August, 2013



Caricature of Glenn Loney by Sam Norkin.

Please click on " * " to skip to each subject in this index:

Closed for Restorations: Haus Wahnfried & Margravine Wilhelmine's Baroque Opera House.
Richard Wagner's LOHENGRIN [****]
Richard Wagner's DER FLIGENDE HOLLÄNDER [***]
Richard Wagner's DER RING DES NIBELUNGEN [Not Seen, so Not Rated]
Richard Wagner's TRISTAN und ISOLDE [*****]
Not for Children: Wagner Underground in Vienna…

Report for The Bayreuth Wagner Festival of July/August 2013

My Friend Erna was denied Press Tickets this past summer for the Annual Bayreuth Festival.

Erna Metdepennighen--it means "with the Pennies," in Erna's Native Flemish--is Chairman of the Belgian Music Critics Association.

So it came as a Great & Unpleasant Surprise to learn that even such a Respected & Longtime Reviewer of the Wagner Festival in Franconian Bayreuth was no longer welcome.

Shortly before this Shocker, I had written to Erna to tell her that I wouldn't be seeing her in Bayreuth, after so many summers of comradely Note Comparing on the Major Festivals we have both been attending & reporting on for Decades.

As I have done for so many years, I'd requested Press Tickets for Major Productions, especially for the new Frank Castorf RING

In reply, I was told that there would be no more Access for me to the Sacred Shrine that is Richard Wagner's Festspielhaus on the Grüner Hügel.

This could be viewed simply as Age Discrimination, as I will be 85 come Christmas Eve

More likely, however, the Embattled Wagner Sisters: Katharina & Eva--whose Contracts will be up in 2015--would now prefer to invite much younger Musik Theater Commentators, those who do not have Long Memories of Great Wagner Productions of the Past, especially those of their Late Uncle, Wieland Wagner.

In Evaluating--even Saluting--the New, it does help to have some Sense of what has Gone Before.

Severely disappointed--for I had already made Travel & Lodging Arrangements for Bayreuth--I wrote the Press Office to ask if The Wagners might at least permit me to see Lohengrin & Der fliegende Holländer again, even though I'd already seen the Black Lab Rats of Lohengrin two summers running & The Flying Dutchman in its Premiere the previous summer.

The Late Wolfgang Wagner--Father of the Wagner Women who now run his Fabled Grandfather's Famous Festival--had long ago proclaimed Bayreuth as a kind of Opera Workshop, where each new Staging would undergo Rethinking before each Summer Reprise.

Sometimes, the Changes were Astonishing. Occasionally, nothing Interesting seemed to have been imagined during the succeeding Fall, Winter, & Spring…

But Wolfgang Wagner always welcomed Established Critics to have a Second Look the following summer.

As well as a Third, Fourth, or even a Fifth, especially for the RING Stagings, which usually ran five years before being Retired. To be later Re Imagined by some new Directorial Genius.

Invoking the Record that I have been coming to & reporting on the Bayreuth Festival since 1956--as well as having known & interviewed both Wieland & Wolfgang, their formidable Mother, Winifred Wagner, & their Sister, Friedelind, who fled Nazi Germany for America--I asked for Reconsideration.

Which was generously granted…

Although I did not get to see Frank Castorf's apparently outrageous RING, the Local & National Newspapers--Multi Sectioned, Color Crammed Broadsheets have not yet died in Germany--were foaming with Seething Reports of the Visual Anachronisms of Designer Aleksandar Denic.

How about--instead of the Mythic Mountain Top Lair of the Valkyries--an immense Mount Rushmore on stage, featuring the Monstrous Heads of Marx, Lenin, Stalin, & Chairman Mao?

Something Really Different, just in case Wagner Lovers were tiring of Nordic Gods in a Wagner Worthy Vision.

Some Younger Critics--who could not possibly have seen Patrice Chereau's Innovative Centennial 1976 RING--were already calling this "Castorf RING" a Ground Breaking Modern Equivalent of that Opera Event

So, Happy 200th Anniversary, Dick Wagner!



