David Alden

SF Opera's Lohengrin

_74A5437* Notes * 
David Alden's Lohengrin opened at San Francisco Opera on October 15, but I only managed to attend the fourth performance on Tuesday. The orchestra sounded perfectly transparent and there was much lovely singing including a powerful chorus.

Music Director Eun Sun Kim gets a very clear sound out of the orchestra, I feel like I can hear all the parts neatly stacked up, it feels very vertical and lucid to me. It was very different than Luisotti's performance of this work with San Francisco Opera back in 2012, and I feel lucky to be able to hear the contrast.

This very dark and incoherent production (Act I pictured, photograph by Cory Weaver) comes from the Royal Opera House, London, and likely works a lot better in that smaller space. It premiered back in 2018, and uses a lot of war imagery, there are guns and spears. The costumes are mostly from the 1930s but then Elsa inexplicably wears a slip dress and footless tights in Act I that are very 1990s. It's also really difficult to see what is going on, and the singers sound different depending on how the stage is set up or where they are standing within the stage. I did like the way everything seemed to be on rollers and it all went very smoothly. And there were a few very funny moments, like when Elsa's fluffy wedding gown descended from the ceiling in Act II and when Lohengrin shoves the marital bed across the floor in Act III.

_75A5506The chorus sounded wonderful, very full and cohesive. Bass Kristinn Sigmundsson sounded very shaky as King Heinrich, but perhaps it works for this role. In his San Francisco Opera debut baritone Thomas Lehman sounded very nice as the King’s Herald, his voice is pretty, but Alden had him act in some unsavory ways, he tries to shoot Elsa in the final scene. Mezzo-soprano Judit Kutasi (pictured in Act II with Simon O'Neill and Julie Adams, photograph by Cory Weaver) likewise had a strong San Francisco Opera debut, her icy sound was downright terrifying. Her singing was very much well-suited to Ortrud.

I love the warm resonances of baritone Brian Mulligan, but his voice is too lovely and sympathetic for Friedrich von Telramund. It was a bit disorienting for me, as I have pretty recently heard Mulligan as the Herald in the Met's broadcast last season. As Elsa von Brabant, soprano Julie Adams has a beautiful, honeyed sound, but it's not very pure and innocent which would work better for her part. Tenor Simon O'Neill certainly paced himself well as Lohengrin, he was very consistent. His sound is loud and cuts through the orchestra, but has an unpleasant thin reediness to it.

* Tattling * 
There was a surprising amount of talking as the singers were singing. Usually Wagner attracts focused listeners, but people both in front of me in Row J of the orchestra level and behind me in Row L spoke at various times. There was also a lot of coughing and sneezing, and I myself had a coughing fit in Act II which I mostly got under control with some hot tea as quickly as I could.

Lots of people also left at each intermission, so that by the end I could see the conductor because fewer people were blocking my view.

ROH's 2008-2009 Season

September 8- October 4 2008: Don Giovanni
September 16-29 2008: La fanciulla del West
September 23- October 10 2008: La Calisto
October 11-18 2008: La Bohème
October 23- November 11 2008: Matilde di Shabran
November 9-24 2008: Elektra
November 25- December 13 2008: Les Contes d'Hoffmann
December 9 2008- January 1 2009: Hänsel und Gretel
December 22- January 23 2008: Turandot
January 20-31 2009: The Beggar's Opera
January 27- February 17 2009: Die Tote Stadt
February 10 -25 2009: Rigoletto
February 23- March 10 2009: Der fliegende Holländer
March 2- April 11 2009: I Capuleti e i Montecchi
March 31- April 20 2009: Dido and Aeneas/Acis and Galatea
April 13- May 7 2009: Il trovatore
April 27- May 16 2009: Lohengrin
May 12-25 2009: L'elisir d'Amore
June 4-20 2009: Lulu
June 19- July 6 2009: La Traviata
June 26- July 18 2009: Un Ballo en Maschera
July 7-18 2009: Il barbiere di Siviglia
July 9-18 2009: Tosca

Simon Keenlyside and Mariusz Kwiecien share the role of Don Giovanni, and Keenlyside also sings Figaro in Il barbiere. David Alden has his ROH debut directing a production of La Calisto from Bayerische Staatsoper. Bryn Terfel is singing in Holländer and Tosca, while Deborah Voigt sings the title role of the latter. Renée Fleming is singing opposite Joseph Calleja in La Traviata and Thomas Hampson sings Germont. Die Tote Stadt has its UK premiere, Ingo Metzmacher will conduct. The production is from Salzburg and is the one that will be at San Francisco Opera this September. Lucas Meachem will be singing Aeneas in his ROH debut.

