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Loney's Show Notes
By Glenn Loney, July 25, 2006
Caricature of Glenn Loney
by Sam Norkin.
Please click on " * " to skip to each subject in this index:
Austria’s President Heinz Fischer *
Opens 60th Anniversary Bregenz Festival! *
New Look for Bregenz Festival Theatres & Foyers! *
Celebrating Composer Friedrich Cerha at 80! *
All Mouvements of His Sound Spiegel Combined-in-Concert *
Premiere-Concert by Bregenz Festival’s *
Premiere-Orchestra: The Vienna Symphony! *
Der Troubadour Returns to Bregenz *
And Its Oil-Refinery Lake-Stage! *
Next Summer: Puccini’s Tosca on the Great Lake-Stage! *
Kunsthaus Bregenz Lights the Lights! *
Austria’s President Heinz Fischer
Opens 60th Anniversary Bregenz Festival!
Last summer, Bregenz’s new Festival Intendant, David Pountney, provided some Live & Lively Performers from the Lake Constance Musical-Spectacular, West-Side Story. Plus some colorful video-footage of stunning past-productions on the Great Lake Stage. Some of them memorably staged by Pountney, pre-Intendancy!
This season, there were no Sexy Chorus-dancers, but ample live & taped videos of this 60-year-old Music-Theatre Festival at work: fore-stage, on-stage, and back-stage.
As in past years, the fest was opened by the Austrian President—currently the popular Dr. Heinz Fischer. Austria’s powerful State Secretary for Culture, Franz Morak—who controls the Arts-Subsidy purse-strings—was on hand to praise the rapidly-completed Renovation & Renewal of the Festival’s three main theatre-venues, which was achieved in less than a year!
Also, as before, the Festival President, Dr. Günter Rhomberg, greeted the festival guests—who included the President of Ireland, Her Excellency Mary McAleese!
In past years, it has also been the custom to have a Major Address given by some noteworthy European Writer or Intellectual. These were most successful when the Speaker’s Ruminations had some relation to the General Theme of the Festival Productions.
This year, however, the speech was given by Arno Geiger—who, at age 18, had begun working backstage, well-out-of-sight, for 17 years! Never before had one of the Unseen Masses of Technicians & Stage-hands been invited to take the Prime Spotlight!
Of course, Arno Geiger is no Ordinary Crew-Member. As he toiled backstage on Lake-Stage productions of such shows as Porgy & Bess, Nabucco, Carmen, Magic Flute, Fidelio, and the dazzling West-Side Story—through Heat-Waves and Thunderstorms—Geiger was silently watching everything going on around him.
And he was writing things down, unlike most Techies. Fortunately, Dr. Alfred Wopmann, longtime Innovative Intendant of the Bregenz Festival—encouraged Geiger in these efforts.
Arno Geiger’s first book, Es geht uns gut—We’re Doing Fine—is a Best-Seller and won last year’s German Book Prize!
He titled his reminiscences about working backstage as: Die Kelten sind überall. This was a phrase used by the Romans when they Occupied—and tried to Pacify—Germanic Lands North of the Alps. The Native Kelts/Celts were everywhere, but the Romans couldn’t see them, lurking in the shadows.
So also with stage-crews, wardrobe-personnel, technicians, lighting-men: The Show Must Go On, but the audience must not see the backstage workers making it happen. They are like the Ancient Kelts…
For Geiger, this provided an Excellent Cover from which to observe, but not be noticed. In his address, he noted the dangers for a writer of being Well-Known. Instead of watching and recording from the unseen shadows, he often becomes the Center of Attention.
And, as a result, he or she—or indeed anyone much in the Public Eye—has to put on a Mask, to assume or cultivate a Public Identity. Effective writing, on the other hand, is all about taking off the Masks people wear—to discover & describe what is behind them…
But the Opening Ceremonies were not All Speech-Making. Conductor Fabio Luisi led the Vienna Symphony—the Bregenz Festival’s regular concert & opera-orchestra—in the Austrian National Anthem, the Vorarlberg Landeshymne, and Johanna Doderer’s new Festspiel-Fanfare.