Outside the hallowed Festspielhaus--which is currently enshrouded in Scaffolding & Fabric Prints of its actual Architecture, as the Brickwork is being repaired & re pointed--the Most Important Sightings were of the Red, Blue, Green, & Orange Plastic Dwarf Images of Composer Richard Wagner.

Some of these were stolen under Cover of Night. Some, in Broad Daylight

It has been a very long time since any Fest Guest as Impressive as the Begum Aga Khan has entered the Festspielhaus, after having been greeted by Assembled Wagners.

But, as in recent summers, the Most Famous Lady is always Federal German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.

All the Most Important National & Bavarian Politicians make an Appearance on Opening Day. They have Special Tickets, of course.

But Chancellor Merkel is said to Buy Her Own Tickets!

Most Pols cannot wait to Escape the Following Day. But Merkel stays!

There was even a Cartoon in the Kurier of US NSA Agents eavesdropping on Merkel: One asks: "How was your Shift?

The Other Spook answers: "I had to listen to the whole damn Ring!"

In the Good Old Days, Wolfgang Wagner & his Second Wife, Gudrun, would always be at the Festspielhaus Portal, to greet all the Distinguished Guests.

This past summer, however, the Wagner Sisters were nowhere to be seen.

They didn't even show up for the Festive Reception in the Neues Schloss, which is customarily a Political Must for any Elected Official or Cultural Ikon.

Reports in the Local Press intimated that Katharina & Eva Wagner Pasquier were inside--in their respective Offices--available for Information, if needed.

An actual Published Interview with Katharina deftly avoided some Leading Questions.

There had been some kind of "Ticket Scandal" the previous year, but that was Not on the Table.

One Operative Factor had changed, however.

Previously, Katharina had been responsible for Artistic Direction, with her Half Sister overseeing Business Matters & Administration.

Eva Wagner Pasquier has now been replaced with a new Male Administrative Overseer.

The Sisters now share the Artistic Responsibilities

In the wake of the Often Outraged Reviews of the Castorf RING, could the Wagner Contracts possibly not be renewed in 2015?

The Wagner Family no longers Owns the Festival.

Some time ago, the Bavarian State bought all the Real Estate & Manuscripts.

The Four Extant Wagner Siblings shared in the Pay Out, so Katharina & Eva are now effectively only State Employees.

In the Event that the Contracts are not extended, Katharina told the Interviewer, she would begin Staging Operas again.

Those who remembered her Peculiar Conception of her Great Grandfather's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg could have heaved a Collective Sigh


Closed for Restorations: Haus Wahnfried & Margravine Wilhelmine's Baroque Opera House.

As up on the Green Hill--where Scaffolds & Fabric Prints of the Exteriors concealed ongoing Repairs & Restorations--so also down in the Town of Bayreuth, both the Margravial Opera house & Wagner's famed Villa Wahnfried were also shrouded from view.

Haus Wahnfried now sits on a Plinth of Foundational Ground, with all the Earth around it excavated down to what looks like a future Sub Basement of the Underground Wagner Museum that is being constructed on the Site.

The Grand Avenue leading to Wahnfried is now walled with Huge Wagner Oriented Posters that are--in effect--a Wagner Time Line, richly illustrated with Vintage Photos.

Oddly enough--despite all the Missing Soil--you can still pass over a bridge into the Wahnfried Interior, also in Process of Restoration.

Its various Victorian Chambers are crammed with a fascinating Exhibition of the Life of "Mad" King Ludwig II of Bavaria, Wagner's Patron, who actually paid the Bills for the Festspielhaus & Haus Wahnfried.


Richard Wagner's LOHENGRIN [****]

Swans & Sausages: Why Should the Lost Gottfried Be Revealed Like a Fetus in an Egg?

At the close of the current Lohengrin production, the Long Vanished But Rightful Ruler of Brabant does not make his Re Appearance as an Enchanted Swan, turned back into a Young Prince.

No, indeed!

In Director Hans Neuenfels' fevered Imagination, Gottfried is rather like an Elfin Fetus, breaking out of an Immense Egg, tearing his Umbilical Cord into Sausage Segments, which he then throws randomly to the Army of Brabant.

Who are not Soldiers as the Belgians now understand that term, but, instead, Giant Black Lab Rats!