Bloomberg Article | Press Release [PDF] |Official Site

Gran Teatre del Liceu's 2008-2009 Season

October 4-20 2008: Tiefland
November 11-30 2008: Le nozze di Figaro
December 23 2008- January 14 2009: Simon Boccanegra
January 3-10 2009: El retablo de Maese Pedro
February 3-15 2009: L'incoronazione di Poppea
March 17- April 18 2009: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
April 20- May 2 2009: La cabeza del Bautista
May 18- June 2 2009: Fidelio
June 19- July 7 2009: Salome
July 21-31 2009: Turandot

Barcelona's opera season was announced in January. Karita Mattila sings Fidelio, Nina Stemme sings Salome, and Bo Skovhus sings in Die Meistersinger. The one Baroque offering is a production by David Alden.

2008-2009 Season | Official Site

Lucia at ENO

LuciaenoThe English National Opera presented Lucia di Lammermoor for the first time this season, and the last performance was yesterday. The adorable Anna Christy made her British debut in the title role, despite recently suffering bronchitis. She has a sweet, warbling sort of voice, and from the reviews, it sounds like she was adequate, not distinguishing herself but not awful either. She certainly didn't get as much attention as the whole lip-synching incident of the opening performance.


The Lucia production looks quite tame for David Alden, dark but not absurd. Neil Fisher titled his Times interview "David Alden, the Stephen King of Opera," which I don't find particularly apt, having seen half a dozen of Alden's productions. Stephen King is popular, and is known for horror. David Alden's productions did not seem popular at Bayerische Staatsoper, where I heard him booed a couple of times. Nor was his Rodelinda at San Francisco Opera popular, though not nearly as reviled as Anna Viebrock's Alcina or the recent Macbeth from Zürich.


David Alden's work isn't exactly horror either, though he did have the valkyries give the audience gesto dell'ombrello with those wands airport ground handlers use in Die Walküre, for which he was he was roundly booed for at the end of the premiere. The enormous Playmobil doll whose trousers fall down in Rinaldo was also vaguely horrific (and also garnered the audience's vitriol), though I did like the cupcake frosting hairdos on the sirens. His Il Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria  has the distinction of being the only opera performance for which I had a ticket for but did not turn up to simply because I could not bear to watch what he had done with Monteverdi another time.

Trexgiuliocesare_2It is more self-indulgent than truly scary, even the T-Rex used for Giulio Cesare is not frightening! This image was used in Bayerische Staatsoper's advertising, and alas, I never managed to see it, as it was put on shortly before I arrived in Munich. For the past few years I've successfully avoided David Alden's productions and I'm slightly annoyed to see that the Radamisto at Santa Fe this summer is his. As there are not many Baroque operas being performed at major opera companies, it does seem inevitable that I will be forced to see Alden's work again.

Times Interview | ENO | BSO | Santa Fe Opera

Santa Fe Opera's 2008 Season

June 27- August 23 2008: Falstaff
June 28- August 22 2008: Le Nozze di Figaro
July 12- August 21 2008: Billy Budd
July 19- August 20 2008: Radamisto
July 26- August 12 2008: Adriana Mater

The next season at Santa Fe Opera includes the US premiere of Kaija Saariaho's newest opera. Naturally the production of Händel is from David Alden, whose work I am all too familiar with from Munich. David Daniels will be singing the title role of Radamisto. William Burden is singing Starry Vere in Billy Budd. Mariusz Kwiecien will be singing Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro.

Press Release | Season Overview

Lo t'abbraccio

Aldenrodelinda1The production of Händel's Rodelinda currently at San Francisco Opera is one from the Bayerische Staatsoper, and I had attended a few performances of it in Munich a few years ago. It is one of the tamer offerings of this particular director, David Alden. The opera is set as 1930s film noir, Buki Shiff's costumes are rather pretty because of this, especially Rodelinda's dashing black evening gown in Act II. The set consisted of various brick walls that were strategically moved about, there was also a recurring black and white image of a man with his arms crossed in front of him. He appears in eight cut-out figures in Act I, the largest being around 16 feet tall, and the smallest about 7 feet. Later he shows up in Act III, but only as a half-length, and only seven pictures this time.

I objected to just how buffoonish they had Unulfo be, when his character is rather noble, he is loyal to Bertarido and is willing to die for him. Instead they have Garibaldo beat him up and stuff wadded up paper down his throat. It was annoying when Garibaldo sings an aria in Act II, Unulfo screams in pain during the music. Then in Act III when Bertarido mistakenly attacks Unulfo with a kitchen knife, the latter runs into a wall, making his wound all the worse. Of course the knife is simply placed under the arm, and this is made extremely obvious.