These were followed by Verdi’s Overture to Il Trovatore—the current Lake-Stage Spectacular, Mozart’s Overture to Die Hochzeit des Figaro, as well as ballet-music for his Idomeneo—this is the Mozart-Jahre, after all, and Sir Edward Elgar’s Land of Hope & Glory, from Pomp & Circumstance.
Artistic Director David Pountney. Photo by Anja Kiesel.
This last may well have been intended as a Musical Salute to Britain’s David Pountney, in his second season as Bregenz Intendant. But some Austrian critics were appalled at this choice: a few viewed it as a Triumphalist Reminder of British Imperialism!
On a quite different note, President Heinz Fischer reminded the festival-guests of that Old Chinese Sprichwort: "The longest journey begins with the first step."
That certainly could have applied to the Bregenz Festival’s first season, way back in 1946, when World War II damage & destruction was all about, and Austrians and people all over Europe were trying to mend Broken Lives.
The first fest also took place on Lake Constance—or the Bodensee, in German—but instead of the Giant Red Oil-Refinery of the current Trovatore production, it was set on two barges: one for the performers & set, one for the orchestra, with the audience watching intently from the lake-side. With only a few mikes—and strong winds from the Alps behind the lake—this must have been an Acoustical Experience!
But in the newly renovated theatres, brand-new foyers, and public-spaces—and with a new Innovative Intendancy, as well—this July, another First Step has surely been taken in Bregenz!
[Your scribe has more than a Passing-Interest in the fate of the Festival. This season was his 50th Anniversary in Bregenz, having discovered the Festival while driving through in his Blue-Beetle Volkswagen, way back in 1956!]
New Look for Bregenz Festival Theatres & Foyers!
Last summer, immediately after the last performance of the Bregenz Festival, the entire staff—including the press-office personnel—began ripping all the old seats out of the Festival Theatre.
A complete renovation and re-seating was begun, including major changes and improvements to Public-spaces, Foyers, Seminar-rooms, Refreshment-rooms, and Conference-Facilities. What was not at all certain was how rapidly this could be accomplished.
Thus, no Opening-Premiere of a neglected or forgotten opera was scheduled for the Festspielhaus. Instead, Haydn & Mozart took the spotlight. In August, however, Claude Debussy’s Fall of the House of Usher will be performed on the Main Stage. He left it incomplete, but it has been "reconstructed."
Only hours before the Opening Ceremonies—as the Vienna Symphony was rehearsing for the premiere—electricians and painters were putting the Finishing-Touches on the shining new Post-Modernist Bregenz Festival & Conference-Complex!
Thus, not only will the summer-time Bregenz Festival be able to contemplate festival-events in other seasons—there’s already a spring-time dance-festival!—but its facilities will soon lure Major Conferences to this historic city on the southern shore of Lake Constance.
A great deal of credit for all these achievements—and their future-potential—must go to Festival President Günter Rhomberg, the City Fathers, and the government of the Austrian Land of Vorarlberg, of which Bregenz is the capital. Without their vision and support, this could not have been realized.
But even more credit & kudos should go to the previous Festival Intendant, Dr. Alfred Wopmann, who gave the festival its distinctively Innovative Image. And who also had the Initial Vision of what the Bregenz Festival could become.
Not just another Provincial Austrian Festival, standing in the shadow of the Salzburg Festival…
Dr. Wopmann, however, was very fortunate to have—always at his side—the multiple talents and diverse energies of his Technical Director, Magister Gerd Alfons. Among Alfons’ many instructive experiences in preparing for the Great Work in Bregenz, he even played Siegfried’s Bear in the Bayreuth Festival’s famed Patrice Chereau Centenary RING!
Not only do all three Festival Theatres now have new acoustic-systems by the Prize-winning engineers who also set the sound in restored Teatro Fenice in Venice, but the lighting-systems have been improved. Not to overlook dramatic changes in catering to-and-for the public, whether they are going to festival-events or just looking for a Coke™ and a souvenir of Bregenz and the Bodensee…
New trees have been planted semi-circularly around the central paved-area before the theatre-complex, but this plaza seems much too bare and too hot. An old elm-avenue has been lost to show off the boxy-volumes of the renovated complex.
