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Munich Opera Festival 2012

10 July 2012

Report for The Munich-Opera-Festival 2012



This Year-of-Our-Lord, 2012, the Ancient-City of Monaco was 850-Years-Old!

No, we€re not talking about the Adopted-Home & Throne of the Late & Much-Beloved Princess Grace

The City-of-Munich€which was founded 850-years-ago by Beer-Brewing-Monks€was originally named Monaco, which is Latin/Italian for Monks.

Among those Beer-Loving-Servants-of-God were such Holy-Orders as The Franciscaners, The Paulaners, The Benediktiners, The Augustiners, & The Dominikaners

As for that Worldwide-Favorite, Löwenbräu, there was neither then nor is there now a Holy-Order of Lion-Monks.

Nor were the Sisters-of-Mercy nor the Carmelite-Nuns very much into Brewing

On the 800th-Anniversary, Your Roving Arts-Reporter was among the Thousands of Native-Münchners who thronged the Ludwigstrasse & the Maximilianstrasse€to watch the Faschings-Parade of Lavish-Floats, celebrating the Long, Long History of the Bavarian-Capital.

In German-Speaking Roman-Catholic-Countries, Fasching is very much like New Orleans€ Mardi-Gras

Right up to the Rigorous-Religious-Horrors of Ash-Wednesday€when All-Good-Things & All-Good-Times must come to a Full-Stop [Lent & Re-Lent] waiting for the Catastrophe of Jesus€-Crucifixion & the Miracle of His-Rising-from-the-DeadFaschings-Gesellschaften, or Societies, have Great-Good-Times, climaxed by the Annual-Parades.

The Fasching-Floats are usually Elaborate & Celebratory, but they often also are Parodic, making lusty Visual-Fun of Politicians & Public-Morés.

Munich€s famed National-Theater, destroyed by Allied-Bombing-Raids€which left the Heart-of-Munich some 90-Percent-Rubble-&-Ashes€had then yet to be rebuilt.

So one Float€whose Sponsors were probably Beer-Swilling-Tax-Payers who didn€t want to spend Millions of Deutsche-Marks on a Cultural-Facility that they would never enter€made Hilarious-Mock of the Bavarian-Elitists who were so eager for the 1963-Reopening of the National-Theatre, with the beloved American-Opera-Singers, Jess Thomas & Claire Watson, who effectually became King & Queen of the Bavarian-State-Opera.

Today, the National-Theatre is the Major-Venue of the Bavarian-State-Opera & its Annual-Opera-Festival.

So now Everyone has something to be Thankful-For, with the Reconstruction. We Bombed It: They Fixed It!

Even Local-Opera-Haters profit from the Tourist-Trade that€s generated by Bavarian-State-Kultur!

This was the Summer of Infrastructure-Repair in Munich.

Although the Sides of Tour-Busses advertised Hairspray & Avenue Q as Potential-Attractions at the Deutsches-Theater, its Auditorium was, in fact, filled with Scaffolding

Not only was the Gärtnerplatz-Theater€the Bavarian-Capital€s Second-Tier-Opera-house€closed for Renovations, but the Pinakothek-der-Moderne, Munich€s MoMA, had developed Serious-Cracks in its Walls, so that all the Contemporary-Art-Treasures had to find other Venues for flaunting their Notoriety.

Munich€s many Museums, nonetheless, had a wide-variety of Interesting-Exhibitions on-display.

Among the most Notable were those at the newly Digitally-Interactive Stadtmuseum-am-Jacobi-Platz.

Its amazing Collection of Musical-Instruments€not only from All-Over-the-World, but also from Four-Centuries-or-more€provided visitors the opportunity to find out how some of these actually Sound when Played!

The History of the Food-Market was celebrated, as were the Lives & Customs of Münchners over the Generations.

Munich also has important State-Museums€in addition to the Structurally-Unsound Pinakothek-der-Moderne€there are also the Alte-Pinakothek, the Neue-Pinakothek , the Palais-Pinakothek, the Glypotothek, the Staatliche-Antiken-Sammlung, the Lenbach-Haus, the Museum-Brandhorst, the Sammlung-Schack, the National-Museum, the Natural-History-Museum, & the Science-&-Industry-Oriented Deutsches-Museum

Even the great Staatsbibliothek was showcasing Carl Orff€s Worldwide-Hit, CARMINA BURANA, which was itself enjoying a 75th-Anniversary: Music-Manuscripts, Production-Photos, Record-Jackets for all the Shellacs-&-Vinyls made of this remarkable Medieval-Oratorio.

Being a Longtime-Admirer & later, a Friend of Professor Orff€he enthusiastically-endorsed My-Efforts to get his Astutuli & Die Bernauerin translated into American-English & produced in the United-
States€Scott Bennett & I dropped-by the Orff-Institute in Munich to say Hello to its Chief, Dr. Thomas Rosch.

