Gesamtkunstwerk? Nein, danke!

untitled

AIDA in Salzburg in Shirin Neshat’s production.

My friend, James Slouffman, Wagnerian of all Wagnerians sent me this link. After reading it, I had to say vent.

My problem with this supposed return of the Gesamtkunstwerk is essentially that it dehumanizes and often even obliterates what should be the center and focus of the operatic experience: the singing actor.

If one looks through the years that the Bayreuth Festival has been the Keeper of the Wagnerian Flame, it is difficult to center one’s focus on the singers, because of the supremacy of the Regie over the singing actor. Again and again we hear about the Wieland Wagner Ring or the Wolfgang Wagner Ring or the Jean Pierre Ponelle Ring or the Patrice Chereau Ring or the Otto Schenk Ring or (God forbid!) the Robert Lepage Ring (at the MET) …und so weiter, while often second-tier singers unprepared to meet the rigors of Wagner come and go

But, if we want to look for great Wagnerian singing actors, we will find most of them in the annals of the MET, Covent Garden, Hamburg and Berlin and Dresden Operas, well before William Kentridge and Robert Wilson and now Shirin Neshat moved themselves into the Opera House and displaced the singing actor and cleared the room in the Opera Party at the expense of…yes, the singer who ends up buried in phony symbolic gesturing and scenic overkill.

Birgit Nilsson, George London, Hans Hotter, Siegfried Jerusalem, Jess Thomas and many other greats thoroughly convinced me that they were the characters they portrayed with their singing and their acting. But, frankly, if you asked me who the director was for any one of the productions in which they starred I’d be hard put to tell you.

Beyond Wagner. About fifty years or so ago I saw a memorable WOZZECK that still gives me goosebumps: Geraint Evans and Marilyn Horne in a San Francisco Opera production. If someone out there can name the director please do. Gobbi’s and Callas’ Tosca…who directed it? Norman Treigle’s Mefistofele…Beverly Sills’ “Donizetti Queens…”?

I do not advocate a return to the days of Park and Bark. Directors who can work with the actors are invaluable commodities these days and those who can are mostly young and inventive team players.

Let’s have more of those.

Rafael de Acha          http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com            All About the Arts

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s