In wagner’s cabinet of wax figures

"Why frau grimhild alberich was granted illegitimate favors" here is a witty essay by eckhard henscheid, which first appeared in print in 1995. Five years later, jurgen flimm’s "ring" appeared on the scene-staging for the first time in bayreuth hagen as a child, which was soon taken up in inflationary fashion on stages up and down the country.

And now – finally? – one may also witness his witnessing in wurzburg. It’s all about – nothing works in opera without #metoo balancing! – obviously not for grimhild’s favor, but for rape. The fact that the victim is the mother of hagen, gunther and gutrune is made clear to all those who neither know wagner’s works in detail nor have looked at the program booklet, at best towards the end, when in the final confusion hagen meets grimhild, kneels before her and nestles his head against her thrust.

Painted child

But that is already the highest of feelings in terms of the scenery. In his focus on the bosewicht vom dienst and his richly illustrated childhood trauma, director tomo sugao unfortunately overlooked the fact that the main characters of the "gotterdammerung" brunnhilde and siegfried are.

They are not lost in his concept, but nevertheless they are lost, because they are always only art figures and do not inspire empathy in the viewer.

A contemporary, garishly overdrawn world of gibichungs is shown, in which the double hagen – he is present as an adult and as a child repeatedly maltreated by alberich – seems to be the only normalo. All the non-gibiches are literally museum pieces and come from a kind of grammatically gray wagner wax figure cabinet, in which things can get pretty rough. Not only the protagonists and central requisites envisaged by the composer are exhibited, but also almost all the characters who appear in the "ring"-four-part cast: some of them can be seen rotating on the revolving stage, others emerge from the vitrines and join in the fun: wotan is there, even the weltesche, the rhein daughter with her gold ingot, fafner, siegfried with nothung and brunnhilde, whose rock platform is dominated by the fallen horse grane.

Flood of images

Thanks to considerable financial injections by the herbert hillmann and margot muller foundation and the richard-wagner-verband wurzburg, the set designers paul zoller (stage) and carola volles (costume) were able to make full use of their resources: even the stage curtain plays along and is unfortunately raised and lowered far too often by the three norns, while the curtain of the gibichungen auditorium goes up and down again too often, but without any visible helping personnel. The flood of images wears off and culminates predictably in the 3. Nude, when little siegfried is haunted by.

To ensure that no generational conflict is left out, siegfried’s life world, including his parents and prehistory, is also presented in quick succession to the funeral music.

Yes, there’s a lot going on, but unfortunately it leaves you pretty cold! The only stirring for me was the final song of brunnhilden by elena batoukova-kerl, who was able to emancipate herself from the given, all too defensible walkuren cliche through her sanguine expressiveness.

Paul mcnamara as siegfried has a fine and secure tenor voice, but the director has not succeeded in giving him a heroic stature in terms of acting as well. Or did he want to use this figure to emphasize that everything is just an assertion?? Sangerdarstellerisch all around convincing is guido jentjens as hagen with magic gesture in the alberich scene, also the other soloists – all role debutants – and the chorus rehearsed by anton tremmel do their thing well.

Special sound colors

Contrary to the logic of the tetralogy, the new "ring" has in the mainfranken theater, not the evening before, but the last part began. And one more special feature: not the coburg version, which is common for smaller houses, is performed, but the arrangement for solo, choir and medium orchestra by eberhard kloke, who was general music director in nurnberg in the 1990s.

His version saves a quarter of the brass and half of the strings, but keeps the instruments necessary for special timbres such as wagner tuba, bass trumpet, contrabass trombone and bullhorn. In addition, there were instruments that wagner did not yet use or could not use. The sound is sharpened and seems darker, more bass-heavy, more strident, the instrumental balance is shifted horribly in favor of the strings, which for my taste unfortunately serves too much of the wagnerian heavy metal drawer.

At the premiere on saturday, the musicians of the wurzburg philharmonic orchestra under enrico calesso were perhaps still too nervous to master the performance with aplomb. Nevertheless rough applause and only few boos for the direction team.


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