Another flaw in the staging occurred at the end of Act II, during the very end of the gorgeous duet between Rodelinda and Bertarido, "Lo t'abbraccio." Catherine Naglestad and David Daniels sang brilliantly, but the staging involved putting Bertarido in the trunk of the vintage black Mercedes on stage. This elicited titters from the audience, which is completely inappropriate considering both how moving and ravishing the music is at that point.

The choreography was perhaps too difficult for the singers, I remember choreographer Beate Vollack being quite a favorite in Die Fledermaus in Munich. The choreography, minus drunken staggering, could have worked with just the right cast. It was a stark contrast to the excellent movement in L'Italiana last weekend.

As for singing, Naglestad sounded unsure at the beginning, slightly shrill, her voice cracked a bit during her second aria. She doesn't make it seem effortless. But there were some beautiful moments later in the opera. Daniels had a good performance, his voice is powerful and resonant, no trace of grit today. When he occasionally moved into his chest voice one gets a sense of how much heft his voice has, it is incredible. Tenor Paul Nilon was rather colorless as Grimoaldo, his dancing also did not betray much verve. Mezzo-soprano Phyllis Pancella did not impress either, and her dancing was flat-out bad, her back looks incredibly stiff and she has slumped shoulders. Gerald Thompson showed promise as Unulfo, at least in his voice, his countertenor has a sweet tone.

Frosting for hair

Aldenrinaldo1The David Alden production of Rinaldo at the Bavarian State Opera was not particularly well-attended, and at each intermission, people left. This was more pronounced for this production than for Rodelinda.

Part of the problem was the singers. None of them were particularly stunning. The lead, Ann Murray, has a voice that lacks substance and depth. Her high range is not bad, but her lower range does not project well. Sometimes she uses too much vibrato. She is no Ewa Podles.

Then there were the three mediocre countertenors, really more than any audience can bear. Dominique Visse (Goffredo) has a reedy, whiny voice. Axel Köhler (Eustazio) does not have good volume. Christopher Robson (Mago cristiano, Donna, Araldo) has a pretty voice when he is within his rather limited range. There were too many points in which they had these countertenors go into their actual voices, the effect was unpleasant.

Deborah York was not horrible as Almirena. Her voice is pretty, like a little bird's. At times it was difficult to hear her over the orchestra. The best singer was Veronica Cangemi as Armida. Her volume was always good, but her voice is not beautiful. But as the villain, this is perhaps not the detriment it would be otherwise. She acted well.

The costumes were a bit random. Rinaldo wore suits with fedoras and trench coats, very simple. Almirena wore a fifties style dress, crusader armor that she stripped off to reveal a cheerleader outfit, some strapless short gown that was billowed up on the right side to make her look like she was in motion, and a corset with a tulle skirt. Armida wore an asymmetrical gold dress, then a jade colored silk outfit that looked vaguely mughal (she also wore a bindi with this). But her last outfit was most strange: she wore a huge gold mask, perhaps Southeast Asian in style; long golden claws; a gold corset; and a black poodle skirt with a gold dragon instead of the poodle.

Best of all, the sirens had frosting for hair. They looked a bit like cupcakes. Though the Mago cristiano wore stilts and a huge hat with many long spongy points.

The production was atrocious. The first scene had a larger than life-sized plastic Jesus statue, the last scene had innumerable small plastic Jesus statues lined up all across the stage. The worst was the giant plastic doll, one story tall. It was a school boy, wearing a blue hat, red tie, yellow sweater, red shorts, gray socks and black shoes. He had a spring for a neck and first appeared in Act II, scene iv. He just moved about the stage, and then his shorts fell down for some reason that is rather unclear to me. There was some tentative booing at this point.

There are many good arias in Rinaldo, but most of them seem to be in Act I. Act III is a mess, dramatically much happens, but there does not seem to be enough music to sustain this, the act is a mere 40 minutes long. The finale is brief, simply light and twinkling. As a whole, the opera did not have balance.


Aldenritorno1Bayerische Staatoper's production of Il Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria had almost no redeeming qualities. If they find Baroque operas so boring they shouldn't bother putting them on. It shows very little respect to be making Monteverdi's opera into a farce. It was so bad that even I could not sit through it twice, though I had a ticket for the performance on the 18th, the thought of going again made me feel ill.

David Alden's remarkable work included the return of the Chattering Teeth head, playboy bunnies, a gigantic projected raven, hot dogs, and the eating of a cat. If he had only stopped here, it would have been merely bad. The laughter that ensued after this must have been gratifying. I'm sure they were pleased to be able to use the Chattering Teeth head again in Siegfried.