[Very soon, my Carl Orff Source-Book will be on-line on the Glenn-Loney-Bookshelf, one of the varied-features of€]

But this year was also the 75th-Anniversary of the Opening of Adolf Hitler€s Haus-der-Deutschen-Kunst, designed by Prof. Paul Ludwig Troost.

The Purpose of this new Temple-of-Aryan-Art was to celebrate the Paintings & Sculptures of Approved-Artists such as Arno Breker & Adolf Ziegler€who had captured Der Führer€s fancy with his almost-chaste Art-Deco-Nudes.

In his Opening-Festrede, Hitler denounced what he called International or Cosmopolitan-Art, which were really Code-Words for the Distortions & Abstractions that such Moderns as Picasso & Kandinsky had foisted on an Innocent-German-Public.

Like that Other-Major-European-Dictator, Joseph Stalin, Hitler preferred the kind of "Socialist-Realism€ that both accurately-depicted & honestly-honored the Work & Dedication of German-Farmers, German-Autobahn-Builders, German-Factory-Workers, Heroic-German-Soldiers, & Fertile-German-Mothers

At the same time, the Nazis opened the Infamous-Exhibition of Entartete-Kunst, in the Glas-Palast€which was destroyed in World-War-II.

Teaching in Post-War-West-Germany, Your Arts-Reporter was able to acquire the Official-Catalogue of the Haus-der-Deutschen-Kunst-Austellung. In a Junk-Shop, actually€

There was No-Catalogue for the Degenerate-Art-Modernities, because both Hitler & Propaganda-Minister Goebbels did not want anyone to have a Visual-Memory of what had been removed from Major-Museums to be Destroyed€ Or Sold-at-Auction in Switzerland.

Now€after Decades-of-Neglect€the Bavarian-State has spent Millions to Restore this Fascist-Art-Deco-Architecture to something like its Original-Interior. Only with Doubled-Exhibition-Space!

The Exterior was never compromised, although after the End-of-the-War, American-Officers did use the Kunst-Haus for their Officers-Club

Now, it is under the Supervision of the Distinguished Nigerian-Yoruba Curator, Okwui Enwezor, who first came to Prominence as the Chief of Documenta in Kassel.

Although the Big-News this July was the New RING at the Bavarian-State-Opera, Friday-the-13th saw hordes of Beer-Trucks setting-up-shop in the Marienplatz€in front of the Neo-Gothic-Rathaus€to help some [estimated] 30,000 Schwulen celebrate Christopher-Street!

One Leading-Newspaper asked: "Is Munich the Gayest-City in Germany?€

Way back in 1933, Gays began to fear-for-their-lives, as Adolf Hitler initiated his Incarceration-&-Extermination-Program at Dachau, to rid the German-Reich of any Effeminate-Aryans.

How Times-Have-Changed!

Your Roving-Arts-Reporter saw some really Tough-Looking-Dykes on the Marienplatz



There once was a Time when every Opera-House & City-Theatre in West-Germany had to have its very own productions of Richard Wagner€s RING-Cycle in its Repertory.

Even then, back in the 1950s, there weren€t enough Wagnerian-Helden-Tenors to go-around.

Not to mention Memorable-Brünnhildes

Today, the Casting-Problems are even worse, as Opera-Houses-around-the-World have to have their own RINGS.

In 2012€unlike at Manhattan€s Met-Opera, with its disastrously-clanking Robert Lepage RING€the Bavarian-State-Opera is fortunate to have assembled an Outstanding-Cast for its New RING.

Unlike Bayreuth€where each New RING has to premiere Four-Operas in-sequence in Opening-Week€in Munich, it has been possible to unveil them one-at-a-time, beginning back in February, with Das Rheingold.

What that meant, however, was that Siegfried & Götterdämmerung did not complete the New-Cycle until this Summer.

What that meant was that Your Roving-Arts-Reporter was only able to see the First-Two-Operas in the Cycle, so great was the Demand€not only from Major-Music-Critics, but also from Perfect-Wagnerites€to see the RING entire.

Fortunately, this RING will be repeated Next-Summer, so my Hopes-Are-High for seeing it Complete!

Even with some Memorable-Scenic-Moments in the Unusual-Staging of Andreas Kriegenburg, there are some Peculiar-Decisions that work against both the Text & the Score.

Finally, these do not really matter so much, for the splendid Staatsoper-Orchester€under the Magisterial-Baton of Maestro & General-Music-Director Kent Nagano€makes Wagner€s Score truly Soar.

The Brilliant-Voices & Mimetic-Talents of the Outstanding-Cast are even more Effective in bringing this ancient Nordic-Myth to a kind of Super-Human-Life.