Why this is so, even George Bernard Shaw's Perfect Wagnerites could not begin to fathom, unless they had gone to the Preparatory Lecture--or Einführung--where they would have discovered that Neuenfels believes that looking at Rat Heads is more interesting than watching Squads of Soldiers in Medieval Helmets

The Ladies of Elsa's Brabantian Court have also been transformed into Rodents.

But, in this case, into Giant White Rats, who acquire really attractive Printed Frocks & Summer Hats for the famed Wedding March.

How about Bridesmaids with Long White Tails?

There are also some cute Pink Ratlets running around.

All the Action seems to take place in an Immense White Post Modernist Laboratory, complete with Cages for the Rat Regiments.

Both the Lab & the Ratty Raiments are the inventions of Reinhard von der Thannen, whose Name sounds like he should be a Character in Elsa's Sad Saga.

When your Handsome Husband tells you Not To Ask His Name--or Where He Comes From--you should Pay Attention!

Today, of course, Lohengrin would be in Serious Trouble with the NSA, for being so Secretive about having Mount Salvat as his Previous Place of Residence

Klaus Florian Vogt not only looks like an Ideal Knight Rescuer, but he also sounds like Wieland Wagner's Ideal Lohengrin.

Annette Dasch is a desperate Elsa, her Breastplate quivering with many Arrows. Were these shot by her Own Troops?

Not only does she have to sing Wagner's Texts with Passion, but she also gets shoved around a lot…

Petra Lang is a fearsome Ortrud.

Even Husband Telramund [Thomas J. Mayer] is wisely wary of her Wrath & her Intrigues.

It also Goes without Saying--although every Critic seems to have to say it for every Production & Performance--that, at Bayreuth, Opera Lovers encounter the Best Opera Chorus & the Best Opera Orchestra in the World.

But only for Five Weeks in the Summer, when their regular Opera Houses are on Holiday.

Eberhard Friedrich gracefully accepted the Thunderous Applause with his Magnificent Chorus, even though he is only seen on stage at the Curtain Call.

Conductor Andris Nelsons--previously hidden down in Wagner's Mystic Covered Orchestra Pit--also took well merited Bows with his Brilliant Orchestra.

Considering how all those Rats were shoved about by the Lab Assistants, it's a wonder PETA didn't come to Bayreuth to Picket this Unfair Treatment of some of God's Creatures

Of course, Poor Elsa doesn't fare so well in this Libretto, but since when have Animal Rights Activists considered Humans as Animals?


Richard Wagner's DER FLIGENDE HOLLÄNDER [***]

The Damned Doomed Dutchman Is Now a Frequent Flyer, with Coffee To Go…

It's not easy singing Senta when your Stage Director sees you as Some Kind of Kook.

Nonetheless, Ricarda Merbeth--apparently trapped in an Amazon Direct Mail Warehouse, somewhere in Northern Friesland--gives it Her Best Shot!

Fussing around between Nocturnal Flights, Samuel Youn's Holländer is clutching his Coffee--Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts?--while protecting his Basic Black Carry On Luggage.

This small shiny black Box on Wheels may well contain Secret Computer Codes--instead of a Fortune in Jewels--to control that Immense Flashing Digital LED Grid that dominates the Stage when the Cast is not Packing Fans.

Director Jan Philipp Gloger has suggested that this frantically fevered Number Crunching Eye Catcher may somehow be related to the Uncharted Seas on which the Doomed Dutchman endlessly sails, hopelessly waiting to find the Good & Loving Woman who will set him free.

Those longtime Wagner Fans who have seen countless Dutchman Productions--not only at Bayreuth, but also in San Francisco, Barcelona, & Shanghai--may well miss the Great Red Sails of the Holländer's Mysteriously Ageless Ship.

Get Used To It!

Daland doesn't have a Sailing Ship either. Or it may be Docked for Repairs in some nearby Harbor.

When first seen, Daland [Franz Josef Selig] & his Steurmann [Benjamin Bruns] are not on Deck, fighting Prevailing Winds & aghast at the Swelling Sails of the Dutchman's Malevolently Enchanted Craft.

No, indeed! They are crammed into a small Rowboat, Downstage Right.