Visual Amenities have been added, of course: Standing erect in a shallow puddle of spritzing water-jets, Ready Maid is a glowing golden metal-sculpture by Gottfried Bechtold. As conceived, it is a reversed tree-trunk, like a woman’s naked torso. Kids love splashing in the surrounding water…
Atop the Festspielhaus is a kind of Neon-Sculpture, which is a series of numbers representing the Speed of Sound. And why not?
All this cost some 40-million Euros! The 35-million government-subsidy was provided by Austria=40%, Vorarlberg=35%, and Bregenz=25%. The remainder was the result of energetic Fund-Raising!
For the Festspielhaus Record: Since its opening in 1980, there have been some 6,500 performances, with a total of 6.5 million spectators! [That figure surely has to include the thousands and thousands who have seen operas and musicals on the Lake-Stage? Or is it just that I cannot Do The Math?]
The Festival Theatre has been open for audiences & visitors during that time for 8,500 days, roughly 340 days per year! This of course includes Conference-Events.
Celebrating Composer Friedrich Cerha at 80!
All Mouvements of His Sound Spiegel Combined-in-Concert
Although Friedrich Cerha is now regarded as Austria’s Leading Contemporary Composer, in the United States he is still best-known as the genius who completed the score of Alban Berg’s opera, Lulu. For years after Berg’s death, this powerful work of Music-Theatre was performed by major opera-houses as an incomplete stage-piece.
Opera-programs would include a synopsis of the entire shocking story of the devastating but devil-may-care Luxus-Mädchen, Lulu, who drove men & women mad with desire, to the point of suicide.
Her ultimate death in a shabby London attic—at the hands of Jack-the-Ripper—had to be imagined, as Berg had not yet set the final act. Sometimes, this was mimed to some of Berg’s Lulu-themes.
One of the most memorable of these productions was Carl Ebert’s staging for the Frankfurt Opera, way back in the 1950s—in which this famed German director also played the role of Skigolch. Ebert visualized Lulu as a kind of Circus-Show—complete with Ringmaster—as Lulu put her various lovers Through the Hoops!HHoops
Berg had based his opera on Jugendstil-Munich playwright Frank Wedekind’s Erdegeist and Die büchse Pandoras—or Pandora’s Box.
Fortunately, Berg had already outlined the entire opera and had left sketches and some musical-notations of what he planned to achieve. These Prof. Cerha was able to enlarge into a Vollendete Oper! Also filling some holes in the score that Berg had left unfinished… This task was completed in 1978.
This he was ideally suited to do, as he was already one of the best-known interpreters of Berg, Arnold Schönberg, and Anton Webern. Indeed, his completion of the Third Act of Lulu was widely regarded as the summit of achievement of the so-called Second Vienna School of composers.
What is little-known—or not even realized—in America, is that Cerha had already composed an opera-score for Bertolt Brecht’s avant-garde drama Baal. He did not displace Brecht’s favorite composer, Kurt Weill, as his score dates from 1974-81. Weill was already Long Gone…
Cerha also composed the score—in 1987—for German playwright Carl Zuckmayer’s Der Rattenfänger, which can be translated as The Rat-Catcher. You know: That guy in the funny costume who came to Hamlen-town and piped-away all the kiddies…
[Anti-Nazi Zuckmayer spent World War II in the United States, virtually unknown, although he was already famed in Europe as the author of the satirical Weimar Era comedy, The Captain from Köpenick. Supposedly on a Chicken-farm, which was the New Jersey fate of the deposed Emperor Napoleon’s brother, Jerome! Also deposed from a throne on which the Little Corporal had installed him!]
Surely one or more of these challenging Cerha Music-Theatre works will come alive on the stages of the Bregenz Festival before long.
But, in the meantime, this summer’s festival opened with Cerha’s Spiegel, identified as a stage-work, but never yet realized on the opera-stage. It was presented in orchestral-concert in Bregenz’s Werkstatt-Bühne, profiting from the remarkable new acoustical-sound in this large, flexible performance-space.
