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A Hullabaloo for an Opening at Bayreuth


New York Times, 27.7.04. By Jeremy Eichler.


BAYREUTH, Germany, July 26 - With a steady stream of A-list national celebrities, roving television crews and crowds of excited onlookers packed several rows deep, the Bayreuth Festival opened its 93rd season here on Sunday afternoon.

Dedicated exclusively to Wagner's operas, the festival has long attracted German high society and devoted Wagnerian pilgrims, but this year's opening was especially charged thanks to the premiere of a highly anticipated produc-
tion of "Parsifal" by Christoph Schlingensief, a provocative and controversial German director who had never before worked in opera.

The suspense had been building for months, with the press supplying abundant reports of a clash between Mr. Schlingensief and the festival director, Wolfgang Wagner, the composer's grandson, who only last month was dealt a significant blow when Lars von Trier resigned as director of a new "Ring" Cycle scheduled for 2006. Making matters worse, the tenor singing Parsifal bitterly denounced the new production only days before the premiere.

As the day finally approached, all the hype could be boiled down to this question: Would Mr. Schlingensief's "Parsifal" be a fake intellectual exercise in bad taste that denigrated Wagner's loftiest and most religious opera, or would it provide the bold new life and freshness that the festival (and its director) needed perhaps now more than ever?

In the end the event could not live up to its lofty setup: this "Parsifal" neither shocked nor soared. Mr. Schlingensief delivered a production that was visually anarchic and thematically cryptic but at times intriguing and certainly tame by German stage standards. When Mr. Schlingensief and his production team emerged to take their bows, there were dueling choruses of boos and bravos, but the two sides seemed fairly evenly matched. Both opinions were voiced with such vociferousness that there seemed little doubt about how much had been at stake, or for that matter, how seriously Bayreuthers take their opera.

Even if it did not provide the promised scandal, this "Parsifal" was certainly unlike any seen before at this festival. The knights of the Grail, whose leader, Amfortas, has been mortally wounded and must be saved by the holy fool Parsifal, have abandoned Wagner's mythological Middle Ages in favor of a deconstructed and symbol-strewn landscape that supposedly combined elements of Nepal and Namibia. In practice, the stage was a chaotic jumble of urban ruble, ancient Asian and African religious symbols and high-concept directorial statements such as a "Cemetery of Art" that shows up in the third act, with famous paintings set out as tombstones.

Wagner's characters also had a new multicultural look. The knights of the Grail, a disturbingly pure-blooded group in Wagner's original, were transformed into a motley crew of races and creeds more interested in pagan rituals than Christian religious rites, and the seductive maidens of the evil sorcerer Klingsor were bedecked in various combinations of feathers and tribal body paints.

It all added up to an overwhelming visual picture, but Mr. Schlingensief did not stop there, layering on still more visuals with an almost constant stream of shifting filmic images projected onto scrims and onto the stage itself. The relationship of the images to the musical-dramatic moment was, shall we say, indirect: seals cavorting on the beach while Gurnemanz lamented the fate of the order of the Grail; a giant decomposing rabbit during the work's sublime conclusion.

In fairness to Mr. Schlingensief, this was not as arbitrary as it may sound. The film, according to an explanatory note, was his attempt to embrace viewers with a contemporary visual language speaking most readily to them, in keeping with Wagner's theories of opera as an all-encompassing total work of art. The African and Asian cultural artifacts were attempts to find religious and mythological imagery still resonant in a secular age. But the giant rabbit, well, that's still anyone's guess.

Any one of these ideas might have proved fertile ground, but Mr. Schlingensief's "Parsifal" ultimately undermined itself through overinclusion, a crowding of signs and symbols that did little to illuminate the truths of this dark, complex and arrestingly beautiful work.

Instead "Parsifal" became a wash of visuals, a semiotic guessing game that too often worked against the grain of the opera's dramatic structure.

For example the central transformative moment of the opera, Kundry's kiss that awakens Parsifal to his destiny as savior, was literally and figuratively overshadowed by all the postmodern debris. By any reckoning this should have been a crowning dramatic event, but it made barely a ripple in Mr. Schlingensief's world.

