albadger: (Viking and Satyr)
[personal profile] albadger
This is it -- this is why I'm doing this trip! And, yes, I'm good. It's worth it.

Bayreuth is a charming smallish town, good bus system but no trolley or subway, so mid-size for this area. My hotel is a ways from the Theater, but right next to the cobblestone pedestrian-only streets that make the downtown shopping area, and I've got a bus pass now, so I'm getting the feel.

But it's the Wagner Festival that got me here, and I've now seen 2 of the 7 shows I have tickets for, and I'm kinda in heaven. I think this isn't that different from what roller coaster aficionados feel. Or heroin addicts. Just guessing of course.

For the Ring, I got the cheapest seat I could, and it's not even a seat, really, just a bench tucked into a little cubbyhole on the balcony, but it's got a fine view of the stage, and so steeply raked that heads in front of me aren't a problem. Also, my right shoulder is against the wall of the cubbyhole, so that makes my reptilian hindbrain happy.

Musical considerations first, and this is glorious. The orchestra pit is REALLY a pit, with barely a slit for the sound to come out of, which tips the scales to the stage, and lets the singers ring out beautifully (also gives the orchestra an interesting shimmer). Even the weakest of the singers is a joy to hear.

Visually, more of a mixed bag. I love the sets so far -- both are giant 3-story structures on turntables, amazing engineering feats. Das Rheingold is in a sleazy motel/gas-station apparently near Amarillo, Texas; die Walkuere on a massive oil-extraction structure apparently in Azerbaijan. The theme appears to be Greed is Bad. I like a wacky Ring but I'd like wackiness with a more complex intention. This just seems cluttered, especially in Rheingold, when nearly the entire cast of 20 (14 singing roles, 5 homeless drug addicts in swimwear, and the gas-station attendant played by a young David Cross) is jammed into the tiny upstairs motel room; I was hoping the girl with the hat would show up and ask "Is my Aunt Minnie in there?" (That's a reference to "a Night at the Opera," which if you haven't seen, do). Also off-putting was the constant and usually pointless use of video projected on large screens.

All the "magic" moments have been effectively botched (Alberich turning into things with the Tarnhelm, the Magic Fire, etc.), but I'm thinking this is intentional. The text in the program (7 Euro) talks a lot about irony; this is less irony than adolescent mockery, like when I was 19 and a friend and I re-imagined the Ring in pedestrian terms; instead of a sword in a tree, a switchblade in a Formica breakfast table, that sort of shit. Fortunately, nobody gave us a pile of money and a famous theater to wank around in.

Still, I feel kind of small complaining about how poor the visual production is when the audio is so fine. After Walkuere, the conductor got the biggest ovation of all, and it went on for 10 minutes. And such a fast reading! On the stairs out, a little French gentleman engaged me in conversation, and compared the conductor to Usain Bolt. "Un heure cinq minutes! Olympic sprinter!" he said. "Ja, mach schnell!" I replied, completely oblivious to any language issue.

Here's some good reviews from Parterre Box:
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