Worse yet, the singers were made to tap dance and flamenco during the music, although the movements involved are both percussive and inappropriate for Monteverdi. It made me wish for the drunken staggering Alden has used in every other production of his I've seen, at least that is not loud. Also, some of the singers would punctuate their parts with stuttering or screaming, elements not found in the music.

It must have been difficult for the audience to focus on the singing, they talked and laughed quite a lot. Rodney Gilfry, who sang the title role, has an excellent voice, very rich and full. Vivica Genaux, as Penelope, was disappointing, the mezzo's voice is underdeveloped. She sounds light and young. Toby Spence (Telemaco) also sounded a bit young, but for his part it was appropriate.

I was unable to get a good feel for Monteverdi from this opera, as the production was distracting. The scene in which Odysseus kills the suitors had the most powerful music.

Es riß!

Aldengoetterdaemmerung5Last Friday the Bavarian State Opera concluded their first run of Der Ring des Nibelungen as a cycle. This production of Götterdämmerung premiered 28. February 2003, and it was tamer than Die Walküre or Siegfried. Still a lot of drunken staggering, and cigarette smoking.

Musically more compelling than Siegfried, Wagner brings his epic work to a close using elements not heard in the first previous parts, most notably, the use of a chorus. The contrast of this gives the chorus a great deal of power.

The singing was, again, all quite good. Stig Anderson's voice was as sweet as ever, his death scene was excellent as far as singing goes. Baritone Juha Uusitalo, who was Donner in Das Rheingold, was adequate as Gunther here. Bass Matti Salminen was fine as Hagen, his voice isn't exactly full, but the volume is good. Franz-Josef Kapellmann was again wonderful as Alberich, his voice very distinct from Salminen's. Gabriele Schnaut sang well enough as Brünnhilde, but I always felt worried for her, because her voice wobbles and has so much power it threatens to overwhelm her. Nancy Gustafson seemed fine as Gutrune, she was Freia in Das Rheingold. Her voice provokes neither like nor dislike in me, it is a tad cold. Marjana Lipovsek has more emotion in her voice, she did well as Waltraute, and she was Fricka in Das Rheingold and Die Walküre. The Rheintöchter were lovely again, mocking but otherworldly. Margarita De Arellano never seemed less shrill, and Ann-Katrin Naidu and Hana Minutillo both have incredible voices. The Norns were less impressive, but not bad.

The production did not make any departure from the usual fare of absurdness, though it was not quite as amusing for the audience. The basic set is a semicircular room. It starts off with a white, reflective floor and a white wall, a blue fluorescent light traces the edge of the wall in a half-circle. There is a chandalier with white fluorescent lights arranged vertically. The Norns are smoking on a couch covered with a sheet. They are dressed in pinstriped suits with vests and high heeled pumps. They are all wearing their hair in dark bobs with bangs. The third Norn is blind and wearing sunglasses, she staggers about. When the Loge music is played the three bring out lighters. Brünnhilde comes out during their music, she sits on the floor, downstage, a bit to the right, dressed in pajamas and a robe, drinking coffee. The floor slides open, mid-stage, a little to the left, and the Norns set out a desk, chair, and typewriter for Brünnhilde. They offer her cigars and coffee. One of the Norns is drinking, she staggers about drunken, naturally. There is a bed stage right, Siegfried is on it, in pajamas also, he and Brünnhilde sing, he changes into trousers, button down shirt, plaid sports coat, and fedora. Quite a change from Siegfried, in which he looks like an adolescent boy in modern times. The scene is changed by tuxedoed men. The Rheintöchter emerge from the floor with a model boat, a golden pirate ship with sails, they sail it about the room, dressed as they were in Das Rheingold.

Act I has some pillars emerging from a door upstage, a painting of a woman in falling out of bed stage right. Getrune huddles in the back, in a fur coat, hugging a teddy bear. Gunther is brought in in his bed. At some point he gets angry at Hagen and throws the bed over, Getrune jumps up and down on the bed. Siegfried emerges from the ground, the horse, Grane is the same dread-locked boy throughout the production, he throws streamers and confetti over Siegfried. Hagen takes him and ties him up by the pillars. Getrune coyly gives Siegfried the love potion, it makes him stagger around for the rest of the opera. The choreography for Getrune is childish, a lot of leg swinging, she's never actually sexy though, even though the character is wearing a little slip beneath her coat, and black stiletto boots. Siegfried and Gunther cut their hands over champagne glasses for the blood brother scene and when Siegfried leaves to fetch Brünnhilde, Hagen drags Grane from the back and throws him into the egress in the floor, where he and Getrune also exit.

Waltreute goes to see her sister Brünnhilde before Siegfried appears. This scene is fairly normal, though the characters never seem to be singing to one another. Waltreute is dressed as a soldier, with a long coat, and Brünnhilde is still in her pajamas.