Friedrich Cerha is now 80 years old, so this Bregenz Premiere was something of a Salute to Seniority & Genius! As your scribe is only three years younger than Cerha—he was born 1926, and I in 1928—there may still be hope for as-yet-unrecognized Oldsters…
Sylvain Cambreling conducted the Süd-West-Funk Symphony Orchestra of Baden-Baden/Freiburg. This is one of a number of major symphony-orchestras maintained throughout Germany by the Central Radio & TV Broadcasters of each Land or State. Not since Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony has there been anything like this in the United States.
What the musicians were required to do—and which they really seemed to enjoy—was to create, without Melody or Rhythm, Volumes of Sound, as well as Sound-Voids, on traditional-instruments which were often thumped or thrummed in ways Bach or Beethoven never imagined.
Not since the Glory Days of Carl Orff and the stage-premieres of Prometheus and Carmina Burana have so many kinds of Percussive Schlag-werk been in action in service of a Music-Theatre Concept: Drums, xylophones, chimes, wood-blocks, maracas, & cymbals galore! Musicians were even asked to rap on wooden-instruments.
At one point, there was the sense of a brief Fart-Cantata, produced by ingenious bowing on the basses. Tape-recorded sounds were also introduced.
All this was astonishing, but the experience the previous week in Munich of Avat Terertian’s Armenian Beben—or Earthquake—had already prepared your scribe for an endless sort of cantus-firmus in the orchestra, with violins playing a sustained single-tone on and on.
But with Spiegel—which consists of seven strange & contrasting sections—the single-tone seemed to grow and grow in volume, often followed by a diminuendo of sound which suggested a kind of Mirroring of the Sound-Image. This is, after all, effectually titled Mirror…
One of the most impressive sections involved relentless drumming on percussions of various sizes and sounds. This increased in intensity and volume until it sounded like an Engulfing Wave of Drumming. Not an Armenian Earthquake, but a Bodensee Tsunami!
One might say of this 80-minute-long festival of Orchestrated-Noise, that the Time just flew by, but apparently not fast enough for some spectators who Voted With Their Feet.
Although even Richard Wagner advised his younger admirers and imitators: Kinder, schaff Neues!, there may be some Outer Limits beyond which most Music-Lovers and Ordinary Concert-Goers cannot follow Avant-garde composers.
Zukunfts-Musik needs Zukunfts-Hörer as well. For that matter, conductors such as Pierre Boulez fought Losing-Battles to force concert-audiences to sit through Serial & Aleatory Compositions that they were very glad never to hear again.
Do Minimalist compositions work best for Minimalist Listeners? The lower the expectations, the greater the rewards?
But audiences finally got used to Richard Wagner, and then to Richard Strauss. Still, some prefer Mahler to Brückner, or Berg to Schönberg. But will the vanguard of classical-music-lovers ever embrace the Aleatory Musical-Games of John Cage?
'Spiegel' composer Friedrich Cerha. Photo courtersy of andereart.
How many of these potential CD-buyers would want to hear Spiegel over and over? Even live. Just asking…
Austria’s ORF—the state-sponsored Radio & TV broadcaster, which shows & tapes live-performances of major theatre, dance, and opera-productions—asked your reporter to share his impressions of the Spiegel performance immediately after its conclusion.
This meant I paid very close attention, but perhaps less to the actual sounds than to what I thought I might say—in German—about the entire work after its 80-minutes of performance-time. What occurred to me was to imagine how the 7-section work could be visually realized on stage.
As there is not only No Narrative, No Libretto, No Human Emotion, Thought, or Action, but also No Melody or Rhythm or Tempo, as such, this is not an easy Challenge to meet.
What first struck me, however, was that most of the sections—with some adaptation—could make very powerful sound-tracks for Film Noir productions.
Then it occurred to me that black-and-white film-clips and photo-montages of the Daily-Life of Great Metropolitan Cities like New York & London could make an impressive visual counterpart to Cerha’s thumping score.
At the same time, I longed to see some pages of the Partitur, to see how he could notate what could not be set down in conventional do-re-mi bars of music.
As had been earlier done with Orff’s Carmina, the score could be danced or mimed. Or effectually brought-to-life with still-standing human-figures, as frozen or slowly-evolving entities, with a panoply of colored or strong White Lights playing over them…
But why use live-performers at all? Why not a Peter Brook White-Room Empty-Space with some three-dimensional geometric-figures deftly-sited—Cones, Cubes, Cylinders & Coffins—with a play of Light & Shadow upon them?
