Friday, May 28, 2010

Battle Royal at the Opera

So Plácido Domingo is caught in an artistic struggle; whether or not to replace his Siegfried in the LA Opera's Die Walküre (in which he is playing Siegmund); or as the article puts it: "He must decide whether to replace John Treleaven, the British tenor cast as the hero of Wagner’s Ring Cycle in Los Angeles, or anger financial backers." I am sure contractually Domingo will figure it all out: he's had worse to contend with. However the complaint by Treleaven seems to be valid.
The tenor is balking at playing Siegfried in 'clownish makeup' on a steeply-raked stage. The Brünnhilde has complained about the stage-rake as well, saying it unbalanced her and was threatening to harm her voice because of the angle at which her head is forced to be in. I think these are valid comments, and from looking at the photos, I am not sure I'd want to see this Ring staged as though it were Flash Gordon.

Neither do I know why a nearly-70 year old Domingo, recovering from colon cancer, would play Siegmund in the costumes they are demanding. Why, why, why is Wagner the magnet for such awful dramaturgy? In previous post I bemoaned the overwrought Tiefland as taking a simple story and making it unrecognizeable as a post-modern 1984 saga. What do they teach dramaturgs these days, anyhow? Is there a course titled "How to F* up Wagner, 101"? And what is with Achim Freyer, 76, the German artistic director? Is there a prize given for the worst, most tasteless staging of the Ring ? Remember when Fafner was "sung" by a balloon at Bayreuth? Somehow I feel as though these stories are so complex and far from clear in their meaning, that obscuring them with layers of dramaturgical excresences is not helping the matter. I am sorry for poor Domingo to have to suffer through this; I still think the best staging I've ever seen was the Bayreuth Festival 1980, with Director: Patrice Chéreau, and cast including Donald McIntyre (Wotan), Gwyneth Jones (Brünnhilde), Manfred Jung (Siegfried), Peter Hofmann (Siegmund) Pierre Boulez conducted, which is remarkable, as I never really like his conducting much before 1990.
Here's a minimalist Walküre. Do they have "Ring-Light" for high schools?

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