After Waltreute departs, the fire that protects Brünnhilde is indicated by a line of fire, part of the floor, stage right, opens just a little bit and the fire spits out in a line. It dies down when Siegfried comes in, wearing a hockey mask which is supposed to be the Tarnhelm. His voice is a little muffled by it, which is unfortunate.

Act II starts off down stage, there is a carpet on the floor in red, there is a gray stone wall that hides the up stage. Hagen sits stage left. There is a painting the right of him, the one of a woman in white, falling out of bed, with a gnome sitting on her. This is Hagen's mother, Grimhild. Alberich, his father, is on the right, he has a human sized robotic white lab rat with him. As this scene progresses, Grimhild, played by the dancer Beate Vollack, emerges from behind the painting and dances around, eventually she brings out a knife and kills herself, falling to the ground. When the scene ends the gray wall lifts and Vollack brings the painting down on herself, crawling, she exits to the left. Alberich exits to the right, dragging the rat with him by the tail. It is the same semicircular room, but behind the white wall is a wallpapered one, the same wallpaper as seen in Mime's house and Sieglinde's house. The chandelier now has green lights. In the background is a huge comic book picture of a man who has killed a dragon with his sword, there are people rushing to meet him in the background. One of them comments, in English "How can you kill something that is already dead" and the title is "The Conquerer." Siegfried enters the scene by jumping out behind the picture and tumbling to the floor. Gutrune enters stage right, but first she throws her purse out, then one of her boots. She is neatly coifed and is wearing a blue suit with skirt. The male chorus comes out all wearing tuxedos and viking accouterments, they put on helmets with horns and so forth, and have shields and spears. Tuxedoed men come out with folding tables and orange plastic chairs. They set up a rostrum, and later, a dining hall. The female chorus is dressed in mid-calf length dresses circa 1960-70, holding champagne glasses, posing here and there. The male chorus passed around cans of Löwenbräu. Gutrune reemerges in a wedding gown of satin. Brünnhilde is brought out in her bed, with briefcase and papers, but still in pajamas. Siegfried wears a ruffled tuxedo shirt, and dinner jacket with sequins. When Hagen wishes to convince Brünnhilde to tell him Siegfried's weakness, he gets into bed with her, but not in a lewd way. Gunther hands Brünnhilde the teddy bear, whose head she rips off. Siegfried and Gutrune come back in and Brünnhilde kisses their cheeks, the three join arms with Hagen and Gunther and they make a ring, dancing around.

Act III has the floor back to being white and reflective, the white wall is gone, only the wallpaper remains. There are fish trophies on the wall, a pinball machine center up stage, and a table football game to the left and a pink refrigerator to the left. The chandelier now has gold lights. The Rheintöchter emerge from the floor. They are dressed as housewives, kerchiefs around the heads, they throw plastic fish out of their clothes. Their hair is now bobbed and black with bangs, while before one was redheaded, another dark, the last blond. They change on stage, two of the maidens have their sequined dresses on underneath, another is only wearing a swim suit, but she puts on her dress as well. Siegfried comes looking for a bear and he is wearing a hunting vest over his regular clothes. They disappear for a bit and reemerge, one from the left, another from the right, and the another from the center, and they are wearing the pinstriped suits now, like the Norns.

Siegfried finds the hunting party, which consists of the male chorus, Gunther, and Hagen. The chorus is dressed in lederhosen for the most part. They bring in dead animals, pose with them, have their picture taken. Siegfried is killed with spear, Hagen dumps him into the refrigerator where he sings as he dies. Hagen kills Gunther with a gun, the noise of it going off was quite unpleasant. Brünnhilde kills herself by slashing her wrists, and then sitting just left of center down stage, in the lotus position. Her horse comes out when she calls him, he sits to the left. Hagen shoots himself with the gun, instead of drowning in the Rhein. The wallpaper comes down, and a platform comes down, it has several human sized white lab rats on it, and in the back, the theater from Das Rheingold reappears, Walhalla on the chairs, burning.

Other notes, petty:
The young couple in front of me, as I've mentioned, talked a lot during Das Rheingold, in which the male half of the couple left in the beginning of the fourth scene, and to my great amusement, was not allowed back in. The female brought another girl friend for Die Walküre and they were silent. But during Siegfried, the male was back, and they talked more than ever. During Götterdammerung, they barely had a whisper between them, I have no idea why. In Act III, the boy fell asleep for at least thirty minutes, he slept though extremely loud music. The older couple to their left was also noisy, mostly because they couldn't stop laughing at everything.

Hoiho! Hoiho!

