27 August 2010

Tankred Dorst's Ring exits - being vociferously booed

Tankred Dorst's production of Der Ring des Nibelungen at the Bayreuth Festival is now history. The last Götterdämmerung was performed on 25 August 2010 with a marvellous Lance Ryan as Siegfried and a Festival orchestra I have never heard better. From day 1 this has been Christian Thielemann's Ring, and the orchestra has responded with better playing for each year. The quality of the singer-actors (to the extent that acting was necessary in this Ring), on the other hand, has varied. For me the highlights has been Eva-Maria Westbroek's Sieglinde, Arnold Bezuyen's Loge, Gerhard Siegel's Mime, Lance Ryan's Götterdämmerung-Siegfried, Johan Botha's Siegmund (best enjoyed with closed eyes), Kwangchul Youn's Hunding and - of course - Andrew Shore's outstanding Alberich.

The director, Tankred Dorst, has received massive criticism, both from the press and the merciless Bayreuth audience. It's not even a secret that some of the principle singers has had very little regard for the production. To me the worst thing about this Ring was the helpless and amateurish stage instructions. More often than not, the only instructions the singers seem to have received was how to move to be faced toward the auditorium when it was their time to sing. Two years ago I heard an interview with Dorst where he said that he wasn't interested in the criticism his Ring production had received. That is the most serious flaw about this Ring - it was not developed to reach an acceptable level during the years it was on the programme.

That a Bayreuth production has flaws the first year is to be expected, but the wonderful thing about the festival concept is the opportunity the stage director has to constantly refine it for each year. Dorst refused to use this opportunity. As a consequence Dorst was vociferously booed when he came out before the curtain after the last performance. I am not sure that he was prepared for that. One would think that the Bayreuth audiences would show the old man some mercy on the funeral day of his Ring, but no. Even though I find this behaviour inappropriate and even unacceptable on the day of the final performance, I find it just as unacceptable that the director's team didn't do more with the material they had to their disposal. I actually cannot think of one scene in this whole Ring production that inspired me to think about what this drama is all about.

A postcard production, some called the Dorst Ring. And that is what it was. Some of the sets were really beautiful: the Rhine, the Nibelheim with its treasure vault, the final scene of Die Walküre. These images will live, but the production is best forgotten as soon as possible. It is a scandal that Die Walküre is scheduled to be released on Bluray/DVD later this year instead of the groundbraking Parsifal production that is now even being admired by lots of people who don't like Regietheater at all.

If you got more out of this Ring than I did, or you have any other comments, please leave a comment below!

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

why oh why is that Parsifal not being recorded... what a shame

Carol said...

I totally agree with all of your comments! I was in Bayreuth for the first time this year, and what amazed me about the whole experience was, first of all, the sound coming from the orchestra. When you say it is the Thielemann Ring, I couldn't agree more. As for the stage, there was no concept at all, no development from the first scene in Rhinegold till the end in Götterdämmerung. Perhaps in other operas, even in Wagner, it wouldn't be so shocking, but in the Ring, it is a major fault, since the whole idea of the piece is movement, in the music, in the story, in the characters. When a director fails to stage it, some of the Ring experience is lost, which is a pitty. I would just like to add something about the singers. I have listened to the recording with Westbroek as Sieglinde, but I saw the same character performed by Edith Haller live, and this was fascinating! For me, she was the highlight of the cycle, together with the Bezuyen's Loge, Botha's Siegmund and Ryan's Siegfried. And, finally, yes, it is scandalous that there will be no DVD for Parsifal. I'm not a particular fan of Regie, but this is Herheim's masterpiece, and few other directors today manage to instigate its audience to think like Herheim does. I love it.

Michael said...

I was at the second cycle and I also agree with you - and with Carol. The orchestra was the highlight - absolutely superb! As you mention some of the sets looked great but there was little or no action/acting. The singers you mention were also for me the best (Loge, Siegfried, Siegmund, Alberich and Mime) and I second Carol's opinion of Edith Haller's Sieglinde. I thought Albert Dohmen's Wotan was weak although he was somewhat better as Der Wanderer. Sabine Hogrefe replaced an indifferent Linda Watson as Brunnhilde in Siegfried and I thought aquitted herself very well.

