Saturday, June 21, 2008

Didn't we just do this?

Mostly Opera reports on the new Bayreuth Parsifal, directed by Stefan Herheim. This tantalizing little blurb reveals, to me, more than it really should,
According to Bayreuth Festival spokesman Peter Emmerich, the staging concept is "a kind of time travel" with scenes ranging from "The Wilhelminismus of the 19th Century to the First World War, the 1920s, the Nazi era, the founding of the Federal Republic and the economic miracle." Heike Scheele is the set designer. Both the Bayreuth Festival House and Villa Wahnfried will play "a visually important" role in the concept. He furthermore promises the production will be "controversial".
So, in other words, this is a meta-Parsifal, full of ironic, self-referential winks and nods to the audience.

So, like I say: Didn't we just do this with Christoph Schlingensief's headache-inducing production of some years back? It seems like sensory overload to have one "controversial" performance after another, and - like with any repeated shocks - these productions run the risk of blunting their effects.

Furthermore, directors should avoid kitschy Wagner-references just because Katharina Wagner's half-baked Meistersinger alluded to Wagner himself in one scene. That strikes me of the visual equivalent of the director standing on stage and screaming, "THIS IS POSTMODERN, GET IT?" every time some ersatz-ambiguity or tripe-filled trope is forced down the gullets of the audience members who paid good money to see the stuff.

There is plenty of room for creativity without idiocy, though, with productions of the sort that this one appears to be, that might be a bit of an overstatement.


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