Aldensiegfried3Yesterday the Bavarian State Opera continued the Ring Cycle with Siegfried. David Alden premiered his production last November, and it was along the same lines as Die Walküre, so at least there was some continuity between the two. The only threads that tie Das Rheingold to the two others so far are the proscenia that we are meant to be looking at from back stage and the use of drunken staggering around as a choreographic device.

I was less impressed with the music of Siegfried than of the previous two parts, though I still found it to be both lovely and moving. Wagner's deft use of percussion was absolutely apparent throughout. Unfortunately, the production was not respectful, they had Siegfried play some of the percussion, using a piece of metal on a decrepit automobile. This could have been fine, one supposes, if the singer in question didn't look utterly tentative in his attempts. He wasn't the best percussionist, which isn't surprising, since he's a tenor, after all. Secondly, there was a horn part of Act II Scene II, that sounded like it was being played on a toy, horribly out of tune and out of place. Perhaps this is in the score, but from what I can tell in the instrumentation, it was supposed to be either a French or English horn.

Tenor Stig Andersen sang the title part fairly well, his voice is very pretty, but, as is the tendency with tenors, he is a bit quiet, especially compared to John Tomlinson or Gabriele Schnaut. The other tenor, Helmut Pampuch as Mime, was likewise quiet, but less pretty, which was perfect because they sang together a great deal and this made them very clearly distinct.

John Tomlinson (Wotan disguised as a wanderer) and Franz-Josef Kapellmann (Alberich) were the most outstanding, both having powerful, rich voices. Bass Kurt Rydl made little impression as Fafner, his voice came out of a speaker for part of his performance, and the rest of it was sung from a hospital bed. The contralto Anna Larsson was more impressive than in Das Rheingold, less strained. Soprano Gabriele Schnaut's performance as Brünnhilde was more impassioned than in Die Walküre. Her voice has power and volume, but her control is not secure. It is also not a sweet sort of voice at all. Incidentally, she switched from singing mezzo-soprano parts to singing dramatic soprano parts in 1985. Margarita De Arellano sang the part of Waldvogel, and her voice, at times, was celestial. Other times she can be quite shrill.

Act I starts with Mime forging a sword, but this production has him sleeping on the linoleum of a dirty kitchen stage left, moving about to the overture in his sleep. On the wall is a calendar with days crossed off in red. Above him is a loft, decorated to look like an adolescent boy's room, complete with video game posters and graffiti. Stage right is a lowered area, the living room with couch and television.

The bear that Siegfried brings to scare Mime is in a cabinet in the kitchen, the door slides up to reveal him at the appropriate time. He looks like something out of a cartoon, made of fiberglass perhaps. Every time someone uses the cabinet to go up the stairs to the loft, the bear is still there.

Mime puts on pink pumps, a pink apron with stuffed chest, and a pink cardigan with pink fur or feather trim. He vacuums and cooks a cat in the oven, which he burns, naturally.

During this scene, many inexplicable things happen, there is a screen lowered that has a pair of feet in releve painted in gray, the television explodes, Siegfried writes in chalk on the walls spelling "Nothung" and "Sieglinde" incorrectly. Finally, Siegfried goes off on a bicycle, commanding Mime to reforge Nothung. The wanderer comes in through the floor. When Mime questions him, the wanderer puts on a cone-shaped hat with a question mark on it, and sits in a chair center stage. Projected above him is the number one, which turns into a question mark, and then an explanation point when he answers. This continues, one, two, three, and then again when Mime has to answer questions posed him.

Siegfried returns, he reforges the sword in the garage revealed up stage near the center. The forging occurs in the engine of a decrepit car. At some point, a toilet appears stage right, which Siegfried uses to urinate in and to cool off Nothung. The Münchners thought this was hilariously funny, especially since Nothung, at this point, was just a few scrapes of awkwardly welded metal pieces, clearly not a sword at all. It is during this part that Siegfried is made to do some of the percussion, and the rhythm was a bit off.

With Nothung remade, Mime puts on a trench coat and spiked helmet over his pink ensemble and they go off to find Fafner.

Act II starts down stage, a metal wall screens the up stage. There is the calendar again, but ten times as big. There are two rows of orange plastic chairs facing the audience. Alberich crosses off the days with huge red marks. The wanderer comes in stage left, walking on the back row of chairs. Alberich pulls down a lamp and does various thing stage right that I could not see. On the calendar is a painting of a lion with prey in his mouth, this painting lifts up to show a screen, on which Fafner is revealed in black and white footage of an obese man in his underwear, counting money. His voice comes out of a speaker which is above, to the left. The speaker is illuminated as he sings.