Apparently, Director Gloger believes Wagner intended Daland's eagerness to Marry Off his daughter Senta to the Dutchman as an evidence of his Capitalist Greed, in wanting to get his hands on all that Booty.

Just Imagine! A Capitalist Father willing to sell his Very Own Daughter for Filthy Lucre!

No, no, no. Back in those Mythic Days, a Dad like Daland was expected to provide a Dowry, along with his Daughter's Hand. Maybe even the Guarantee of carrying on the Family Farm or Shoe shop

So, whatever the Dutchman has in his Carry On can be considered a Win Win.

As we are now in the Space Age--or at least the Internet Era--Village Women no longer Spin. They can probably get better & cheaper Woven Yardage at Nordstroms or Macy*s.

Instead, both the Men & Women seem boringly employed in some kind of Versand Haus, packing & shipping endless Boxes of Electric Fans, possibly to fill On Line Orders.

The only Connection I can make between Electric Fans & Spinning Wool into Thread for Weaving is that this Mind Numbing Activity is keeping the Women busy, not dwelling on Imagined Lovers, as is Senta.

Of course, the Fans do put Air in Motion, which may be remotely connected to the Idea of Air filling the Dutchman's Sails?

Last summer was the Premiere of Gloger's Dutchman, designed by Christof Hetzer [Scenic Environment] & Karin Jud [Costumes].

In the Tradition of Bayreuth as an Opera Workshop, there were some Visual Changes made in some Scenes. But not to make them any More Intelligible

Initially, instead of Packing Fans, Senta was making a Cardboard Image of the Dutchman out of one of the Packing Boxes.

This past summer, she had some kind of Solid Image instead, but she also acquired some Black Wings, whose Symbolism escaped me.

There was a lot of Frantic Movement on stage, especially when the Factory seemed to have Broken Some Kind of Record: Flames burst out…

When Senta & the Dutchman were left alone to explore their Mutual Attraction, suddenly Endless Vistas of Dense Forests cycled behind them.

At one point--perhaps when their Mutual Desire was peaking--the Pile of Packing Boxes, where they were standing, began to revolve, with Side Lights throwing Moving Shadows on the Cyc

Perhaps it was All for the Best that Senta didn't accept the Dutchman on the spot.

He seemed to have some kind of Dreadful Black Spots on his Left Frontal Hemisphere.

Leprosy? AIDS?

No, I was told. They were some sort of Digital Implants!

Perhaps they were meant to Control that Immense Pulsing LED Grid?

Richard Wagner surely would have been both amazed & baffled.

Poor Dick! He died before there were even Cell Phones


Richard Wagner's DER RING DES NIBELUNGEN [Not Seen, so Not Rated]

Forget All About Valhalla: Think of Route 66, Mount Rushmore, & the NY Stock Exchange!

Who knew that Richard Wagner was so concerned about the World's Oil Supplies & the Obscene Profits to be made from them that he would conceal that Message inside the Libretto of his celebrated RING Cycle?

This past summer, Frank Castrof laid bare Wagner's Insights, for all to see.

Actually, Not for All to see, as it is extremely difficult to get a Ticket to any Bayreuth Performance, but especially for the RING, as this must be seen Complete, which requires Four Consecutive Tickets: For Rheingold, Walküre, Siegfried, & Götterdämmerung.

If you are a Wagner Novice, you may be forgiven for thinking this famed Opera Cycle was all about Gods, Giants, Dwarfs, & Humans struggling for Gold & Power.

By now, however, Seasoned Wagnerians realize that this Old Norse Saga doesn't necessarily have to be retold in a Mythic Heroic Past.

Valhalla can be a Space Ship, with the Valkyries riding in on Rocket Scooters

Alberich can be deep in the Sacramento River, trying to pry a Large Lump of California Gold from the hands of some Gold Rush Girls, splashing about in the rushing waters…

Or: Building Valhalla can be seen as the Beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, when Nature began to be pillaged to fill the Pockets & Banks of Robber Barons.

For East Berlin's Theatre Genius, Frank Castrof, the RING is all about Oil

At least his new Bayreuth RING opens in a Gas Station & Motel on Route 66.