By contrast the most compelling moments were the simplest, when the stage would stop spinning, when for a few brief moments lights and colors formed an arresting picture, and the image would merge with Wagner's music, and the two would stand together in striking relief.

This was also thanks to Pierre Boulez, who won a well-deserved outpouring of audience gratitude for his remarkable conducting. His tempos were generally brisk, his ear for the Wagnerian color palette immensely refined. The music had pliancy, transparency, balance and a surprising lack of the modernist asceticism he sometimes brings to 19th-century music.

For their part the singers were quite strong, if occasionally dwarfed by all the sets and concepts. Robert Holl was a sturdy and resonant Gurnemanz, John Wegner made a vocally splendid and suitably sinister Klingsor, and Michelle de Young sang the tortured role of Kundry with a generous tone, though the dramatic power of her character was hamstrung by the production itself. The tenor Endrik Wottrich was a pure-voiced (if skeptical) Parsifal, and Alexander Marco-Buhrmester was duly anguished and effective as Amfortas.

It will be interesting to see how Mr. Schlingensief develops as an opera director, which may depend on whether he can focus his provocative visions with more discipline. As for Mr. Wagner, he may have scored a victory simply by engaging such a controversial figure, riding the wave of publicity it generated, and having the whole ordeal end perhaps in befuddlement but not in defeat.



Pressestimmen und Kritiken zur Parsifal Inszenierung 2004

- "Weltabschiedswerk als existenzialist. Endzeittheater" - Landshuter Zeitung
- "Rasant im Tempo und aberwitzig in seiner Bilderflut" - von Monika Beer
- "Voodoo auf dem Grünen Hügel" - DER SPIEGEL Nr.30 / 19.7.04, S. 126-130
- "Es darf wieder gedacht werden" - Manuel Brug in der Welt vom 27.07.2004
- "Das Bayreuther Hühnermassaker" - DIE ZEIT, Nr.32 / 2004, 29.7.04
- "Schlingboulez im Labyrinth der Bilder" - Frankfurter Rundschau, 27.7.04
- "A Hullabaloo for an Opening at Bayreuth" - New York Times, 27.7.04
- "Erlösung suchen wir doch alle" - Süddeutsche Zeitung vom 27.07.2004
- "Vom Gral zum Kral in hundertzwanzig Umdrehungen" - FAZ vom 27.07.2004




Materialübersicht zu Schlingensiefs Parsifal Inszenierung

- Parsifal Bildergalerie 2007 - Fotos der vierten und letzten Spielzeit 2007
- Parsifal Pressespiegel 2007 - Pressestimmen zur vierten und letzten Spielzeit
- Parsifal Pressespiegel 2007 (PDF) - Gesammelte Rezensionen als PDF-Datei
- "Schlingensief ist für mich der reale Tannhäuser" - Interview Philippe Arlaud
- Schlingensief träumt vom "Tristan" in Bayreuth - Schlingensief im Gespräch
-  "Meistersinger" 2007 - Radiokritik zu Katharina Wagners Debut in Bayreuth
- Probengalerie Parsifal 2007 - Fotos der Vorbereitungen zum Parsifal 2007
- Parsifal Bildergalerie 2006 - Fotos der dritten Parsifal Spielzeit 2006
- "Du hast mich inspiriert" - Interview K. Wagner / C. Schlingensief (23.07.07)
- "Opera Review" - A Personal Experience at Bayreuth by David W. Kline
- "Der erweiterte Wir-Begriff" - Boris Groys und Carl Hegemann zum Parsifal
- "Werkstatt Bayreuth" - Carl Hegemann zur Non-Rekralisierung
- "Begegnungen der vierten Art" - Schlingensiefs Zeitreisen, von Jörg v.d. Horst
- "Das Licht kommt von innen" - Jean-Marie Thiers zur Parsifalinszenierung
-  Boulez in Deutschlandradio - Pierre Boulez zur neuen Parsifalinszenierung
- Parsifal Bildergalerie 2005 - Fotos der zweiten Parsifal Spielzeit 2005
- "Alles schreit" - Notizen zur Parsifal-Inszenierung von Carl Hegemann
- "Der erweiterte Hasenbegriff" - Drei Essays zum Parsifal, div. Autoren
- "Wege zu Parsifal" - Kaum noch Illusionen über die Illusion. Von P. Boulez
- "Zum Raum wird hier die Zeit" - Ein Beitrag des Schriftstellers Peter Nadas
- "Der Todestag" - Christoph Schlingensief im Interview mit der FR (2004)
- "Weehee, Weheee" - Schlingensief im Interview mit dem Tagesspiegel (2004)
- "Ein metaphysisch obdachloser Metaphysiker" - Interview mit der SZ (2004)
- Parsifal Pressespiegel 2004 - Pressestimmen zur ersten Spielzeit 2004
- Parsifal Bildergalerie 2004 - Fotos der ersten Parsifal Spielzeit 2004
- Bayreuther Festspiele - Offizielle Homepage der Bayreuther Festspiele
- Parsifal Libretto - Libretto zu Richard Wagners Parsifal als Onlineversion