The painting is lowered, but then lifted again to reveal a room, with cut out versions of the lion and prey, and of the various trees and grasses in the painting. From here Mime and Siegfried sing, until they climb done a ladder, the screen lifts, the chairs go left and there are a bunch of eggs, in various sizes. One of the eggs has a yellow tutu, female legs, and red stilettos. She starts on the ground but is soon dancing all over the place. Then there was an egg with gigantic feet that walked all around. Then an egg was suspended from above, two doors on either side of the egg swung open, and two huge wings popped out and flapped repeatedly. Then a person in a suit with dentures for a head came out with another egg, from which a bird with an axe is born. A nurse wanders in, and a surgeon. Then one huge egg just left from center cracks open, something in it inflates, and it is the head of an elderly lady.

The nurse brings in a hospital bed with Fafner in it, some blood hanging in a bag to his left. Siegfried does not attack him with Nothung at all, he simply dies of a heart attack, and Siegfried drinks blood out of the bag, the motivation for this being rather unclear. The Waldvogel comes out of one of the eggs, and she is dressed in a short pink sequined dress, black feathers at the neckline, black feathers in her hair, black stiletto heels. Siegfried goes into a man hole, the ersatz cave. The surgeon ends up being Alberich, the nurse is Mime. They dump Fafner out of the hospital bed and sit on it, as they sing. Siegfried emerges from the hole wearing a gold motorcycle jacket with fringe and rhinestones, alone with the ring and the Tarnhelm. Mime pours champagne, which the Waldvogel drinks two glasses of, she falls over drunk. Margarita De Arellano did this extremely well. Siegfried actually does kill Mime with Nothung this time, he gets down stage and the metal screen comes down. It is obvious that the calendar painting will lift and the Waldvogel will beckon Siegfried back into the painting. This is exactly what happens, though Wotan does appear, trying to prop up the drunken Waldvogel, which is not appreciated by her at all.

Act III starts in a room with a black floor slanted down to the left, black curtains all around. The couch appears from under the curtains, Wotan sings to wake Erda, and she appears from behind the couch, dressed in a short black slip and a leopard print jacket. They put Anna Larsson in very low heels, even without them she was taller than anyone else, a whole head taller than Zubin Mehta when they came out to bow at the end. She sits on the couch and smokes when she is not singing.

After she leaves, the Waldvogel comes out throw the curtains, sits on the couch, but is scared away by Wotan. Siegfried appears after her, he puts up a no smoking sign, pulls out a strip of white material from behind the curtain and makes a line perpendicular to the audience. His jacket starts flashing, the rhinestones are actually Christmas lights. A traffic signal lowers, flashing red, yellow, and green. Siegfried destroys Wotan's staff, and the curtains open to reveal a highway, the white strip extends to the back and is the center divider. There is a convertible crashed into the ground on the left side. The man on fire is there, he walks around as he did in Die Walküre. Neither Brünnhilde nor Siegfried are on stage. Siegfried enters from the back, climbing up onto the highway. He sings to no one at all. When he is supposed to be taking off her shield and helm, neither are there. Though Grane, the horse, has appeared in the background, and he lies down by the car.

Finally Brünnhilde appears down stage right, when she has to sing. She is in a suit and heels, her trench coat in hand. Siegfried and Brünnhilde never seem to be at the same part of the stage, while Siegfried sings Brünnhilde gets into the car and out of it, smokes with her horse, who is a man with a huge mane and bridle, the same one who pushed around her desk in Die Walküre, though he lacks his wings.

Near the very end, Brünnhilde takes off her clothes as she sings, her shoes first, then coat, trousers, vest, and shirt. Thankfully, she is wearing a long black shift. At the end, she and Siegfried run together up stage and jump off holding hands.

There was no booing this time, presumably because it was not a premiere. The applause was hesitant until the singers would come out, and then it was quite enthused. The audience particularly adores Zubin Mehta.

Other notes, not important, but amusing:
The man standing next to me found it impossible to stay still. He repeatedly turned towards me and stared, made flourishes with his hand to the music, and occasionally would simply go stand in the aisle, which would be fine, except that a lady was standing just at the aisle, he was not at the end. His date found a seat in front of this lady, and occasionally would stand up if she could not see exactly what was going on. She was well over 185 centimeters tall, and she did not have the good sense to hold on to her seat so it didn't make a horrible sound as it snapped up. Last week she wore a pink t-shirt with the words "I am so bourgeois" in English. Very true. The people just in front of me talked repeatedly, even though I hushed them each time I found them too loud, as I did for Das Rheingold as well.

Hojotoho! Heiahaha!