What was, for me, even more Rivetingly-Effective was watching & listening to the Actor/Singers, while also reading Wagner€s German-Texts, projected above the Stage-Picture.

Yes, of course, One Knows-What-Happens; One knows, more or less, what Wotan, Loge, & Fafner are singing.

But few in the Audience€including the Critics€have the Libretto completely Memorized

So, to see the Actual-German-Words of Wagner€s Poetic-Texts projected above the Action gives New-Meaning & Immediacy to the Humanity of the Mythic.

Projected English or French Super-Text-Translations do not work quite the same way as Wagner€s own unique Germanisms, with his fondness for Alliterations of Consonants in Short, Sharp, Single-Syllable-Words: often with a string of G G G Gs€

These have a Peculiar-Power, especially when barked-out in Ecstasy or Agony.

Although Wotan€the excellent Johan Reuter€is the Valhalla-Building God-Father, it is the Wickedly-Seductive Red-Suited Fire-God, Loge, [Stefan Margita] who is the Real-Star of this new Rheingold.

He knowingly helps bring the Gods forward to their Doom: Wotan is not a Bail-Outable, Golden-Parachute-Deserving CEO!

Also admirable in Character & Performance are the Fricka of Sophie Koch, the Alberich of Wolfgang Koch, & the Fafner of Phillip Ens.

Decades ago at Bayreuth, the late Goetz Friedrich was the first Regisseur to stage a Wagner-Overture.

Traditionally, the great gray Curtain remained closed, as the Audience gradually drifted into the Leitmotived-World of Tristan or Tannhäuser.

Friedrich changed all that, although his Actor/Singers didn€t have any Text to act or to sing during the Overtures.

Andreas Kriegenburg has exceeded Goetz: He even stages imaginary No-Music, No-Text-Action before the Overture even begins. Wagner might not have Been-Amused.

When the Audience enters the lavishly Neo-Baroque-Auditorium of the National-Theater, a gaggle of White-Clad Young-People seem to be having a Picnic-Outing on-stage.

Then they shed their Gym-Clothes & smear Blue-Paint all over their Effectively-Naked-Bodies.

I thought at first of Old-Saxon-Warriors, covering their Bodies with Wode, but No!

When all these Supers or Extras lay down on the Stage & began to ripple & surge, it was clear that they were the Waves of the River-Rhine.

In the midst of which the Three Rhein-Tochters suddenly appeared to tease & taunt the Sex-Starved-Niebelung, Alberich.

Silly Girls! That€s just the way to Lose-Your-Precious-Rheingold!

Unwise Wotan, meanwhile, has contracted the Giants, Fafner & Fasolt, to construct Valhalla, not only as an Impregnable-Home for the Gods, but also as a kind of Army-Reserve-Armory for Dead-Heroes€who will defend the Gods when Push-Comes-To-Shove

Kriegenburg€s Valhalla-Visual is a simple projection of a Dentellated-Line, such as a Child might draw in a Montessori-School.

Actually, Kriegenburg€s Stage-Space is, in effect, Peter Brook€s fabled Empty-Space.

It is a Giant-White-Box, whose Floor can slant-upward, with its Ceiling sloping-downward

He & his Scenic-Designer, Harald B. Thor€who sounds like a worthy Inmate of Valhalla€even favor Projected-Texts on the Slanted-Floor, to help the Narrative along€

Understandably Demanding-Payment for their Construction-Work, the Giants appear before the Gods, sitting atop Great-Cubes of what appear to be Compressed-Rhine-Ripple-People.

At first, Fafner & Fasolt seem just Ordinary-Men, but soon great Cloaks-on-Poles€like Japanese Bunraku-Puppets€cover their Ordinary-Bodies, making them seem Immense.

Then, Immense Legs & Feet are added: an Overwhelming-Effect!

Wotan, of course, has lost his American-Express-Card, so the Giants demand Fricka€s Sister, Freia, as a Hostage, until Wotan produces Cash-on-the-Barrel-Head!

Lacking Freia€s Golden-Apples€which keep the Gods Ever-Young€they rapidly Age, resulting in some rather Tiresome-Acting on the Vast-Empty-Stage.

Loge leads Wotan down into the Flame-Enriched-Environs of Niebelheim, where an Upstage-Panorama of Dwarf-Slave-Drudges drags along at Upper-Middle-Height.

When one of them falters, he is unceremoniously-dumped into a Rectangular-Slot€one on each side of the stage€where a Burst-of-Real-Flame indicates Instant-Cremation.

Open-Flames on-stage can be very Tricky-to-Manage, but Kriegenburg even has Alberich use the Tarnhelm to transform himself into a Long, Flaming-Snake, born aloft.

[In Die Walküre, the Burning-Serpent even becomes the Ring of Magic-Fire with which Wotan imprisons the Disobedient-Brünnhilde€]

The Tarnhelmian-Transformations are achieved by having Supers€equipped with Banks of Blinding-Headlights€turn them full-force on the Audience.