Any of these concepts could work. But only after-the-fact—and the broadcast—did I read what Prof. Cerha’s stage-vision of the seven sections is: It’s "a kind of World-Theatre, that stretches from an Uranfangs-Situation in Spiegel I to the Vision of the End of Time, in Spiegel VII."
Also: "In the Mirrors, we as Humanity are seen from above, as from a Satellite."
Well, yes, that’s also a way to see this work onstage. But no one—not even the Bregenz Festival—has dared to do it yet. You could even mount Seven Mirrors around the White-Box Empty-Space…
Premiere-Concert by Bregenz Festival’s
Premiere-Orchestra: The Vienna Symphony!
Although the famed Vienna Philharmonic is the pit-orchestra for operas at the Salzburg Festival—while the justly admired Wiener Symphoniker does the same for the Bregenz Festival—it would be incorrect, even impolite, to suggest that the Vienna Symphony is No. 2 in Austria. No no no no!
Strongly-led—and stringently-rehearsed—by Conductor Fabio Luisi, the Vienna ensemble was brilliant in the opening concert in the newly recreated Festival Theatre. This featured Haydn’s Nelson Mass, with soloists Christiane Oelze, Kristina Hammarström, Mark Padmore, and the much-admired Wagner baritone, Roman Trekel.
Christiane Oelze was especially thrilling to hear. This was not only because of the timbre of her tones and her liquid vocalization of the major elements of the Latin Mass, but also because Haydn had given his soprano the major role in this Sing-Messe.
Choral-passages were ably sung by members of the EuropaChorAkademie.
For devout Roman Catholics—especially in Deutsch-sprachiger-Raum—it is an immense pleasure to hear the Mass sung in Latin, as this is now largely forbidden, in the wake of Vatican II. Previously, all over the world, the Mass was always sung/celebrated in Latin, the language of the Roman Empire, in the times of Jesus & His Disciples.
In the earliest days of Roman Catholic Christianity—there were other Bishoprics of the Early Church that were not dominated by Rome—Latin was the Universal Language. It was written & spoken & understood all over Europe: It was the Language of the Clerk/Clerics & the Church.
The only people who did not understand Latin were the Congregations, the Laiety. The Holy Bible in Latin was forbidden them—until Martin Luther and others dared to translate it—but most could not read anyway.
That was the sphere of the Clerks & Scribes. Some great Catholic Kings were, in fact, Illiterate, depending on clerks to read & write for them. [Rather like Geo. W. Bush today!]
This state of Divine Worship continued through the Dark Ages, the Medieval Era, and the Age of the Enlightenment, almost into the 20th Century. As more people learned to read, Missals—in their various languages—enabled them to follow the Ritual-Drama of the Mass.
Now, everywhere Catholics congregate, the Mass is to be sung in the Language of the People. So they can understand what is actually happening worldwide: Two mystical Miracles are occurring before their eyes every time the Mass is celebrated.
In the Moment of Trans-Substantiation, blessed Wine is miraculously transformed into Jesus’ Sacred Blood—shed for the Sins of the World—which is then ritually drunk by Catholic Communicants.
The second Miracle—really part to the first—occurs when the Priest-Celebrant elevates the Holy Wafer toward the Heavens—representing the Kosher Matzoh Jesus offered His Disciples at The Last Supper!
Fortunately for Music-loving Protestants—who regard the serving of The Eucharist as largely symbolic, not an actual Miracle-in-Action—when Masses by Haydn or Mozart are sung in concert-halls, no one needs a missal to follow the various sections such as the Kyrie, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, & Gloria in Excelsis.
Before the Bregenz Opening-Concert, program-readers could discover that—although Haydn actually met Lord Nelson at Prince Eszterhazy’s great estate in Eisenstadt—he did not name this mass for the Hero of the Battle of the Nile, which helped drive Napoleon from his Imperial Egyptian Adventure. [This African Invasion is currently chronicled on Madison Avenue at the Dahesh Museum!]
