albadger: (Default)
Two days since I posted, which means I've seen two shows -- Tristan und Isolde in a "normal" modernist production, and with the BEST Tristan I am ever likely to experience in my freakin' life. Score! And then on Tuesday, back to the Ring, but not quite yet, says my fragile insides, and I was feeling too ill and unsettled to make it to act 1 of Siegfried. Fortunately, the hour-long intermissions meant I had two hours to recover and get to Act 2. And, hoo goddie!
Set of "Siegfried" from Bayreuth 2016
Set of "Siegfried" from Bayreuth 2016
This is the set for Siegfried -- it opens on the Commie Mount Rushmore (I still think that Lenin looks more like Samuel L Jackson), and then rotates to reveal the Alexanderplatz plaza in Berlin, complete with working Atomic Clock (which I had just seen last April!). I'd seen pix of this but watching it in action took my breath away. Far and away my favorite thing here so far.

In terms of music, it was as with the other pieces, superb, and the direction, as with the other Ring operas, seemed half-baked and juvenile... but I didn't care this time, I loved it, especially at the end, when Alexanderplatz became infested with crocodiles, and Brunhilde fed a beach umbrella to one of them. The "forest bird" who leads Siegfried to Brunhilde is usually just an off-stage voice, but here she was a Vegas showgirl, and nearly got eaten by a croc! Siegfried saved her at the last minute. I'm told that when this premiered in 2014, he didn't. I'm having fun imagining the director FUMING at his artistic vision being tampered with.

ALSO took great delight in the loud booing! There was some at the end of Rheingold but not like this, angry and sustained -- though the crowd switched to cheers when the singers came out for their bows, and then back to loud booing. I was in heaven!

Only opera thing left on my Bucket List -- go to La Scala and have the crowd jeer the tenor. With my luck the tenor will be great that night and nobody will throw anything. Not even a cabbage.
albadger: (I think you're evil! EVIL!)
The damned idiots who are riding thrill-rides at Tivoli, only a block north of here. Just checked in; very nice, centrally-located, affordable and tiny-roomed, just the way I like 'em, and ready for one last night of sleep before flying home. I'm sure there's a very long German word for not wanting a trip to end, but DuoLingo hasn't taught it to me yet.

Last night was the last of the 7 operas at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, the Flying Dutchman, in a serviceable but vaguely cheap production (after that Ring cycle I'm not surprised, gotta cut corners somewhere). Nice concept though -- Daland and the Dutchman are captains of industry, instead of captains of ships; Daland runs a factory that makes fans (???), so when we get to Act II (or Scene II, since there were no intermissions), there are cardboard boxes everywhere. The Dutchman is "new capitalism," he does something that makes him rich, but who the hell knows what -- hedge funds? oil? cocaine? It actually made sense of the story, instead of fighting it at every turn, which the Ring production did (mostly to delightful effect, true). All musical values superb, as usual, and so fast -- it took only 2 hours 15 minutes! By my count, I sat through 24 and a half hours of music, which taken at the SF Opera's clip would have lasted 3 hours longer. Didn't feel rushed at all.

But that's done, as is the 12-hour train ride back to Denmark (I forgot to bring a 4-year-old with me, but, fortunately, nobody else forgot), and the trip's over. And I'm sad. It was a truly great 2 weeks, both the time here in Denmark and the Festival, and made much greater by friends old (hi Erling and Johan!) and new (hi Stephen!). Problem is, sure, I accomplished all but one goal of this trip (I didn't get a magnet at Bakken), everything went great, but I just WANT TO BE HERE, not the USA. If I had a billion dollars, I'd just live here, I would. But I don't, so back home... I know, it's SO SAD, you're CRYING. NOTHING SADDER EVER. Except when Leonardo DiCaprio died in Titanic. That was the saddest thing ever.

