Saturday, August 05, 2006

Devilishly confused

Christoph Schlingensief is worse than a "Self-involved, self-important schmuck."

He's a dramatic idiot. Or worse. He's possessed by the shade of Eduard Hanslick.

Looking at the pictures from his revised (but, alas, not withdrawn) Bayreuth production of Parsifal, I could only shake my head at his (pace Wagner) "devilishly confused dramatic idiom." In fact, I think that I can say that - since Patrice Chéreau's Centennial Ring - the concepts behind the postmodernist productions have become increasingly nonexistent. No one can tell me that Schlingensief had any idea what he was doing with Parsifal. He, undoubtedly, wanted to get up on the Green Hill and "freak out the squares." When he says stuff like this little gem:

"It may be a lot to expect of the people in the expensive seats, but I have reconciled Nietzsche with Wagner by negating Wagner's silly Buddhist dream."

I know, in my heart, that I am right. He isn't a director, he isn't a Konzeptherr, he's a shock-jock buffoon who has managed to bamboozle an elderly gentleman. And he certainly does not know better than Richard Wagner how to conceive of Parsifal, but I digress. It's like Howard Stern convincing David Rockefeller to let him program an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. It just isn't going to end well at all. There is, to my mind, no program behind the production except using the most shocking images possible while the pit and singers deal with those minor inconveniences, otherwise known as Richard Wagner and his Parsifal.

Someone, perhaps even Patrice Chéreau, needs to tell him that such a performance isn't drama. It's just idiocy. The only way a Konzept performance can work, assuming that one should apply a Konzept to operas with the composer's preferences clearly stated (a proposition of which I am becoming less sure), is if the director has both good dramatic sense and an ironclad sense of purpose. Schlingensief has neither.

Perhaps Wolfgang's last gift to the Festspiele to which he devoted his life will be this: withdrawing the Schlingensief mess and substituting the acclaimed and clever Nikolaus Lehnhoff or Robert Wilson productions in its place. That would be an excellent way to retire.


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