Nelson’s name was later attached. Initially, Haydn called this magisterial work only Missa in Angustiis in D-minor—or Mass in Time of Distress. [Angustias, by the way, is the name Federico Garcia Lorca gave to the most unhappy of Bernarda Alba’s daughters!]
This was followed by an impressive reading of Mozart’s Haffner-Sinfonie, or No.35 in D-Major. Even though Mozart left no mark on Bregenz, he could hardly be ignored in this Mozart-Jahr!
The Haffner title is attached because the symphony was composed—at the behest of Wolfgang’s father, Leopold Mozart, who was in charge of music at the Court of Salzburg’s Prince/Archbishop Hieronimus Colloredo—for the proposed ennobling of the son of Salzburg’s Mayor.
He would become a Von Haffner, supposedly, but it’s not clear this event ever occurred. Leopold may have instigated the commission to prevent his son from marrying his beloved Constanze Weber.
At any rate, there’s still a Sigmund Haffner-strasse in Salzburg!
Der Troubadour Returns to Bregenz
And Its Oil-Refinery Lake-Stage!
The 60-year-long Visual Signature of the Bregenz Festival has always been the looming opera-setting on the great Lake-Stage, pile-driven just off-shore on Lake Constance.
In 2005, International train-travelers and auto-drivers—on their various ways from German Lindau to Swiss Zürich, were astonished to see an immense red/orange Oil-Refinery standing tall in the waters of the Bodensee! This was the signature-setting for Verdi’s Il Trovatore—Troubadour, auf Deutsch!
Although the fictional-locale of the opera is a Medieval Castle in Spain, lorded-over by the villainous Count di Luna, Bregenz’s innovative director Robert Carsen and his stage-designer Paul Steinberg—also Very Big in Munich, working with David Alden!—decided to make this powerful work of Music-Theatre more relevant, without digging-up its deep roots in the past of Operatic Melodrama.
The great flaming Oil-Refinery is anchored at four corners with huge Hydroformer-Towers, which could also be the Turrets of a Medieval Fortress. It makes even more relevant sense for Count Luna to be a Tyrannical Oil-Baron, intent on suppressing any dissent or rebellion among the Workers.
[Understandably enough, this production was NOT underwritten by Exxon-Mobile or Halliburton! Nor was the lovely Leonora presented as a Condi Rice look-alike…]
In this case, the Rebels are a ragtag band of Roma & Sinti, led by Manrico, a brave, colorful Outsider, strongly encouraged in his rash course of Armed-Opposition by his mother, the Gypsy-Seer, Azucena.
[This opera could be made even more Relevant—all the Mode now!—by presenting Manrico and his men as Unwanted Illegal Muslim Immigrants from North Africa, confronting Pure-Blooded Spaniards!]
For those who love Verdi’s scores—his soaring Arias, Duets, & Choruses: You get the so-called Anvil-Chorus in Trovatore, by the way—the melodramatic libretto of Troubadour has long been a problem. In 19th Century theatres, such dramatic-fictions were beloved of the Masses, for whom—especially in Italy—opera was The Popular Theatre-form.
Di Luna—who could be a Moon-Crazy Lunatic, in his obsession with destroying Manrico and possessing Leonora—does not know that Manrico is his very own brother, stolen from the Aristocratic Cradle by the vengeful Azucena.
Count Luna has had her mother Burned at the Stake as a Witch! A very popular Saturday-afternoon entertainment in Medieval Spain. ["What a lovely day/For an Auto da Fé!" As noted in Bernstein’s Candide…]
To avenge this Monstrous Act—but then even Gypsy-Fortune-tellers were outlawed by the Roman Church, and this is Still In Force!—Azucena threw the stolen-infant into the flames.
Unfortunately for her—if not for Manrico—the two babies looked largely alike, so she mistakenly threw her own kid into the bonfire. Well, I ask you… In a time of movies like Mission Impossible, can audiences accept such melodramatic twaddle?
Fortunately for Verdi’s audiences—then and now—his score is so passionately powerful that it carries spectators along on a rushing river of sumptuous sound. Indeed, it is with that Passion that Robert Carsen has reckoned in this dynamic staging.
The word FIRE is used over a hundred times in the libretto, so this has been a Visual & Emotional Through-Line in the production.
