Tannhäuser at the Bayreuther Festspiele
August 13, 2013
* Notes *
The current production of the Bayreuther Festspiele's Tannhäuser is unsatisfying. Sebastian Baumgarten directed a busy and tedious staging, relying on lots of projected text. There were also giant stuffed animal-like rays, menacing ape people, and assorted funny characters. The set, with its multiple levels, could have been used much more cunningly, but instead blocked the back projections. All of the singers showed a deep commitment to the direction, but the many unconnected ideas never cohered. The action did not go with the music in any way, and in the end, the spectator was left bored.
The orchestra was lead by Axel Kober, whose tempi were measured. Although not bad, the playing lacked sensuousness. On the other hand, the chorus sounded great. The most formidable part of the evening was certainly the end, where the set was put to best effect with chorus members on different stories. The volume alone was quite impressive.
Singing was the redeeming factor in the performance on Tuesday night. Katja Stuber (Ein junger Hirt) was exacting in her choreography as some sort of drunken hoodlum, and yet sounded brilliant and unreal. Günther Groissböck was a commanding Landgraf Hermann, his voice has a lovely richness. Michelle Breedt may not have been the most alluring Venus, but sang with power.
Camilla Nylund (Elisabeth) was occasionally shrill, though has a certain vulnerable quality that is appealing. Michael Nagy did a beautiful job with Wolfram von Eschenbach. His "O du, mein holder Abendstern" was exquisite, he sang with sensitivity and warmth. Torsten Kerl was fine in the title role, never pushing his voice too hard, yet always audible.
* Tattling *
Someone tried clapping after the overture and one could feel the disapproval of the other audience members. A grey-haired woman next to me (Row 20 Seat 27 on the right side of the theater) collapsed on me during Act I. I was afraid she was having a seizure, but she had simply fainted from the stuffy heat, and recovered in a few minutes.
Before Act III there was some sort of mass acted on stage, and when some of the audience clapped at the end of this, others booed to express their contrary opinion of the production. Likewise, there was a segment of the audience that was vocal in ridiculing the staging at final ovation, and I was surprised to hear my companion join in, as I have never heard him boo before.