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Mr. Castorf’s monster crocodile were busily copulating in Bayreuth

Thursday, 8 August, 2013

“Mr. Castorf’s deeper fault, it seems, was cynically to undercut the musical drama during some of the most romantic, poignant and heroic scenes. My earnest attempt to be open-minded about this baffling ‘Ring’ almost foundered for good near the end of ‘Siegfried’ when (you can’t make this up) a monster crocodile swallowed the poor Forest Bird in one big gulp.”

Anthony Tommasini’s New York Times review of the current production of the Wagner Ring Cycle at Bayreuth by the German avant-garde director, Frank Castorf, is priceless. From “At Bayreuth, Boos and Dropped Jaws,” a snippet:

“This last scene, of course, is the ecstatic love duet between Siegfried, our rambunctious hero (who, by the way, instead of forging a sword assembles a semiautomatic rifle), and the smitten Brünnhilde. In this production, at the most climactic moment in the music, the stage rotated to reveal two of those monster crocodiles busily copulating.

Looking hungry after sex, the squiggling reptiles, their jaws flapping, headed toward Siegfried and Brünnhilde, who were singing away.”

The “semiautomatic rifle” there is, typical of the old left who pine for Che, Mao and DDR/USSR days, an AK47. The unimaginative Castorf can do no better. Because his review is so good, let’s leave the final word to Anthony Tommasini:

“As the reptiles crawled closer, the Forest Bird, presented here as an alluring young woman (the soprano Mirella Hagen), burst upon the stage to save the day. Of course, the Forest Bird was not supposed to be in this scene, but who cares what Wagner wrote? This fetching Forest Bird bravely fought off one crocodile by jabbing a pole down its throat. But the other one opened wide and swallowed her whole. Throughout, Siegfried and Brünnhilde seemed only mildly concerned. But then, in Mr. Castorf’s staging, they also seemed only mildly concerned with each other, a much bigger problem.”

When Frank Castorf appeared on the Bayreuth stage at the end of this farce, he was treated to a ten-minute outburst of booing. He stood there, indifferent and perhaps satisfied. One of the joys of being avant garde in Germany is that one can insult the bourgeoisie who pay for the pleasure of being treated with such contempt.

Castorf's croc


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