In fact, in the opening-bars of the Overture, multiple Tall Tongues of Flame leap upward from the forestage, littered with abandoned orange oil-drums. Upstage and high overhead, the refinery smoke-stacks gush huge bursts of flame.
In some choral-passages, these immense Orange Chimneys alternately belch flames, in time with the music! At the searing close, all systems are Go in the Fire-department.
On a hot Bregenz summer-evening of Epic Global-Warming, the heat is almost unbearable in the audience of some 7,000 spectators in the open-air tiered-seating.
Director Carsen’s notes on his production are compelling. For instance: The emotions felt by the characters in Il Trovatore burn hotter and are more devouring than in any opera written by Verdi. The passions experienced by its archetypal characters burn them all with their intensity: love, hatred, jealousy, sexual-desire.
At some point, however, all these emotions are subsumed by Azucena’s all-consuming emotion of revenge. Revenge is totally Nihilistic. It destroys everything in its path, most certainly the person or people who feel it. The desire for revenge is probably responsible for more deaths and more destruction in our world than anything else.
[One remembers a certain President saying: He tried to kill my father!]
As for the almost ridiculous plot—You threw your own baby into the fire?—Carsen has this to say:
Opera celebrates the irrationality of the emotions, their burning destructiveness and searing power. The inner world of Il Trovatore is not logical, not rational. It is violent, destructive, all-consuming, anarchic, nightmarish.
[Does this suggest the Political Strategies of some Current Governments?]
Carsen also notes that Romani & Sinti tribes retain elements of the Ancient Mithras Cult, a pagan Persian religion, worshiping the God of Fire & Water.
In Hungary, before the birth of a Gypsy baby, a fire is lit and kept alight until the child is baptized: As the flames soar, a woman recites a chant beseeching protection by means of fire against the evil spirits of Earth & Water…
As for the Oil-Refinery, Robert Carsen says:
The Petrochemical Industry stands darkly as the destructive symbol of our times: it slowly burns itself out while the greed it fuels provides us with a constant reason for war. Like some monster of Greek Mythology, it completes its poisonous cycle of destruction by ensuring that those who survive the wars will be killed by other means: pollution, global-warming, economical and political disaster…
Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln: How did you like the show?
Your scribe was especially impressed with the Azucena of Larissa Diadkova—always a winner!—and the Graf Luna of Zeljko Lucic. As Leonora, Iano Tamar was both lovely to look at—in costume-designer Miruna Boruzescu’s slinky gowns—and compelling to hear. Carl Tanner was more effortful as Manrico, but then he had to be sprinting all over yards and yards of catwalks and refinery-stairs!
Others in the premiere-evening performance were Giovanni Batista Parodi, as Ferrando; Deanne Meek, as Ines, and José Luis Ordonez, as Ruiz.
But Conductor Fabio Luisi had two or three other actor/singers ready and rehearsed in each role, as the Lake-Stage production—virtually sold-out for all its 23 performances—plays almost nightly.
Other talents included: Scott Hendricks, George Petean, Katia Pellegrino, Annalisa Raspagliosi, Marinanne Cornetti, Patrizia Patelmo, Luibov Sokolova, Arnold Rawls, Mikhail Davidoff, Zwetan Michailov, & Clive Bayley.
The Moscow Chamber-Chorus joined the Bregenz Festspiel-Chor to provide powerful Verdian vocal-enhancements. Also: Uniformed Military-Police dancers and various Fascists & Gypsies.
Because the Wiener Symphoniker has to play every performance shut-away under the stage, it is now projected on huge video-screens at either side of the stage for all to see!
Trovatore 2006. From left: 'Ines' Deanne Meek, 'Leonora' Iano Tamar. Photo by Dietmar Mathis.
Like many German & Austrian critics, your scribe didn’t think last season’s Trovatore could be either improved or re-thought: They certainly could not change their minds about that massive Oil-Refinery…
Nonetheless, Robert Carsen made some scenes much more effective with re-thinking and re-staging.
And Lighting-Designer Patrick Woodroffe—he also lit The Rolling Stones!—made some intimate-scenes much more important with deft lighting. In fact, the entire set—blazing, belching flames and all—seemed more strongly lit than before.