Well, off to bed, then plane, then home, and I swear I will take up my knitting again! Also, I will tell you the horrible story of why I stopped knitting. Scariest thing ever.
albadger: (Baby Hitler)
Two days since I posted, which means I've seen two shows. AGAIN. Since the tummy upset that made me miss Act 1 of Siegfried I have been very cautious, not really doing any other touristy things, just hanging about the hotel albeit giving the maids time to do the room (I don't make much of a mess. Not like I'm at home or something!). So I was able to attend all of Wednesday's Parsifal and Thursday's Götterdämmerung without any hitches, and even mail off a number of post cards (if you get one, you know, and if you don't, why? Message me).

Parsifal is the year's new production, and part of the reason for visible police presence, since there's clearly the worry that this staging will tick off some fanatic or other... since it's quite openly set in 2016, in northern Iraq, and has pretty accurate representations of the area's Christian, Jewish and Moslem communities. Um, "accurate" isn't right. The "flower maidens" of Act 2 are Moslem girls in enveloping black coverings, who gleefully strip down to belly-dancer attire at the sight of a handsome blonde Marine. That's less realism than 1930's music hall... and the "Christian" grail ceremony of Act 1 has Amfortas stripped to a loincloth and cut by a monk, who then gathers the dripping blood in a cup and shares it with the community. If somebody's going to attack this, makes more sense if it's somebody Orthodox instead of Sunni.

Still, the telling didn't get in the way (as the Ring stagings have), and the performance was transcendent; not my favorite Wagner but this hearing upped my opinion of the piece.

Götterdämmerung, on the other hand, continued the combination of gigantic delightful sets with graffiti-tagger direction as in the previous Ring entries, but was neither as annoying as Rheingold or as fun as Siegfried, mostly because this last entry is so plot-driven, there's little room for nonsense. Mind you, I won't forget the image of Brünnhilde shaking cans of gasoline over everything, including herself, and the slutty Rheinmaidens helpfully offering her their cigarette lighters. No real flames, alas. One thing I noticed was the real chemistry between Brünnhilde and Hagen. A shame they couldn't have gotten together, he's way better a match for her than Siegfried or Gunther.

Today, the opera is the Flying Dutchman, and doesn't start until 6pm, so I have a few extra hours, and I rode the bus up to Wahnfried, which had been Wagner's home here. Mostly reconstructed, since WW2 pretty much demolished the original, but still cool, with a museum on the side filled with set miniatures and full-size costumes from previous productions. I'm still sorry I missed the Lohengrin where all the people are lab rats!
albadger: (Viking and Satyr)
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:

http://parterre.com/2013/08/23/first-impressions/

http://parterre.com/2013/08/24/flame-off/
albadger: (Lisa and Bart Screaming)
Now I'm in Germany, which usually has such high standards... take for exmaple the train ride here. First half was the Copenhagen-Hamburg train that goes on a ferryboat, which I did last February and is great fun, but I was in the "quiet zone" of 1st class, and instead of quiet, we got a constant BEEP... BEEP... BEEP... that would stop for a few minutes, then start again. I asked the ticket agent what it was; she listened intently for a few beeps, then with a big smile said, "that's a cell phone!" Really. Where is this cell phone, and more importantly, when somebody on a train asks you the ticket agent what a horrible annoying noise is, it really means HOW THE #@#$%@#$%!!! DO WE STOP IT." I was able to move to the "Noisy" section to get some quiet, but that filled up a few stops before Hamburg, and I had to return to my torture. At least by then I wasn't alone.

Best part of the day was getting a knockwurst at the Hamburg train station from a hot bearded knockwurst vendor who was totally into me, I swear, no way he flirts with all the customers like that.

The Hamburg-Nuremberg train didn't have an irritating beep, but it did have a tantrummy toddler with amazing lungs and enviable stamina. His long-suffering mother got off the train at Hannover, and, more importantly, took him. After which, another child was ushered in with her grandmother, and proceeded to... No, surprise! She was an absolute angel, and quite the My Little Pony aficionado

Now I'm in Nuremberg; after checking in and showering, I went down to the street to get some food; nearly did Burger King, but I remembered that I had standards, and had a Subway sandwich because I remembered what my standards are. Gosh, there are a hell of a lot of prostitutes in Nuremberg. Some of them are very pretty!

