Saturday, August 22, 2015

Castorf Ring: Das Rheingold

My first opera at Bayreuth! I am mostly going to give the bullet-points version here, because I am going to be doing a Letter from Bayreuth for SFCV, filling in any gaps here on the blog. For the Ring, I am nearly dead center in the sixth (6th) row; the view is great and the sound definitely is different from other houses. Wish I knew 1) whether the anvils are live 2) how many harps there were in the pit. May have my editors ask about these things.
You know how you're always told to bring a cushion because of the notorious wooden seats? Well, what I need most is a foot rest. My feet dangle a couple of inches above the floor; my butt is reasonably happy with the firm surface (there IS a cushion on the seat, thin, but there) and my back is okay with the wooden seat back.
- Huge amount of stage activity; extremely detailed theatrical working out, all in character as the characters are presented, which is not a complete picture of any of the characters (they are all thugs or floozies, it seems), but dramatically consistent for each character.
- Unusual use of live video, with cameramen visible on stage much of the time, to project either closeups of the main action or to show action off the main dramatic focal point (most of it made up - implied by the characters you see on stage but not action you will find in the libretto)
- Outstanding singing from everybody. No complaints. Claudia Mahnke, heard a few times long ago in SF, gorgeous as Fricka, can't wait until tomorrow when she has a lot more to do. Wolfgang Koch excellent as Wotan, King Thug of the gods. Nadine Weissman, magnificent contralto as Erda. SF Opera, you should hire her. Yes, I am happy to play talent scout for you.
- The sound IS something different and special. The house is small enough that I can hear the singers' voices bouncing around (good), undoubtedly a function of the size (1900 seats), construction (all wood - including the floor), the cowl between the audience and the pit, and the location of the orchestra (mostly under the stage). Also the way the seats fan out in the hall.
- Kirill Petrenko, recently appointed chief conductor designate of the Berlin Phil, seriously at sea, and this is his third time with the Ring at Bayreuth: any individual 30 seconds sounded beautiful, but very fast and weirdly boneless conducting, with almost nothing made of most of the big moments and little sense of the structure or shape of the piece. Wot?
(Fixed the formatting problems, yay!)


Anonymous said...

"any individual 30 seconds sounded beautiful, but ..."

This is also why 30 second preview clips are completely useless for judging the quality of a recording of any music that's both long and spaciously paced: not just Wagner, but Bruckner, Mahler, Strauss, even some works of Beethoven or Schubert.

Daniel Wolf said...

One small question, Lisa: was the sound coming out of the pit too mixed to be directional or were you able to hear the motion of Rhine, from the audience's right to left (right thus being South, so that we're looking East), as orchestrated?

Lisa Hirsch said...

From where I was sitting - sixth row for the Ring - the sound was too mixed and I could not hear any right to left movement during the prelude.