What was especially impressive to local and regional critics was the improvement in the Lake-Stage’s Acoustics. Last year, they seemed as good as they could ever be, considering the theatre’s open-air-conformation and its placement on a great lake at the foot of looming alps.
Obviously, singers have to be body-miked on an open-air stage. But the engineering innovations of the Acoustic Team—that had also made the rebuilt Teatro Fenice in Venice one of the "Livest" opera-houses in Europe—worked wonders this season.
And not only outdoors. They dynamically improved the acoustics in the Festspielhaus and the experimental Werkstatt-Bühne‘s flexible space.
Since 2002, the coveted German Opus Bühnenpreis—annually awarded in Frankfurt, at the International Prolight + Sound Fair—has also honored stage-acoustics achievements. In March of 2006, it was awarded to the Bregenz Festival for its new BOA—Bregenz Open Acoustics—system.
Technical Director Gerd Alfons introduced your scribe to the ingenious team of engineers who created this "Klangdom"—a sort of Sound-Kingdom—for all three Festival theatre-venues. They, in turn, demonstrated What They Had Wrought.
Among the innovations are Raum-Simulation, or Space-Simulation, based on the principle of Wellenfeldsynthese—IOSONO—or Synthesis of Sound-Wave Fields. This was developed by the Fraunhofer Institute.
Acoustic-designer Wolfgang Fritz explains: "We want to bring the listener more into the action of the production, so that he’s no longer an Outsider, but is integrated into the piece!"
Next Summer: Puccini’s Tosca on the Great Lake-Stage!
The already-designed setting for Bregenz’s 2007 Lake-Stage production of Tosca has not been revealed to any Outsiders—even to Culture-Journalists who promise to stay mum.
Nonetheless, considering that this great Romantic Operatic Tragedy plays out on the crenellated roof of Rome’s historic Castel San Angelo, an immense statue of an Angel with Widespread Wings seems an essential.
Just such an image dominated one of Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s most effective Tosca designs. But, for Bregenz, I’d like to see this Angel as Totally Black, with Great Wings that actually move through the night air, slowly wafting the doomed lovers to their deaths…
Stay tuned: Bregenz Festival Zeitungen will document the construction of the definitive Tosca set!
In previous seasons, Signature Set-Pieces from major Lake-Stage productions have been salvaged and put on display. The Trovatore Oil-Refinery is so impressive, it’s a shame the entire orange-ensemble cannot be saved: possibly sold to Exxon-Mobile for advertising-purposes?
Tech Director Gerd Alfons is pleased & amused that your scribe loves this Majestic Unit-set so much, but he points out that each part of this great setting has been carefully designed so that it can be re-used in future productions. They are very Cost-Conscious in Bregenz! If not in Salzburg…
Kunsthaus Bregenz Lights the Lights!
The translucent Glass Cube—or KUB—that makes Kunsthaus Bregenz one of the most ingenious Art Gallery/Museums in all of Europe this summer sported a huge neon-outline of a Light-Bulb on its street-side, facing Lake Constance. There was also another bulb under the outer glass-square-sheath on the opposite side of the structure.
Within the cube were a number of astonishing and hugely colorful artworks by the Irish-born, American-educated, British-dwelling artist, Michael Craig-Martin.
On small computer-monitors, on large canvases, and on all the walls of the top-floor, Craig-Martin offered images of ordinary objects rendered in bold-outline and in a variety of bold, basic colors.
Among them were Light-Bulbs, but also Water-Glasses, Sun-Glasses, Knives, Hammers, Pliers, Paper-Clips, Cell-Phones, Safety-Pins, and other familiar objects such as Deck-Chairs and Eames-chairs.
The exhibition is called Signs of Life…
What is really most engaging and arresting in these distinctive Craig-Martin works, however, is his Appropriation of Figures, Objects, and Images from famed artists such as Piero della Francesca, Marcel Duchamp, Georges Seurat, René Magritte, & Donald Judd!
And why not? They are very decora
Copyright Glenn Loney, 2006. No re-publication or broadcast use without proper credit of authorship. Suggested credit line: "Glenn Loney, New York Theatre Wire." Reproduction rights please contact: email@example.com.
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