Wag­ner fes­ti­val given rap­tur­ous re­cep­tion

The Myanmar Times - - The Pulse -

GER­MANY’S leg­endary Bayreuth opera fes­ti­val, ded­i­cated to the works of Richard Wag­ner, got off to a rap­tur­ous start on July 25 with a brand new pro­duc­tion of the com­poser’s last opera, Par­si­fal, en­thu­si­as­ti­cally re­ceived by the first­night au­di­ence.

While this year’s month­long pro­ceed­ings have been over­shad­owed by a se­ries of deadly at­tacks in the coun­try, the per­form­ers were tu­mul­tuously ap­plauded at the end of the six-hour per­for­mance.

How­ever, opera crit­ics were less en­am­oured with the new read­ing of Wag­ner’s most enig­matic work by Ger­man di­rec­tor Uwe Eric Laufen­berg.

Out of re­spect for those killed or wounded in at­tacks over the past week in Ans­bach, Mu­nich and Wuerzburg – all in the state of Bavaria – or­gan­is­ers can­celled the lav­ish ban­quet that tra­di­tion­ally fol­lows the first per­for­mance of the fes­ti­val.

Also can­celled was the usual red car­pet pro­ces­sion. In­side the theatre, a mes­sage pro­jected on the cur­tain said, “The Bayreuth fes­ti­val ded­i­cates to­day’s per­for­mance to all vic­tims of the vi­o­lent acts in re­cent days and to their loved ones.”

The month-long fes­ti­val opened the day af­ter a man set off a bomb near another mu­sic fes­ti­val in the south­ern town of Ans­bach – just an hour’s train ride from Bayreuth – killing him­self and wound­ing 15 peo­ple. Au­thor­i­ties said he was a 27-year-old Syr­ian refugee.

On July 22, an 18-year-old Ger­man-Ira­nian went on a shoot­ing ram­page in a Mu­nich shop­ping cen­tre killing nine peo­ple be­fore shoot­ing him­self.

On July 18, five peo­ple were in­jured in an axe at­tack on train in Wuerzburg that was claimed by the Is­lamic State ji­hadist group.

Tighter se­cu­rity on Bayreuth’s mythic Green Hill – on which the world-fa­mous Fest­spiel­haus fes­ti­val theatre stands – has been in place since the start of re­hearsals in June.

Town au­thor­i­ties called for stepped-up mea­sures fol­low­ing sug­ges­tions that this year’s pro­duc­tion of Par­si­fal might be per­ceived as crit­i­cal of Is­lam, a charge de­nied by di­rec­tor Laufen­berg.

Un­like past edi­tions of the fes­ti­val, all bags and cush­ions have been banned from the au­di­to­rium and cloak­rooms while pa­trons have to carry photo ID with them at all times.

Mean­while, the ap­proach road up the Green Hill to the Fest­spiel­haus has been blocked to cars.

Star Klaus Flo­rian Vogt was rap­tur­ously re­ceived for his in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the ti­tle role with his clear, dis­tinc­tive tenor.

Ger­man bass-bari­tone Ge­org Zep­pen­feld al­most stole the show as Gurne­manz, while Rus­sian so­prano Elena Pankra­tova, mak­ing her Bayreuth de­but, put in an as­ton­ish­ingly ac­com­plished per­for­mance as Kundry.

Con­duc­tor Hart­mut Haenchen, brought in at just three weeks’ no­tice when ris­ing star mae­stro An­dris Nel­sons with­drew un­ex­pect­edly, was also loudly cheered for his trans­par­ent, light­footed read­ing of the score.

While the au­di­ence stamped and cheered at the end of the evening, pro­fes­sional opera crit­ics gave the stag­ing it­self the thumbs down.

Laufen­berg trans­posed Wag­ner’s me­dieval tale of the knights of the Holy Grail to the 21st cen­tury, set­ting the ac­tion in a bombed-out church in the Mid­dle East, where Chris­tian monks looked af­ter refugees of all creeds. In a roundtable dis­cus­sion af­ter the per­for­mance, Eleonore Buen­ing from the daily Frank­furter All­ge­meine Zeitung dis­missed the im­agery as “cheap and cliched”.

“It’s prissy and pro­vin­cial the­atremak­ing,” she said.

The de­pic­tion of the Flow­er­maid­ens in the sec­ond act, who try to se­duce the hero Par­si­fal, as a Mid­dle Eastern harem re­in­forced 19th-cen­tury colonial stereo­types, said Bern­hard Neuhoff of Bavar­ian Ra­dio.

The fes­ti­val runs from July 25 un­til Au­gust 28, with 30 per­for­mances of seven dif­fer­ent op­eras. –

Photo: AFP

Crowds gather in front of the Bayreuth Wag­ner Opera Fes­ti­val house in Bayreuth on July 25, 2015.

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