The Laughingly-Malicious-Loge & the Cash-Hungry-Wotan could give Lessons to US-Army-Interrogators in Guantanamo & Abu-Ghraib!

They run Wotan€s Spear up Alberich€s Right-Sleeve, inside the Back of his Coat, & out the Left-Sleeve.

He is Virtually-Crucified, as they brutally push & pull him about€

Later, the insidious Fire-God gives Fafner a small Knife€with which he kills his Bumbling-Brother, Fasolt.

The Forfeited-Rheingold rises from the center of the White-Box like a Metal-Framed-Palette of Fort-Knoxian-Gold-Ingots.

But, as in so many Post-Modernist RING productions, there is No-Rainbow-Bridge


When Wotan meets with Brünnhilde [the excellent Irene Théorin] for a Briefing about his Wife-Problems with FrickaGoddess-of-Heterosexual-Non-Incestual-Marriage€he understandably favors his Earthly-Son, Siegmund.

Who Is Doomed

In what may be his Sparsely-Furnished-Office, upstage is a long, long Genre-Painting that looks at first like one of those Wagnerian-Landscapes.

But the Trees in this Strange-Forest have Feet & even Fantastic-Faces

When it is time for Siegmund [Klaus Florian Vogt] to take Shelter in the Tree-Filled-Home of his Mortal-Enemy, Hunding [Ain Anger], an Immense-Tree rises out of the floor, virtually engulfing the stage.

In its Webby-Branches are spiked some Ten-Desiccated-Dead-Bodies

At either side of the wide, wide Stage are Modern-Kitchen-Counters that look like Sieglinde [the affecting Anja Kampe] is operating a Vegan-Snack-Bar.

In the Background, behind the Great-Tree, are Two-Teams-of-Corpse-Washers.

Possibly, they are preparing Hunding€s Recent-Kills for Spiking up in the Tree-Branches?

A Big-Feature of any Hunding€s-Hütte-Setting must be the Hilt of Wotan€s Invincible-Sword, Nothung, impaled by Siegmund€s Father into the Heart of the Tree.

In this Production, it calls Attention to itself, looking like a Huge-Electric-Switch, in a Blue-Illuminated-Slot.

[As part of a number of Accompanying-RING-Art-Installations & Art-Actions, there is a Replica of Nothung on a Great-White-Catafalque in one of the Elegant-Ludwigian-Chambers of the Grand-Foyer.

[But the Name engraved on the front of the Catafalque is NOTHING€]

Although Siegmund is an Outcast & his Long-Lost-Sister, Sieglinde, has been abducted & forced into a Cruel, Slavish-Marriage to Hunding, they soon recognize each other.

But€instead of rushing across the stage into each other€s ArmsRegisseur-Kriegenburg keeps them Far-Apart, virtually at Opposite-Sides of the Stage.

This is surely intended to Increase-the-Sexual-Tension, before the Incestuous-Lovers come Resoundingly-Together.

Nonetheless, the Visual-Effect is Immensely-Annoying:

When Sieglinde offers Siegmund a Drink€instead of her simply bringing it directly to him€a Corps of White-Clad Young-Women is enlisted to pass it across the Stage, the Glass-of-Water being lit-from-below by Tiny-Flashlights, concealed in Their-Palms!

As for the Fabled-Ride-of-the-Valkyries, in the most recent Bayreuth-Version, Wagnerian-Rock-Climbers rappelled down a Cliff-Face

In Francesca Zambello€s San-Francisco RING, they dropped-down with Parachutes!

Some years ago in Munich, when Valhalla was a Space-Ship, the Valkyries zoomed aboard on Rocket-Scooters!

For this new Kriegenburgian-RING, however, the Horsey-Ladies pulled & tugged on Long-Reins that were tethered to Metal-Posts, supporting Definitely-Dead-Warriors, folded-over the Posts like so many Department-Store-Dummies.

No-Use-At-All to Wotan, in defending Valhalla€

In the Background, a Bevy of Sexy-Young-Women kept swishing their Unbound-Hair around & around.

The Projected-Text mentioned the Wunsch-Mädchen that the Dead-Heroes would enjoy in Valhalla, so I thought they must be these Promised-Lust-Maidens, rather like the 72-Virgins awarded to Dead-Muslim-Jihadis.

But NO!

The frantic Hair-Swishing apparently represented the Manes of the Valkyries€ Valiant-Steeds.

About which they Sing at-length in Wagner€s Projected-Super-Titles.

Apparently, in these Desperate-Economic-Times€when So-Many are Unemployed€Stage-Director Kriegenburg is providing Meaningful-Work for Platoons-of-Supers

When Wotan encircles his Favorite-Daughter€not by Fricka, but apparently by Erda?€with Magic-Fire, it is Ceremonially-Placed around her, in the Form of Alberich€s Flaming-Snake, by another Corps-of-White-Clad-Young-Women.


