene from Festspielhaus

A short scene from the feature film "Stukas" (1941), directed by Karl Ritter, was made in the Festspielhaus at Bayreuth. The scene shows a depressed and apathetic bomber being cured by listening to Götterdämmerung at the Festspielhaus. The music – which he says would have sounded even better played "vierhändig" on a piano (!) – gives him spirit and energy to return to the battle field.

More on "Stukas"
Wagner music in movies

29 August 2009

Bayreuth Festival 2010

Thomas Jesatko as Klingsor. Photo: Enrico Nawrath

The Bayreuth Festival 2010 dates are now official, but no cast info has been released yet on the Festival's Homepage.

The Festival opens with a new Lohengrin production by Hans Neuenfels, with Jonas Kaufmann in the title role. Andris Nelson will conduct. Annette Dasch will sing Elsa and Evelyn Herlitzius Ortrud.

Reliable sources state that Daniele Gatti will return for Parsifal and that Susan Maclean will replace Mihoko Fujimura as Kundry. But allegedly Herheims production team is not granted the means needed to develope the production according to the Werkstatt Bayreuth tradition. During the Festival Katharina Wagner annonunced that the production neither will be part of the Public-Viewing-Program nor be released on DVD. As I have written before, this decision is a serious mistake, which I hope the Bayreuth Festival's new partner Opus Arte will help change. I get letters from Wagner lovers who express their frustration about this, and one quoted Barry Millington's 2008 review in The Wagner Journal, calling it "one of the finest stagings of the work ever seen at Bayreuth, or anywhere else".

25. July Lohengrin
27. July Das Rheingold
28. July Die Walküre
29. July Parsifal
30. July Siegfried
01. August Götterdämmerung
02. August Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
03. August Lohengrin
05. August Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
06. August Lohengrin
07. August Parsifal
08. August Das Rheingold
09. August Die Walküre
10. August Parsifal
11. August Siegfried
12. August Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
13. August Götterdämmerung
14. August Parsifal
15. August Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
17. August Lohengrin
18. August Parsifal
19. August Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
20. August Das Rheingold
21. August Die Walküre
22. August Lohengrin
23. August Siegfried
25. August Götterdämmerung
26. August Parsifal
27. August Lohengrin
28. August Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

Festspiele 2009 is history

"Only 11 months..." The Bayreuth Festival 2009 ended yesterday with the last performance (ever?) of Christoph Marthaler's production of Tristan und Isolde.

Next year will include Jonas Kaufmann as Lohengrin, so I expect the Box Office is expecting a lot of ticket applications from young women.

The comic strip is a detail from a strip by Klaus Häring. On his website one can find funny goods like comic-books, postcards, t-shirts, cups around Wagner and his heroes.

26 August 2009

Bayreuth Partnership With Roland Ott and Opus Arte

Parsifal is currently not on Opus Arte's and Bayreuth's recording schedule.

Opus Arte, the Royal Opera House’s multi-platform arts production and distribution company, has announced the start of a long term partnership with the Bayreuth Festival.

The announcement of the signing was made at a press conference in Bayreuth today by Katharina Wagner together with Roland Ott, the new Managing Director of Opus Arte.

In the press release Opus Arte does not mention the absurdity of releasing the totally braindead production from Tancred Dorst (Die Walküre) when the truly innovative Parsifal is trashed for reasons only Katharina Wagner is able to understand.

The first mission of Opus Arte must be to make sure that Parsifal is reincluded in the recording schedule. Hier gilt's der Kunst. Or does it?

The first recording to be released on DVD will be Christoph Marthaler’s production of Tristan und Isolde, scheduled for release in Novem ber 2009. It was recorded at this summer’s festival with a great cast: Robert Dean Smith, Iréne Theorin, Robert Holl and Jukka Rasilainen. The production is greatly underestimated by both press and public.

The DVD will be followed by the release of the Thielemann Ring on CDs.

Tony Hall, Chairman of Opus Arte and Chief Executive of the Royal Opera House said: "This is an exciting, long term agreement between Opus Arte, the Royal Opera House and Bayreuth. Roland Ott and I want to bring the very best opera and ballet recordings to audiences all over the world."

Well, if Tony Hall and Roland Ott want to show that this is not fancy words, they should talk some sense into the current leaders of Bayreuth and change the recording schedule.