So much for the fabled Rhine Gold actually being found in the Rhine

In the next RING Opera, Die Walküre, the Scene has moved to the Oil Fields of Baku, but Time has been turned backward.

Instead of a Great Oak growing in the middle of Hunding's Humble Hütte, there is now a Wooden Structure that looks very like the early Oil Wells in Pennsylvania.

Although I have seen all the RING Productions since the Bayreuth Festival resumed after World War II, I was denied Press Tickets for the Castorf Version, so I can only report the various Scenic Outrages from Color Photos in the German Press.

At the Golden Motel on Route 66, Wotan & Family seem to have rented some rooms in which to have Sex & Arguments. Out front, near the Parking Lot, three Sexy Girls splash about in a Raised Pool.

The Settings for all four of the operas are on a Revolve, so more than one Scenic Novelty can be provided for each Saga Segment.

But Audiences don't have to peek into each Motel Room, as there is an onstage TV Crew filming away, with its Transmissions shown on a Wide Screen above the Motel!

Judging on the basis of the Official Production Photo Post Cards I purchased, the most striking of all the sets is Mount Rushmore, with the Heads of Marx, Lenin, Stalin, & Chairman Mao. This is the first scene in Siegfried.

But there's also the Façade of the New York Stock Exchange. One Critic thought it looked as though it had been Wrapped by Christo.

Maybe this is what Valhalla is supposed to look like? In any case, it's clearly some kind of Visual Indictment of Capitalism.

Siegfried no longer vanquishes Enemies & Dragons with his Mythic Sword. He has a Kalishnikoff

As for the customarily invisible Waldvogel, here this Birdie is tricked out with a Magnificent Headdress & Great Wings.

In Götterdämmerung, we are no longer in the Hall of the Gibichungs on the Rhine, but in East Berlin--on the Elbe--in Alexanderplatz, during the shabbiest times of the DDR.

Gunther, Gudrun, & their Half Brother Hagen seem to be running a cheesy Snack Shop

To give a sense of the staging, here's what Brit Crit Shirley Apthorpe had to say:

"The Waiter comes with a bill that Wotan cannot pay just as Erda sinks to her knees and begins to fumble with his belt.

"This is Berlin's Alexanderplatz, where two giant Crocodiles lumber past overflowing rubbish bins during Siegfried's love duet with Brünnhilde.

"One of them swallows the Waldvogel--her high heels can be seen kicking feebly between its teeth as the two sing on.

"Hagen hacks Siegfried to death with an Axe. The Norns practice Voodoo. Siegfried has not ridden down the Rhine, and the World does not end in flames.

"Famous for his flamboyantly Deconstructive Theatre, Castorf has not set out to deconstruct Wagner's four opera cycle.

"Instead, he has largely ignored it, assembling a loose collection of anecdotal vignettes that do anything but tell a coherent story.

"…There is slapstick; there are clever references to cinematic, operatic, and Wagnerian history; there is cheap sex and gratuitous violence.

"With rigorous consistency, Castorf ignores all the work's central questions and narrative challenges…"

Well. There you have it!

Good thing that Eva Wagner Pasquier is now Very Big at the Metropolitan Opera. She is responsible for those Met Opera HD Videos

In the wake of this apparently disastrous Castrof RING--which, over five years, the Public may yet come to Love, the way they did Patrice Chereau's--the Bavarian State may not feel so eager to renew the Contracts of the Wagner Sisters in 2015.

But these are not the only Wagner Siblings available to run the Festival.

Wieland's daughter Nike Wagner--along with her cousin, Siegfried Laferantz, son of Wagner Sister Verena--vied with Katharina & Eva for Primacy at one time.

As for the Fortunes of Frank Castorf, some Critics--who know his work well from productions at the East Berlin Volksbühne--think he "peaked" as a Bad Boy of the Theatre in the 1990s: That his Time is Over

For me, Castorf's varied attempts to mock Modern Classics were always worth a visit to the Volksbühne.

If only to confirm my sense that real Classics--both Ancient & Modern--cannot be effectively destroyed through Deconstruction. Nor can that French Fried Critical Meme illuminate hitherto hidden Textual Mysteries.

When Castorf decided to dismantle Anton Chekhov's The Seagull, he placed a Dying Chekhov flat on his back on a pile of Chekhov Playbooks.

