Bayreuth bunnies and bosums bring boos

26th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

26 July 2004, BAYREUTH - A showy staging of Richard Wagner's Parsifal, complete with video sequences and a bare-breasted earth mother Gaia, was booed by some of the audience at the end of the first night of the Bayreuth festival.

26 July 2004

BAYREUTH - A showy staging of Richard Wagner's Parsifal, complete with video sequences and a bare-breasted earth mother Gaia, was booed by some of the audience at the end of the first night of the Bayreuth festival.

But applause had the upper hand after the innovative staging by Christoph Schlingensief, enfant terrible of German theatre.

After weeks of rehearsals in total secrecy, and a mystery over the casting of a large number of rabbits, Wagner fans had been dreading some kind of sacrilege when the curtain went up on Schlingensief's first-ever direction of an opera.

Memories revived of 1976, when a hostile Bayreuth audience booed Patrice Chereau's version of the Ring for three hours solid, stink bombs were hurled and a Chereau fan attacked a Chereau hater and tore her earrings from her earlobes.

Though Schlingensief's was not quite like any staging ever seen before at Bayreuth, it was not so much hard to swallow as hard to digest. Many in the audience said there were so many extraordinary images that they would need time to absorb it all.

His treatment, part live action, part video, emphasised the death and redemption issues of the Parsifal, giving it a multiracial look with a dash of ideas from both Christianity and African religions.

Oddest of all were the rabbits, a Schlingensief leitmotif combining fertility, peaceableness and then victimhood. In the final video sequences, the rabbits were shown not just dead, but decayed.

By the end of the first act, the public had already had an eyeful: slaves crawling across the stage and Gaia's bosom on view to emphasize her mother role. The video images tended to distract from the music, conducted Sunday by Pierre Boulez.

In the end, it was the French conductor who won the greatest applause Sunday.

There have been weeks of controversy about the production, with Schlingensief admitting he had been in a row with Wolfgang Wagner, the festival chief, but saying they had resolved the issues.

Endrik Wottrich, who sings the title role, had warned the public the production would be "horrible".

Among celebrities with the best seats for the opening of the 93rd Bayreuth Wagnerian opera festival were Jose Manuel Barroso, the Portuguese politician picked three days earlier to become president of the European Commission.

Thirty performances of Wagner operas are scheduled until 28 August. The annual summer festival is one of the high points of the German cultural calendar.

DPA

Subject: German news

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