Katharina Wagner commented on the new cooperation: ‘I am very happy that, after a long time of talking to and discussing with several major labels, we now found a partner that not only is able to provide the high quality and the specific image that fits very well with the world wide unique Bayreuth Festival but also is willing to become one of the very few and selected long­time partners we can definitely rely on’.

24 August 2009

Road to the Ring - Events leading up to Ring Festival in Los Angeles

From 29 May to 26 June 2010 Los Angeles Opera will perform three complete cycles of Der Ring des Nibelungen.

Before this great Ring Festival, several forces will produce Ring or Wagner related events, starting in November 2009. A wide variety of lectures, screenings, concerts and more will be great additions to the Ring performances.

Here's the programme
LA Opera Ring

20 August 2009

Bayreuther Festspiele with weak leadership

Katharina Wagner has decided not to record Parsifal and release the Herheim production on DVD. No good reasons has been given except a nonsensical statement: „Es gibt Probleme mit der Rechteübertragung.“

A leader is supposed to find solutions. There has been money issues discussed regarding a development of the production in the Bayreuth Werkstatt spirit. These matters could have been (or: still can be) solved if there had been sufficient will from the management.

Finding a solution to this conflict is very important to the Wagner world - and I would also say to the Bayreuth Festival. Giving the world the postcard production of Die Walküre makes no sense when a spectacular and ground breaking production like Parsifal - a symbol of the new, post-Wolfgang era - can be produced. The signals that are being sent out is that there is some kind of management crisis on the Green Hill.

The Parsifal production is perfect for DVD, and the Wagner world should have it documented for posterity. It is a matter of history writing and documenting the productions that really are valuable. Wasn't the new policy supposed to be "openness"? Recording the Tancred Dorst Walküre as a substitution is really an insult to the opera and Bayreuth lovers.

As I said: A leader is supposed to find solution. Not releasing Parsifal on DVD is no solution.

Happy birthday, Anne Evans!

Anne Evans sang Brünnhilde in Harry Kupfer's Bayreuth Ring. In an interview with Wagneropera.net she says appearing at the Bayreuth Festival as Brünnhilde was the pinnacle of her career. Only one thing equalled it, she says, and that was singing Isolde, which she unfortunately never did at Bayreuth.

Anne Evans interviewd by Wagneropera.net

19 August 2009

Hildegard Behrens dies at 72

One of the finest Wagnerian dramatic sopranos after WWII, Hildegard Behrens, died Tuesday in a hospital in Tokyo at the age of 72.

Hildegard Behrens's career as a singer began in 1971. In 1973 she became an ensemble member of Deutschen Oper am Rhein Düsseldorf-Duisburg and (in 1974) also a member of Oper Frankfurt. After some minor roles she sang Marie in Alban Berg's "Wozzeck". In 1976 she made her début at Covent Garden as Leonore (Fidelio) and at the Metropolitan as Giorgetta (Il tabarro).

Hildegard Behrens's international career rocketed when Herbert von Karajan offered her the lead role in Richard Strauss's "Salome" at the Salzburg Festival in 1977.

Her career centred around the operas of Richard Wagner, Richard Strauss and Mozart. She can be heard as Brünnhilde on the recordings of Der Ring des Nibelungen conducted by respectively James Levine (also released on DVD) and Wolfgang Sawallisch (also released on VHS). Behrens delivered a wonderful performance as Isolde on Leonard Bernstein's recording of Tristan und Isolde (1981).

Hildegard Behrens sang Brünnhilde at the Bayreuth Festival in the Peter Hall / George Solti Ring (1983-86).

Hildegard Behrens appeared regularly on opera stages all over the world, with conductors like Herbert von Karajan, Karl Böhm, Leonard Bernstein, James Levine and Wolfgang Sawallisch.

18 August 2009

West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in Bayreuth tomorrow

Tomorrow The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra will give a concert in Bayreuth (Stadthalle).

The programme:
Liszt, Les Préludes
Wagner, Vorspiel und Liebestod
Berlioz, Symphonie Fanstastique

Daniel Barenboim's schedule

14 August 2009

Last chance: Radio broadcast from Bayreuth

Tomorrow you can hear the radio broadcast of Siegfried from Bayreuther Festspiele 2009. The recording was made 30 July. Programme starts at 1730 CET.