From time to time, Chekhov would moan feebly: Ich sterbe, Ich sterbe…

Those were his Last Words in the Clinic at Badenweiler, where he died. But they were entirely appropriate onstage at the Volksbühne.

At one point in the action, Konstantin & Nina spoke of how their hearts were being torn apart. Or something like that…

Then they each reached into their bosoms & began throwing Chunks of Raw Meat at the Audience!

So we began throwing the Meat right back at them.

Typical of an Evening at the Volksbühne, whether during the DDR or after the Fall of the Berlin Wall.

As for the Future Prospects of the New RING, who can foresee?

Somehow--at least in the view of most of the Reviewers I was able to read--the Lust for Oil got lost somewhere along the Line.

Instead, it was the rapidly changing Sequence of Outrageous Settings that defined this new "Castorf RING," for many Commentators.

For some, this Four Part Production may well become the definitive "Chereau RING" of this Era.

That remains to be seen…

But it seemed a bit odd that so many Critics cited the "Chereau RING" as a Hallmark for Modern Wagner Stagings.

As that was premiered in 1976, few now writing could have seen it in its First Version.

That contained many labored Visual Jokes, such as Valhalla as a Birthday Candle Studded Mini Mountain on a Tea Cart.

Or Dead Body Builders being hauled into Valhalla on Plough Horses by the Valkyries--with a Standing Statue of a Little Drummer Boy.

Wolfgang Wagner got rid of most of these Optical Wheezes in the Second Season, so that what Contemporary Critics may have seen would have been the Videos that were made, once Wolfgang was satisfied with the "Look" of the Productions.

As for the much praised Originality of Chereau's Vision of the RING as an indictment of the Industrial Revolution, it was largely borrowed from Joachim Herz's Leipzig RING of 1975--two years before Bayreuth.

The Visual Effects of this Revolutionary Staging--Unseen & Unknown in the West, because Leipzig was in the DDR--were the inventions of my old friends, Rudolph & Reinhard Heinrich.

Soon after this, the Brothers Heinrich escaped to West Germany.

Before the 1976 Chereau Debut, Reinhard's Costume Plates were on view in Wilhelmine's Baroque Opera House.

Chereau's Costume Designer, Jacques Schmidt, had thus far designed only the Frog for the Nibelheim Transformation. So he told Reinhard to go down to the Opera house & copy those designs.

He had not even noticed that they were Signed by Reinhard

Such Backgrounders are at least one reason why it helps if Critics make the effort to talk to those who have created a New Staging.

Most Critics seemed to be writing Two Reviews at the same time.

While generally excoriating what they saw, they nonetheless raved about the Insightful Conducting of Kirill Petrenko--soon to succeed Kent Nagano as GMD of the Bavarian State Opera.

They also raved about the Bayreuth Orchestra, but, as only Götterdämmerung requires a Chorus, not so much raving was required.

Singing of Major Roles was generally applauded, but some of Castorf's stagings positioned Performers where they could not be easily seen or heard.

As for Personnen Regie, Castorf seems to have left the Singers to fend for themselves. Some were accused of just "standing there & singing."

At the conclusion of Götterdämmerung--after the Singers had been justly saluted--Castorf & his Production Team came forward for a Curtain Call that was 15 Minutes of prolonged Booing & Penny Whistle Tooting.

It was reported that Castorf & his Team were dressed in Yellow, broadly smiling despite all the Hooting & Booing.

Then Castorf gave the Audience "the Bird." The Vogel, in German. Not the Middle Finger, but you get the Idea…




Richard Wagner's TRISTAN und ISOLDE [*****]

Opera Stars Sail from Ireland To Cornwall, But with the Entire Audience Also On Deck!

Just imagine the excitement of a bunch of Pre Teen Kids entering a Darkened Rehearsal Stage to be confronted with the Wooden Hull of a Great Sailing Ship!

But--even better!--imagine walking around the Hull & being invited by the Crew to get up On Board!

So, thus it was on a sunny Thursday Morning that a Troop of Kids--with a Critic or two--clambered up onto the Gunwale Seating of Tristan's Ship, bound for Cornwall & the Court of King Mark.