Or Vegan-Vestal-Virgins?

To-Be-Continued, Next-Summer€


Looking at the handsome production of Rossini€s Cenerentola€or Cinderella€in the National-Theater, I remembered what my Old-Friend, Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, once told me about this Comic-Opera for Kids-of-All-Ages: "Glenn, this is a Perfect-Rossini-Machine!€

What I had forgotten€as I never look at the actual Program until I€m back home at the Keyboard€was that Ponnelle had himself designed & directed this Production!

So I must have seen this delightful Show years & years ago on this very Stage!

Initially, Ponnelle began working in Opera as a Set & Costume-Designer.

But€frustrated by Stage-Directors who didn€t know how to use his Artistic-Visions effectively€he decided he needed to do the Stagings himself.

What Ponnelle soon discovered, however, was that his Sets & Costumes were Too-Fussy, Too-Busy. They actually detracted from the Effect he wished to produce on-stage.

"They distracted the Audience€s Attention from the Performers & from the Development-of-the-Narrative.

"As a Stage-Designer, I had been attempting to call attention to myself, rather than to serve the Total-Production.€

Soon after that Epiphany, Ponnelle had the ingenious Pet Halmen begin designing his new Productions.

But, in Mid-June, at the Bavarian-State-Opera, I had forgotten how I once loved this Staging, thinking instead that it was Far-Too-Complicated€

In fact, when some of the Mugging & Romping-Overkill of Ponnelle€s Replicated-Staging became too Obvious & Juvenile, I even welcomed the Baroque-Complications of Ponnelle€s Ruined-Palazzo-Setting as a distraction from the Hi-Jinx filling the Stage.

Now, at this Remove from the Performance-Aesthetics of YesteryearCrowd-Pleasing that apparently still works in Munich€I€d rather have Jean-Pierre€s Settings as a Toy-Theatre, than as a Framework for Monumental-Mugging.

Unfortunately, that excellent Soprano, Joyce DiDonato, was not feeling so Great & so begged the Audience€s Indulgence, soldiering-on as Cinderella.

As often happens, she saved her Voice for the Big-Moments, improving as the Libretto progressed.

But Rossini€s Genius was not in creating Through-Composed Musical-Narratives.

Instead, Cenerentola is a Series of charming€even VirtuosoSet-Pieces: Solos, Duets, Trios, Sextets & Choruses, all lustily-rendered by the able Staats-Oper-Ensemble.

Outstanding was the Dandini of Nikolay Borchev€the Kammerdiener of the Prince, pretending to be the Prince himself, to expose & shame the Ugly-Step-Sisters: Eri Nakamura & Paola Gardina.

The Award-Winning Young-American-Tenor, Lawrence Brownlee, was the Prince.

Antonello Allemandi briskly conducted the frisky Staats-Oper-Orchester.


When Jean-Pierre Ponnelle designed & directed his Stunningly-Innovative La Bohème for the Kleines-Haus of the Salzburg-Festival many years ago€it later was transferred-to & visually-swamped-on the Immense-Stage of the San-Francisco-War-Memorial-Opera-House€its Central-Scenic-Prop was a Giant-Stove.

Ponnelle€s Idea was to Visually-Dramatize how Very-Very-Cold the Quartet of Bohemian-Parisian-Artists were feeling in their Miserable-Garret.

This really Worked

For the Metropolitan-Opera production, Franco Zeffirelli designed equally Cramped-Quarters, but, as the Met€s-Stage is enormous, Franco showed this Attic surrounded by the Roofs-of-Paris, seemingly stretching for Kilometers.

But both Director/Designers made the Quartet€s-Quarters look somehow Interesting, which is not-the-case with Munich€s Now-Ancient-Production.

I regret to have to say this, as the Faded & Shabby-Settings were long ago designed by the Late Rudolf Heinrich, who was a Dear-Friend & a Longtime-Mentor to me in matters of Opera-Design & Stage-Technology.

One of the most recent Bohemian-Garrets of Worthy-Memory was that of the New-York City-Opera€now struggling-to-survive€in which Marcello, the Painter, was warming-the-space by splashing Vibrant-Color all over the walls, as he depicted the Israelites-Crossing-the-Red-Sea, with Pharaoh & his Armies being engulfed.

Even worse in Munich was the potentially Dynamic-Scene at Café-Momus, where the Four-Friends€with Tubercular-Mimi, now deeply-in-love with Rodolfo, the Poet€go to Celebrate.

As originally-staged by Otto Schenk & unfortunately Replicated even now, it is all on One-Level, with a variety of Street-Parades & Activities all crowded-together, in what seems to be the most Cramped-Intersection of all 19th-Century-Paris.