On Sunday Bayern 4 Klassik is broadcasting Götterdämmerung, recorded 1 August, at 1705 CET.

Bayern 4 Klassik

09 August 2009

Great transmission of Tristan from Bayreuth

The Public viewing (20.000 at the Volksfestplatz) and Internet streaming of Christoph Marthaler's production of Tristan und Isolde at Bayreuth was a great success. Christoph Marthaler's production obviously profits from close-ups because there are lots of details like facial expressions you won't see from the auditorium.

Robert Dean Smith and Iréne Theorin were both great vocally, but I was more fascinated by the vocally more reserved Jukka Rasilainen's portrayal of Kurwenal as an insecure, naïve, and rather helpless unmanly man. A great performance!

The sets were great, although somewhat claustrophobic. In Act 2 and 3 the walls from the previous Act(s) were reused. The walls were lifted a couple of metres for each Act, so that Act 3 took place in the basement. Very elegantly done. And yes, also in this Bayreuth production you'll find a janitor (!), as you will in Katharina's Meistersinger (Nachtwächter) and Dorst's Rheingold. The janitor here was the Shepherd, walking around in the background, not understanding the Neon Light Bulbs.

The sound was rather metallic on my systems, with some occasional, not too serious interference. The picture quality was great, and the editing was superior for a live transmission. A great improvement from last year's transmission of Meistersinger.

I am very much looking forward to the DVD release!

Off Topic: Michael Jackson is dead

Tristan live to your computer today

Today you can watch Christoph Marthaler's production of Tristan und Isolde from the Bayreuth Festival - on your computer.

Read more about it here

07 August 2009

One buttock Wagner - or: Everyone loves classical music

Benjamin Zander is Music Director of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra. Zander is also a great speaker, traveling the world lecturing to organizations on leadership. The best-selling book, The Art of Possibility, co-authored with his partner, leading psychotherapist Rosamund Zander, has been translated into sixteen languages. In 2002 Zander was awarded the "Caring Citizen of the Humanities" Award by the International Council for Caring Communities at the United Nations.

On this 20 min video you can hear him talk passionately about his view that everyone loves classical music. It is truly inspirational. Does this also mean that everyone loves Wagner?

06 August 2009

Opening night at Glyndebourne: Tristan with Torsten Kerl

Opening night at Glyndebourne: Tristan with Torsten Kerl. This is a revival of the 2003 Festival Production. It is available on DVD with Nina Stemme and Robert Gambill.

Tristan und Isolde will be performed:
August: 6, 10, 14, 18, 22, 26, 30

Principal singers
Tristan Torsten Kerl
Isolde Anja Kampe
Brangäne Sarah Connolly
Kurwenal Andrzej Dobber
King Mark Georg Zeppenfeld

More info on Glyndebourne's Homepage

05 August 2009

Public viewing

According to Die Zeit, the public at Volksfestplatz in Bayreuth will be presented the not very exciting Walküre (stage director: Tancred Dorst) next year.

Then the following operas will be shown:
2011 Lohengrin (premiere this year)
2012 Tannhäuser (premiere this year)
2013 The Complete Ring (premiere this year)

I am not sure this policy is wise. At Bayreuth productions normally grow and mature for each year. Wolfgang Wagner knew this. Thank god Chereau's Ring or Kupfer's Ring were not recorded the first year!

Quality suffers - sensationalism wins. I totally agree with the new leaders wanting to get out of the bunker, but quality must always have first priority. Commercializing is good, but the quality of the product is sacred.

20.000 Bayreuthers are expected to see the public viewing of Tristan on Sunday.

What is your view on this?

04 August 2009

Tickets available for the Birgit Nilsson Prize Award Ceremony

Ticket sales will start today for the Birgit Nilsson Prize Award Ceremony, which will take place in the Royal Swedish Opera on 13 October 2009. H.M. King Carl Gustaf will personally hand over the Birgit Nilsson Prize to the designated winner Plácido Domingo in Stockholm.

The award ceremony is open to the public.

Homepage of the The Birgit Nilsson Prize Award

Birgit Nilsson at Bayreuth

03 August 2009

Thieleman Ring postponed

The release of Christian Thieleman's eagerly awaited Ring recording from Bayreuth 2008 has been postponed, but will hopefully reach the shops in late Autumn, BF Medien says.

