Tag: Wagner

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

Thursday, 8 August, 2013 0 Comments

“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

Frank Castorf stole Ken Russell’s crocodile for his Götterdämmerung

Wednesday, 7 August, 2013 0 Comments

Before we come to Frank Castorf, a spoiled-brat German “avant-garde” theatre director, let’s journey back in time to San Francisco and the Haight-Ashbury district. It was there that the Rainy Day team had a truly surreal experience, but we’re not talking here about the Haight of the 1960s when the LSD was dropping, but the Haight of the late 1980s, before gentrification began to take its toll.

The scene was the legendary Red Vic Movie House, at the corner of Haight and Belvedere. Typical of the post-1960s vibe that still resonated, the cinema was run by a “collective” and, this was truly memorable, movie goers sat together on lumpy couches. Lenin would have loved it, no doubt. The film on this particular evening was a 1971 classic from the repertoire of a true avant-garde director, the great Ken Russell, and it was the none other than the scandalous and lurid The Devils. As Father Urbain Grandier, Oliver Reed, was outstanding: charismatic, seductive, heretical. In this disquieting/hilarious scene, he attacks the quacks who are treating plague victims with horrible “cures”, including “dried vipers” and “a crocodile”, which beast Father Grandier duly flings into the fire. The same crocodile turned up recently in Bayreuth in Frank Castorf’s incoherent Ring cycle. More on that here tomorrow.

Wagner at 200

Wednesday, 22 May, 2013 0 Comments

The prodigiously talented and deeply unpleasant Richard Wagner will be celebrated today, the 200th anniversary of his birth, around the musical world and especially in his native Germany, with a torrent of tributes. Along with his legendary operas, Wagner wrote a hate-filled treatise called Das Judenthum in der Musik in which he held that Jewish speech had the character of an “intolerably jumbled blabber” incapable of expressing true passion. This, he claimed, prevented Jews from creating song or music.

“The Ride of the Valkyries” marks the beginning of Act III of Die Walküre, the second of the four Wagner operas that comprise his epic Der Ring des Nibelungen. The theme was used memorably in Apocalypse Now, where the US 1/9 Air Cavalry regiment plays the music on helicopter-mounted loudspeakers during its assault on a Vietnamese village.