Doundou Tchil said...

It's hard to imagine why this terrible production was revived. Even if they had a contract to do so, why not tighten it up? And why did Siemens chose it for worldwide broadcast ? this was so awful it would have disgraced a student production. It's like Dorst created it from photographs, ignoring the ideas and music. It's Wagner for people who truly hate Wagner.

Anonymous said...

Want to tell you I enjoy your opera blog very much -but found it offensive for you to remark on Mr Botha's looks. He is there for his voice and not a contestant in the Mr World Contest.

What did Melchior or Pavarotti look like ?....nobody cared -so why is Mr Botha size so important?
He is one of the top Wagner tenors singers in the world today and he deserves to be treated with more respect.

I hope your work is not judge on the size of your body.

Keep up the good work -but I did want to make this point.

per-erik said...

Anonymous: What I was referring to when I said that Botha is best enjoyed with closed eyes, was not his size, but his inability to move on stage, not to mention his absence of acting. In my opinion, acting is almost just important in opera as it is in plays.

Susi said...

Many thanks for your review! I saw the first Ring, Parsifal, and the Meistersinger this year (yes, I won the lotto!) and definitely agree with you about Dorst's production! Nice static pictures but very sorry stage direction...my "insiders" told me Tankred Dorst was not there even ONCE for the rehearsals!!!!

Thieleman was supreme with the incomparable Bayreuther Festival Orchestra, the chorus always superbly rehearsed and I very much liked the luminous Edith Haller, both as Sieglinde and Gudrun.

I'm a huge fan of Botha, loved his Lohengrin in London, but yes...his acting and movements can be improved upon! Cannot wait for his Tannhaueser at the ROH!

Susi said...

Many thanks for your review! I saw the first Ring, Parsifal, and the Meistersinger this year (yes, I won the lotto!) and definitely agree with you about Dorst's production! Nice static pictures but very sorry stage direction...my "insiders" told me Tankred Dorst was not there even ONCE for the rehearsals!!!!

Thieleman was supreme with the incomparable Bayreuther Festival Orchestra, the chorus always superbly rehearsed and I very much liked the luminous Edith Haller, both as Sieglinde and Gudrun.

I'm a huge fan of Botha, loved his Lohengrin in London, but yes...his acting and movements can be improved upon! Cannot wait for his Tannhaueser at the ROH!

M said...

Have just read your article weeks after the event, most interesting. I attended the exact same performances at the 2010 Bayreuth Festival, and I suppose for that reason I'm grateful for the fact that "Die Walküre" will be coming out on DVD so that I can have it as a fond memory, seeing it was the same performance that we saw (as also screened for the "public viewing" in downtown Bayreuth this year). It had its moments, and (especially vocally) the Wälsungen twins were great. However, I agree entirely that the "Parsifal" should also have been filmed, since, both musically and in terms of staging, I thought it was the best single production of the seven that I saw - beautiful, intelligent, and in its own highly original way adding a whole new dimension to Wagner's conception without denigrating it. (Intellectually, as a concept, it was light-years ahead of Katharina W.'s "Meistersinger" staging, which had its moments, to be sure, and I did still enjoy the "Meistersinger" on its own terms, but really it was a bit of a mess at times, to put it politely!) Never mind, at least the "Ring" had Thielemann conducting - it was worth it for that alone - and I totally concur too when it comes to the most impressive singers. However, just one viewing of my 1991/92 Barenboim/Kupfer "Ring" set on DVD after I got home was indeed enough to ram home just how much had been missing from Dorst's "Ring" dramatically. Well, roll on 2013 and beyond... otherwise, very best wishes for your website.

Anonymous said...

Siegel was not Mime!

Per-Erik Skramstad said...

Siegel was Mime, but not in 2010.