Aldenwalkuere1David Alden's new production of Die Walküre premiered yesterday afternoon at the Bavarian State Opera. Musically, the performance was excellent, Zubin Mehta conducted well, as usual, and the singing was good. Tenor Peter Seiffert and soprano Waltraud Meier were outstanding as the Wälsungen, so the first act was stunning. Bass-baritone John Tomlinson was once again impressive as Wotan, his voice is powerful, warm, and beautiful. Significantly less affecting was soprano Gabriele Schnaut as Brünnhilde, she seemed to have difficulty singing while doing the choreography. Her voice, though sufficiently loud, had a little catch to it, and at times it sounded like it could shatter at any moment.

The production seemed to have a few major themes, these being: throwing objects or humans whenever possible, walls with strange magnetic properties that attract human bodies, inappropriate response to stimuli, domestic violence, and war. Act I starts us off in a room down stage, the floor is linoleum tile, the walls are flowered wallpaper, there is a hot pink refrigerator in the stage left corner, the rest of the furniture includes vinyl covered metal chairs and a kitchen table. Sieglinde, dressed as a house wife circa 1940, is sitting on a chair in the center. Siegmund enters from the left, wearing a black leather trench-coat. Sieglinde brings him water and mead from the lovely pink fridge, which of course, makes the audience titter. Hunding comes in and turns on the lights, including a kitschy illuminated depiction of a watery paradise. The act more or less precedes in this manner, the outside is revealed by the wall itself crumbling so that there is a human sized hole in it. The Wälsungen run off together, the wall gives way and swings open, Siegmund picks Sieglinde up and pushes her against the wall as they precede to maniacally dry hump each other. Lovely. This is followed by a 50 minute intermission as they set up for the next act.

Act II uses the same walls stripped of their wallpaper. Brünnhilde is dressed as Der Blaue Engel era Dietrich, and has a whip. She is standing at the top of the wall, as a bunch of soldier corpses move synchronically to her whip cracking. To her left is an oversized model of a camouflage-painted war plane. Eventually she comes down to earth where Wotan is, and this is when it starts to get actually bad. Brünnhilde does absurd movements with her top hat as a prop to the music. It is as if she has either Tourette's syndrome or Huntington's Disease, although the movements are timed to the music, they do not make any sense with them. Utter mockery. Her horse is a metal desk which is pushed about by a dark winged figure. Fricka is a well-dressed lady with a grey fox over one shoulder. She, of course, hurls it at the ground, along with her purse, as she tries to convince Wotan to let her punish Siegmund. There is wrestling and rolling on the ground between the two. When the scene finally changes Siegmund and Sieglinde gingerly move across something meant to look like a dilapidated several-story apartment complex, complete with an abandoned blue tiled bathroom and sorry-looking toilet. Sieglinde carefully collapses against the wall, again, and the scenery moves all about. Brünnhilde appears and heroes wearing gas masks come out bringing black leather armchairs which they sit in as they read newspapers. At some point they lean over the chairs and make suggestive hip thrusts for no apparent reason. Hunding, Wotan, and Fricka appear, Siegmund is killed, Brünnhilde defiantly strips herself of coat, hat, and gloves and sits in a chair facing her father. Hunding is killed, Wotan threatens Brünnhilde from his armchair across from her, the act ends, there is a significant amount of booing from the audience. I was shocked, since the audience is usually extremely excited about applauding. But when the singers came out, they were applauded as usual. This is followed by an hour long intermission as they set up for the final act. During the intermission, I gather that the audience did not mind first act's staging, but the second act was too much.

Act III has a huge fan suspended from above, which rotates throughout the rest of the performance. There are the walls again, some of the Walküren are up on top of the wall, some are below in an office area with many metal desks. They are dressed as soldiers, in gray wool with little gray hats. They have air traffic controller torches and at some point they use them to tell the audience, or perhaps Wagner, to fuck off. Then they take out white vinyl aprons with red crosses emblazoned on them and nurse hats, they change into red pumps. For the rest of the act they will dance about in a flippant and inappropriate manner. The war plane from Act II flies down to earth, and Wotan appears, filled with wrath. Brünnhilde is punished, and Wotan conjures up fire, which appears in the guise of a man in a fire proof suit, set afire. The dark winged figure rolls Brünnhilde away on a metal desk. The music ends and it is completely silent for a whole 30 seconds before a chorus of booing commences. The singers come out, and there is applause, the conductor comes out, the whole orchestra appears on stage, and the applause is thunderous. As soon as David Alden and his ilk come out, there is loud booing, countered with some polite applause and a group of 2 or 3 folks screaming "Bravo" over and over. The people on stage just continue bowing, flowers are brought out for the female singers.

The audience was more well-behaved than usual, there was less chatter. But, naturally, a cell-phone rang, though quite far from me.