Bayreuth Dossier

- Parsifal Übersicht

- Parsifal Rezensionen
   2007 als PDF


- Philippe Arlaud über
   Schlingensiefs Parsifal

- Schlingensief träumt
   vom "Tristan" in
   Bayreuth

-  Deutschlandradio zu
   K. Wagners Debut

- Gespräch K. Wagner /
   C. Schlingensief (FR)

- Parsifal Review
   by David W. Kline

- Groys / Hegemann:
   Der erweiterte
   "Wir"-Begriff

- Carl Hegemann:
   Werkstatt Bayreuth

- Jörg van der Horst:
   Begegnungen der
   vierten Art

- Wagnerverband
   Frankreich: Das Licht
   kommt von innen

-  Pierre Boulez
   zum Parsifal 2005


- Carl Hegemann:
   Alles schreit

- Der erweiterte
   Hasenbegriff

- Peter Nadas: Zum
   Raum wird hier die Zeit

- Pierre Boulez:
   Wege zu Parsifal


- FR Interview mit
   Schlingensief (2004)

- Der Tagesspiegel
   Interview mit
   Schlingensief (2004)

- SZ Interview mit
   Schlingensief (2004)



Bilderstrecken

- Parsifal 2007 Galerie
- Parsifal 2007 Proben
- Parsifal 2006 Galerie
- Parsifal 2005 Galerie
- Parsifal 2004 Galerie


Pressespiegel

- Presse Spielzeit 2004
- Presse Spielzeit 2005
- Presse Spielzeit 2007
- Presse 2007 als PDF


Externe Links

- Bayreuther Festspiele
- Parsifal Libretto





Parsifal
Inszeniert von Christoph Schlingensief
Bayreuther Festspiele
2004 − 2007

Dirigent: Pierre Boulez

Inszenierung:
Christoph Schlingensief

Chorleitung:
Eberhard Friedrich

Bühnenbild:
Daniel Angermayr, Thomas Goerge

Kostüme: Tabea Braun,
Aino Laberenz

Video:
Meika Dresenkamp, Monika Böttcher

Lichtdesign:
Voxi Bärenklau

Künstlerische Mitarbeit: Carl Hegemann

Darsteller:
Amfortas: Alexander Marco-Buhrmester; Titurel: Kwangchul Youn; Gurnemanz: Robert Holl; Parsifal: Alfons Eberz; Klingsor: John Wegner; Kundry: Michelle de Young; 1. Gralsritter: Clemens Bieber; 2. Gralsritter: Samuel Youn; 1. Knappe: Julia Borchert; 2. Knappe: Atala Schöck; 3. Knappe: Norbert Ernst; 4. Knappe: Miljenko Turk; Klingsors Zaubermädchen: Julia Borchert, Martina Rüping, Carola Guber, Anna Korondi, Jutta Maria Böhnert, Atala Schöck; Altsolo: Simone Schröder

Webredaktion:
Jörg van der Horst, Patrick Hilss