Tomorrow, Bayreuth, and the Walk Up the Hill. Das Rheingold to begin with. You can't bring cushions in this year, so it's good to get my butt broken in on one of the short ones.
albadger: (B. J. Lang presents)
Last full day in Denmark! Erling had an idea, and we rolled with it, up to Helsingor (sic, I forget how to do the O with the slash through it) to tour Kronberg Castle, and enjoy scenes from Hamlet played in various locations by a troupe of very game English-speaking actors. We got a recorded ghost smack-talkin' Claudius, but the rest was live-action -- Polonius trying to make sense of Hamlet, in the main courtyard, then up to the king's council chamber to hear Polonius sucking up to Claudius and Gertrude, and down to a cellar for "the Murder of Gonzago" done as a puppet show. There were other scenes, but there were lots of stairs. LOTS. Still great fun.

Tomorrow off on the train to Hamburg, which goes on the ferry across the sound, which I did back in February and is really neat, and then from Hamburg to Nuremberg. I am of course imagining all sorts of scenarios like "we don't have any reservation in your name" to "we had a reservation but somebody claiming to be you called and cancelled it," so I'll be pleasantly surprised when the Nuremberg hotel lets me stay there. Pessimism is the highest form of optimism.
albadger: (Brendon is a pretty lady)
Back at Erling's after an enjoyable day -- Johan came down & the three of us took transport to a beautiful beach, from which you could see Russia Sweden, after which we walked to Bakken, which is really cool, even though we didn't ride any of the rides, not even the self-pedaled swan balanced on a single rail in mid-air. I did take some picture of the horrifying art, which I will post later, as it's late now & I'm too tired to figure out how to upload them.

From there on to downtown Copenhagen, where we enjoyed the annual Open House at the Leather Club, with all the lights up so you could see all the interestingly designed furniture, some of which I can't imagine curling up in to read a good book, cat in lap. Others, I could imagine this.

I also got enough post cards to send to everybody on my list. I'm kicking myself for forgetting to get any cards at the amusement park, but I did pick up a few at the leather club. Who gets those? Who's been good?
albadger: (Smarf at the keyboard)
...because I never update when I stay home. Heck, I barely update status on LazyFace. I'm not lazy enough for Twitter.

Currently in the G102 gate area at SFO, waiting for the flight to Copenhagen. Actual destination is Bayreuth, in Bavaria, for the Wagner Festival, but the SAS flight into Denmark was about a thousand bucks less than any connection I could get into Germany, so more than covers the train ride (plus, I love trains). Added advantage, my friend Erling said "come a few days early and stay with me, it's Pride Week!" So that works out wonderfully. I even made a crochet masterpiece as a hospitality gift for him! No pictures yet since it's a surprise for him, I'll put up pix after he gets it.

Next stop, Copenhagen! And since I've already seen the Little Mermaid, Copenhagen's equivalent of SF's Alcatraz, I can go farther afield in the tourism department. Something exotic like Tivoli Gardens perhaps. We'll soon know!
albadger: (Badger on Diablo)

I got a bit thrown by the unconscionable, uncivilized lack of free WiFi in our Filled-with-French-hipsters hotel in NYC, so I got off track posting to ze blog extrodinaire. Over a week, and I post only 1 commercial with a hot bearded guy. Slipping.

Two jobs right now: first, the future, which is Germany for a week -- I'll be in Hamburg seeing operas. Also seeing an opera in a town that apparently doesn't exist, which should be interesting. Second, the past, and some deck-clearing, reporting on the exciting things that happened that didn't get blogged when they should have. Here goes!

Read more... )
albadger: (Named Death the Streetcar Is)
Something pert and saucy. Not there on this trip, but it does make for a nifty spiral. And I don't even know where the last week will take me!

And as my HTML skills don't seem to be up to embedding the GoogleMap in my entry, this link will have to do.

Always Turning to the Right! Except outside Grenoble.

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