Franco Zeffirelli€s magnificent Met-Staging is Bustling-with-Life on Several-Levels: A fascinating, colorful Parisian-Slice-of-Life

What absolutely Saved the Munich-Festival presentation of this Tired-Old-Staging was the Heart-Breaking-Performance of Angela Gheorghiu as Mimi!

Strongly-Supported by the Passionate Rodolfo of Joseph Calleja

Laura Tatulescu€s flighty Musetta was also Plus, supported by Levente Molnár€s Marcello

Israel€s Multi-Talented Dan Ettinger conducted. He is also No-Stranger to the Orchestra-Pits of the Met & Covent-Garden!


Unfortunately for the Ghost of Giacomo Puccini€were it hovering over the Stages of both the Met & MunichVerismo is not much-honored in Luc Bondy€s deliberately-sterile Vision of Tosca.

At the Turn-of-the-Century€19th into 20th, that is€Naturalism & Realism were replacing Romanticism & Historicism.

David Belasco€s "Realism€€in both Butterfly & Girl of the Golden-West€fascinated Puccini, yielding both Madama Butterfly & La Fanciulla del West.

In setting the Doomed-Love of Floria Tosca with Mario Cavaradossi to Music, Puccini was intent on visually-evoking Showy-Scenes.

Notably the great Church of Santa Maria dell€ Valle, an Elegant-Salon in Rome€s Palazzo-Farnese, & the Summit of the Castel€ San Angelo, with its great Looming-Angel.

Bondy€s Designer€who also designed Patrice Chereau€s 1976 Bayreuth RING€is the Minimalist Richard/Riccardo Peduzzi.

Forget about Great-Papal-Pomp in a Grand-Procession up the Central-Aisle of the Mural-Infested-Nave of Santa Maria

This bare Brick-Walled-Space looks either Unfinished or Abandoned.

The Villainous-Baron-Scarpia conducts his Military-Interrogations in a Post-Post-Modernist-Void that would shame the Enhancements of Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib.

There are No-Signs of Water-Boarding, but Dick Cheney was not an Advisor on this production, seen first at the Met, before Munich.

As for the Execution-of-Cavaradossi€in the Desolate-Nothingness of the Current-Staging€even in Puccini€s Original-Libretto it seems unlikely that Tosca & Mario would have so much time to themselves before the Actual-Firing-Squad goes to work€

As for that Failed-Puppet popping-out of a Window in a Bare-Brick-Tower: Bring Back Zinka Milanov & Her Trampoline!

Franco Zeffirelli€s magnificent Met-Production gets all this Verismo lavishly Right.

Daniel Craig even looked Verismisch in the Bregenz-Festival Tosca, with a Great-Eye for a Stage€

What certainly Saves Munich€s Festival Tosca is the passionately-effective Floria Tosca of the magnificent Catherine Nagelstad.

The Evilly-Conniving Bryn Terfel makes a Frightening-Foil for her Desperate-Attempts to save the Mario of Massimo Giordano.

Marco Armiliato conducted as-though-he-meant-it€


Admirerers of Peter Shaffer€s Amadeus are well-aware of Young-Wolf-Mozart€s Efforts-to-Please his Demanding-Father, the Salzburg-Archbishop€s Court-Composer & Music-Master, Leopold Mozart.

Stage-Director David Bösch has constructed his fascinating Prinzregenten-Theater production of Mitridate around this tortured Father-Son-Relationship.

But€although the Nominal-Historic-Era of this Italianate Musik-Drama is verging on the Christian-Era€the Visualization is rather like a Children€s-Horror-Story.

This is thanks to the Genius of the Stage-Design & to the Ingenious-Projections of Patrick Bannwart.

The Stage at first seems like a black Inverted-Bowl, on which a Frustrated-Child is trying to find ways to Sketch-Out his Troubling-Visions

Comical White-Outline-Characters march across the Black-Upstage. Even Roughly-Drafted White-Slogans appear!

The Mitridate-Program repeats such Images & Devices, notably with Roughly-Drafted-White-Words from Leopold€s Cautionary-Letters to Young-Amadeus.

Based on a Tragedy by Jean Racine, Mitridate€s Libretto juxtaposes Two-SonsSifare & FarnaceRivals for the Approval & [Non-Existent] Affection of their War-Lusty-Father, Mitridate.

Imperial-Rome threatens his Pontian-Kingdom, even as his Counter-Tenor-Son, Farnace, is Making-a-Deal with a sneaky Roman-Intermediary.

A False-Report arrives of the King€s-Death: Who will seize His-Throne?

Who will get to Marry Aspasia, his Designated-Second-Wife, now seemingly Available to either Sifare or Farnace?

Can You Imagine a Dad who would pretend to be Dead, just to Test-the-Loyalty of his Sons?