It was scheduled to be released for the opening of the 2009 Festival.

Daniele Gatti with a faster Parsifal 2009

Much has been written about Daniele Gatti's slow tempi in last year's Bayreuth production of Parsifal. Maybe he felt that the chosen tempi last year were too extreme, for this year his "new" interpretation is a bit more aligned with the general expectations.

From the first bar of Sunday's performance at Bayreuth, one could hear that Daniele Gatti had chosen a swifter approach, and that the orchestra played better for him now. The sound was more polished and mainstream, perhaps losing some of the eccentricity from the first year - which I appreciated. Anyway, as heard on the radio, the performance moved up a couple of levels from last year.

I made some comparisons between yesterday's performance and the premiere performance 2008, which indicates Gatti's new faster approach:

Act 1

From the first bar to Gurnemanz's "He! Ho! Waldhüter ihr"
2009: 13:08
2008: 14:36
Still slow, even compared to Mr. Slow Himself, Hans Knappertsbusch: 12:14 (1962)

From the first bar to Kundry's "Nicht Dank! Haha! Was wird es helfen?"
2009: 27:10
2008: 28:57

From the first bar to Kundry's "Ich ... helfe nie"
2009: 33:44
2008: 35:42

From the first bar to Dritter Knappe's "Doch, Väterchen, sag' und lehr' uns fein"
2009: 38:36
2008: 40:44


Act 3

From the first bar to Gurnemanz's "Von dorther kam das Stöhnen"
2009: 05:02
2008: 05:48

From the first bar to "Heil dir, mein Gast!"
2009: 13:23
2008: 14:58

From the first bar to Parsifal's "Heil mir, dass ich dich wiederfinde!"
2009: 20:33
2008: 22:08

From the first bar to Und ich, ich bin's,
2009: 30:44
2008: 32:15

02 August 2009

Parsifal at Bayreuth today

Today is the first performance at the 2009 Bayreuth Festival of Stefan Herheim's Parsifal production. The cast will be almost identical to last year.

You can hear the transmission on Bayerische Rundfunk 4 Klassik

Photo showing Detlef Roth as Amfortas. Photo: Enrico Nawrath

01 August 2009

Competition: "A Bayreuth Experience"

Join Wagneropera.net's Bayreuth Festival competition and win Enrico Nawrath's book "Bayreuth Backstage". The book is loaded with great photographs from the mysterious life backstage.

Write an article - short or long - (in English) about one or several of your experiences from the Bayreuth Festival. It could be a travel letter, your favourite Bayreuth operatic experience, your worst Bayreuth operatic experience, a production you liked or disliked, a Wahnfried experience - you make the rules, as long as the article is related to the Bayreuth Festival.

Short or long? You decide. All entries will be published on Wagneropera.net.

Deadline is 31 November 2009.

The winner of the book "Bayreuth Backstage" will be drawn in December.

Send your entry to editor@wagneropera.net

Bayreuth Tristan via Internet on Sunday 9 August

The Wagner Festival in Bayreuth 2009 has started, and if you are among the ones who don't have a ticket, you can always see one of the performances on your computer - simultaneously with the audience in the Bayreuth Festival Theatre. This year Siemens Festival Night 2009 presents Christoph Marthaler's production of Tristan und Isolde on Sunday, 9 August 2009, 3 PM CET, live from the Bayreuth Festival Theatre (transmission begins at 2.45 p.m.).

The price is only €14.90

I haven't seen the Marthaler Tristan, so I cannot recommend the production. It doesn't seem to be a favourite, though, neither among the critics nor the public. My colleague blogger Mostly Opera says this about Christoph Marthaler's productions: "The occasional problem with Marthaler, however, is that his idea of "everyday life" constitues an endlessly sad grey-shaded world of what looks like a closed Eastern European working class environment 30 years ago." Read Mostly Opera's review of his Tristan here.

Last year Katharina Wagner's production of Meistersinger could be seen all over the world. Next year Herheim's Parsifal is scheduled to shown.

With the webcast you can either watch the performance live on 9 August 2009 or you have one possibility to watch it on demand at a time of your own choice between the 10th and 23rd of August 2009.

All broadcast times are stated in Central European Summer Time.

Read more about seeing Tristan from Bayreuth at home here