This is not a Sea Journey the Irish Princess, Isolde, wants to make.

She believes she is effectively the Prisoner of the Valiant Knight, Tristan, who has recently Beheaded the Man she hoped to Marry.

In fact, she is still carrying his Severed Head in a Sack under her Arm.

Isolde is accompanied by her Trusted Maid Servant, Brangane, as well as by a Huge Chest, which--when opened--reveals an Alchemical Still for brewing all sorts of Magic Potions.

Humiliated & Abandoned, Isolde just wants to die, here & now, on the Main Deck.

She will drink Poison & End It All.

Brangane has some Vials of This & That on hand…

Aha! That wasn't Poison, but a Love Potion!

And so Richard Wagner's Fatal Tale of a Doomed Love plays out in about 90 Minutes on a simulated Ship Deck, with all the Kids intimately involved in all the Action.

Even the Ship Sails are used for Scenic Projections

Sitting way back on the Poop Deck, I even got to help Drop Anchor when we arrived in Cornwall Harbor!

Of course, Marriage to King Mark--when you are Madly in Love with His Most Trusted Knight--cannot Work Out Well.

Nonetheless, Tristan & Isolde seem to Die Happy & all the Major Musical Numbers are included in this wonderfully Edited Version.

What's more, the Professional Cast is accompanied by a 30 Player Opera Orchestra, not just a Handful of Instrumentalists.

All the Roles are performed--with zest--by regular Bayreuth Festival Talents. Not by aspiring Opera Singer Interns

This ingenious Tristan for Kids Reduction continues the Wagner für Kinder productions of previous summers: Die Meistersinger, Tannhäuser, & even a Short Version of Der Ring des Nibelungen

There is even a Special Program that includes Tristan Narrative Graphics, Puzzles, Wagner Backgrounders, Set Costume & Make Up Secrets, & even Origami Patterns for making Fish that Tristan might catch on the way to Cornwall.

In fact, when we first see Tristan [Hans Georg Priese], he's fishing from the Deck, but his Catch isn't worth saving.

A desperate Isolde [Iréne Theorin] tries an Overboard Suicide, but she's thrown a Life Preserver & climbs back up on Deck--with Seaweed in her hair.

As the Cast is used to performing the Opera as Wagner created it, it takes some time to learn a Cut Version.

This charming production ought to be offered at BAM, even if it has to be recast for a Revival.

To retain the Everybody On Board Effect, it would have to be performed in one of those Smaller Spaces at BAM, like the Chamber used for Slave Ship, where the Audience & Cast were almost breathing each others' Air.

The Difficulty about having all the Audience on deck with the Tristan Cast is that it would severely limit Spectators.

How about constructing the Tristan Ship onstage at the New Victory Theatre on New 42, with some Kids on the Ship, some around it, & the rest out in the Orchestra, looking on?

Such a Maritime Staging could tour as well. It would not need Bayreuth Pros for the Major Roles, as there are many talented young Opera Talents in training at Juilliard & at Manhattan School of Music!

The Bayreuth Production Team might well enjoy working in either Brooklyn or Manhattan. Or in both…

Marko Zdralek has drafted the Musical Reduction, with Michael Höppner staging on Judith Philipp's Simulated Ship.

There's even a delightfully illustrated new book taking Kids on a Tour of Wagner's Opera World: Leon und der steinerne Wächter.

Even though it's in German, the Watercolors, Puzzles, & other Enhancements make it worth having. It might even encourage some American Kids to Learn German?

For more Info on Wagner für Kinder & the Bayreuth Productions, log on to the Fest Website: http://www.bayreuther


Not for Children: Wagner Underground in Vienna…

Not to be Left Out of the Wagner Two Hundred Celebrations, in Vienna, Director Paulus Manker has created Wagnerdämmerung in the Cellars of the former Royal & Imperial Post & Telegraph Offices.

From all Accounts, this is a fantastic Musical Wagner Bio that works a bit like a Geisterbahn, or Tunnel of Horrors.

Are there any Cellars at the Met Opera that Peter Gelb could use for replicating this Vienna Event?

Caricature of Glenn Loney in header is by Sam Norkin.

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