Well, that€s the Way Royal-Dads used to be in Neo-Classical-French-Tragedies, based on Historic-Lore & Legend

But€with Soaring-Celestial-Music of the 14-Year-Old Wolfgang-Amadeus€this Tragic-Tale takes on a New-Dimension of Coloratura-Hi-Jinx entirely€

Nixing the Idea of a Neo-Classical-Performance-Milieu, however, Bösch & Bannwart have set the Story on-the-Beach, where Soaring-Seagulls are dropping Shit-Rich-Guano all over the Stage, including the Musicians in the Staatsoper-Orchestra! 

There are even two Stuffed-Seagulls standing-watch in the Auditorium!

But the Real-Glory of this Visually-Arresting-Production is the Magnificent-Singing of the equally Magnificent-Cast: notably the Counter-Tenor of Lawrence Zazzo, whose Muscular-Acting as Farnace also amazes.

Seagulls are the Least of Their-Trials

Outstanding also is the Noble-Sifare of Tara Erraught, dressed as a Schoolboy, but ardent for the Hand, Heart, & Body of the Woman who should be his Step-Mother, Aspasia€passionately sung & acted by Anja-Nina Bahrmann.

As a somewhat-rejected Bride for Farnace, the Ismene of Lisette Oropesa was both vocally & visually Impressive, considering the Rough-Handling she has to endure.

Barry Banks was the Aging & Imperious-Father, Mitridate.

Although Conductor Mark Wiggelsworth & his Consummate-Cast gave Amadeus His-Due, this Partitur goes-on for Much-Too-Long.

People were Leaving well-before it was finally-clear that Ponto was Doomed

Beyond Festive-Munich & Into-the-Alps!

Off-To-Oberammergau & The Passionspiel-Theater: ANTONIUS UND CLEOPATRA

Like the Bayreuth-Festival€which was resumed after World-War-II, only in 1951€the Internationally-Famed Oberammergau-Passion-Play was not shown again until 1950.

But this was not really a Break in the Tradition, for the Citizens-of-Oberammergau only stage this Epic-Music-Drama every Decade.

Spared from the Disastrous-Spread of the Black-Plague through the Bavarian-Alps, the Villagers vowed to perform the Passion-of-the-Christ every Ten-Years.

This means that some Lucky-Alpine-Masochist gets to Hang-on-the-Cross for nearly Half-an-Hour!

But Multiple-Times during the Decadal-Summer!

Your Roving Arts-Reporter was teaching in Oberammergau€at the US-Amy [so-called] Intelligence-School€in the late 1950s, so his First-Experience of the Passionspiele was in 1960.

When it was still Eight-Hours-Long

I have since returned€decadally€in 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000, & 2010.

But, in the Years-Between-Christ€s-Passion€which recently has been featuring Rabbis in Big-Hats€the only thing for Tourists to see is the Vast-Empty-Stage & the Dressing-Rooms, with the Elaborate-Costumes displayed on Hangars & Wardrobe-Racks.

This seemed a Great-Loss, in not-using the Great-Stage for some kind of Performance that might be in-tune with the Semi-Sacred-Character of this Unusual-Venue.

My Suggestions were published€both In-Print & Online€but I also believe that some Tourist-Minded-Locals saw the Light as well.

Oberammergau Lives from Tourism!

Carl Orff€s Carmina Burana has graced this stage€

[It is also festively-performed at Kloster-Andechs, where Orff is buried, despite his Two-Divorces.]

Now, Christoph Stückl€a Native-Son, as no Outsider can Be-In or Work-On the Passionspiele€has staged this summer William Shakespeare€s Antony & Cleopatra!

Stückl staged the Passion-Play in 2000 & 2010 with such success that he was soon invited to re-stage Max Reinhardt€s famed Jedermann at the Salzburg-Festival.

The Passion-Play-Stage is, of course, No-Stranger to Death.

But Jesus was Crucified, while Antonius & Cleopatra committed Suicide!

Nonetheless, both Historic-Narratives share an Augustan-Time-Frame, with Caesarian-Palestinian-Egyptian-Locales

Fortunately, Stückl€s staging was nothing like an Actual-Caesarian!

Considering how Complicated & Massively-Peopled the Production was, it was surprising that it had only Seven-Performances in July & August 2012.

The Passionspiele-Bühne€as devised & modernized over the Decades€is very, very Wide, with a Central-Proscenium-Stage, used for presenting Living-Pictures€or Tableux-Vivants€of Famous-Scenes from the Old & the New-Testaments.

Major-Biblical-Events like Adam & Eve Driven-from-Paradise. Or Joshua fighting the Battle-of-Jericho: Good-Book-Narratives which must be reduced to a Single-Image, although posed in 3-D.

On either side are Arcades & Flights-of-Steps that permit various Triumphal-EntriesJesus€ Fatal-Entry-into-Jerusalem, riding on His-Ass, for instance€as well as Crowd-Scenes & Choral-Ecstasies.

For Antony & Cleopatra, Stage-Director Christoph Stückl & his Oberammergauer-Designer, Stefan Hagenauer, painted the whole Façade Brick-Red!

Talk about Painting-the-Town-Red!

Which the Attic-Greeks did for Major-Religious-Festivals

Hagenauer€s Reds, however, suggested the Military & Territorial-Passions which have caused the then Rulers-of-the-World to meet for an ultimately Disastrous-Shipboard-Get-Together, which will Destroy Pompey, Lepidus, & Antony, along with his Inamorata, Cleopatra.

To Consolidate his Roman-Power, Julius Caesar€s Nephew, Octavius€one of the Three-Ruling-Triumvirs€gives his Beloved-Sister, Octavia, to be Wife to Antony.

This is really Not-Going-To-Work€as the Man who would later call himself Caesar-Augustus well-knows€because Antony already has a Wife, the Rebellious-Fulvia & a Full-Time-Lover in Egypt

Even Antony realizes his Nile-Infatuation is a Fatal-Infection: These strong Egyptian-

Fetters I must break/Or lose myself in dotage€

For the current A&C-Production, the Central-Stage doesn€t offer Tableux. Instead, it houses a
Black-Pyramid, flanked by Black-Palm-Trees.

Cascading down a Flight-of-Stairs in front of it is a Mass of Black-Matter, with a Black-Fountain in its Center.

At either side are two more Black-Palm-Trees, which tend to shake uneasily when Cleopatra leans on them.

Because there are so many Roman-Soldiers trooping around the Stage, this could be a Re-Make of the Passion-Play, only without Jesus, Pontius-Pilate, & all those Rabbis in Funny-Hats!

Will Shakespeare€s Drama€or, if you will, Chris Marlowe€s Tragedy€is not so well-known, nor Often-Performed, but it is a Play of Great-Power & Human-Frailty.

Indeed, the Doomed-Romance of Cleopatra & Antony is one of the World€s-Great-Love-Stories.

After the Shakespeare/Marlowe-Treatment came Dryden€s All for Love, or The World Well Lost.

Even Less-Often-Performed

The Kleopatra [Germanic-Spelling] of Barbara Dobner was indeed Sexy, Imperious, Sinuous, Willful, & Passionate.

Her Antonius, Andreas Richter, was a Hunk!

The Cold-Blooded & Calculating Octavius/Octavian of Frederik Mayet was a Dangerous-Foe, but Antony did not seem to realize What-Was-at-Stake until it was Too-Late.

[This was Nothing-Like the Antony & Cleopatra that Anthony Hopkins & Judy Dench once offered at London€s National-Theatre€]

But several Directorial-Choices in Stückl€s Staging seemed Odd

Why should the Supposedly-Powerful-Commander€the Triumvir-Lepidus€be played like some kind of Arm-Flapping, Garment-Swishing Old-Crazy?

Why€if Octavius loved his Sister so much€did he strike her to the ground, in front of the Troops, when Antony had effectively rejected her?

Why did he have a Chorus of Egyptian-Maidens parade across the stage in Profile, putting their Arms & Hands out in one of those Old-Vaudeville-Routines€ 

There were No-Supertitles€neither in German nor in English€but this was Not-a-Problem, as all Speeches & Choruses were clearly & often Passionately-Delivered.

Oberammergauer Markus Zwink provided the Score, as he has done for the Passion-Play & the 

Salzburg Jedermann.

Mardian, Cleopatra€s Eunuch, was played with Extreme-Effeminacy by Martin Schuster

This seemed another Odd-Choice, but that may be because my Favorite-Mardian was 

Anderson Cooper€s Dad, Wyatt Cooper.

Way back in the late 1940s€at UC/Berkeley€I did the Stage-Lighting for our University-Theatre mounting of Antony & Cleopatra.

Wyatt was so Seductive, dripping Sexy-Southern-Charm

Later, he Lucked-Out when he became Mr. Gloria Vanderbilt!

Although, to her Credit, she always insisted that they be indentified in Society-Photos as Mr. & Mrs. Wyatt Cooper€


The Munich-Fest€s Rational-Ratings€

Richard Wagner€s DAS RHEINGOLD  [★★★★]

Dick Wagner€s DIE WALKÜRE  [★★★★]

Giachino Rossini€s CENERENTOLA  [★★★]

Giacomo Puccini€s LA BOHÈME  [★★]

Giacomo Puccini€s TOSCA  [★★★]

Wolf Mozart€s MITRIDATE  [★★★★★]

Bill Shakespeare€s ANTONIUS UND CLEOPATRA  [★★★★]

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