MCANA Reports: In Bayreuth, Five Operas in Five Days

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Logo of the Bayreuth Festival
By MCANA Critics

In Bayreuth, members of the Music Critics Association of North America (MCANA) experienced five operas (Die fliegende Holländer, Lohengrin, Tristan und Isolde, Tannhäuser, and Parsifal) in five days (August 18 – 23). Here are individual reports from the shrine of Wagnerism by participating critics.

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Baureuth Festspielhaus

8/20/12: James Bash, writing for Oregon Music News: A Few Peculiarities of the Bayreuth Festival: “Before coming to the Bayreuth Festival, I was warned that the opera house has some oddities, so I knew a bit about what I getting into, but, of course, there’s nothing like experiencing these oddities first hand. At the top of the list is no air-conditioning. Yes, the Festival Hall has no air conditioning….” More….

8/27/12: James Bash, writing for Oregon Music News: Wagner Sisters Talk about Their Work at Bayreuth: “Last week, I joined eleven of my colleagues from the … MCANA in Bayreuth, Germany, where we experienced five operas … in five days (August 18 – 23). We had been told that we might be able to meet and interview the Wagner sisters, Katharina Wagner and Eva Wagner-Pasquier, who run the Bayreuth Festival….” More…..

9/8/12: James Bash. writing for Oregon Music News: Dutchman Rides the Ebb and Flow of Wall Street in Bayreuth Production: “When all of the double-doors closed and the lights went down at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus on Friday, August 18th, there was a feeling of electricity in the air, … but with Germany being Regietheaterland (the land of director’s theater), this production… was going to have something different….” More….

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Christa Mayer as Mary and Adrianne Pieczonka as Senta

8/24/12: Jens F. Laurson, writing for Ionarts: Bayreuth 2012: Dutchman, Faltering Captain of Industry: “The Bayreuth Festival remains a myth, people come in droves, every show is filled to the last seat. But since being forced by a German court to open the books on ticket distribution — much and mostly to the chagrin of American Wagner Societies — anyone who requested entry to the vaunted halls seems to have got as much or more in tickets than they bargained for. Assuming those who used to g[e]t gray-market tickets … stoop to requesting through the normal channels….” More….

8/27/12: Jens F. Laurson, writing for Ionarts: Bayreuth 2012: Lohengrin, a Rat’s Tale About Humanity: “‘Three years may be the acid test for a production’ says Hans Neuenfels about the 2012 performances of his Lohengrin in Bayreuth. That’s quite a reasonable statement in Bayreuth, where it is possible, up to a point, to continue fine tuning a production from inception to the end of its run. If it still – or especially – works, even after the cast has changed, it might be considered a success.” More….

8/28/12: Jens F. Laurson, writing for Ionarts: Bayreuth 2012: Tristan – Solid, Stolid, Staid, and Not a Little Boring: “Bayreuth’s 2012 Tristan, directed by Christoph Marthaler, is now — after seven cycles — on its way to the recycling bin…. Solid, stolid, staid, with a good and even cast, but without anything or anyone outstanding, except for Jukka Rasilainen’s excellently dramatized and very well sung Kurwenal, this Tristan is largely inoffensive, deliberately dour, and not a little boring.” More….

8/30/12: Jens F. Laurson, writing for Ionarts: Bayreuth 2012: Tannhäuser is a Gasser: “When Sebastian Baumgarten looks for truth in opera, … he seeks out the cracks that allow a view behind the façade, at something more elementary, to the very core of the message he perceives in an opera. At the core of Tannhäuser he has found the conflict between the Apollonian and the Dionysian.” More….

8/30/12: Jens F. Laurson, writing for Ionarts: Bayreuth 2012: Parsifal, a Gift of Greatness: “In 2008 I was stunned by Stefan Herheim’s Bayreuth Parsifal, into that year’s last performance of which year I had stumbled through dumb luck,,,, Five years later, in its second-to-last run at the Festival house, this well possibly greatest of Bayreuth productions since Chéreau’s Centennial Ring, impressed even more….” More….

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Jonas-Kaufmann as Lohengrin
(Enrico Nawrath, Bayreuther Festspiel)

9/23/12: Donald Rosenberg, writing for The Plain Dealer: Richard Wagner’s Controversial Festival in Bayreuth, Germany, Endures as Extraordinary Experience: “Sitting in the historic theater Richard Wagner built for performances of his mighty music dramas, you begin to understand why the Festspielhaus has been likened to a shrine. Wagner aficionados from around the globe reverently take their places in the Bayreuth Festival’s spare, amphitheater-shaped auditorium, ready and willing to spend five or so hours watching beloved operas in 85-degree heat….” More….

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8/24/12: Rebecca Schmid, writing for Musical America: Impressions from the Green Hill: Tattoos, Rats and Embryos: “The Bayreuth Festival has had its share of scandal to contend with as Wagner’s bicentenary approaches next season. An international investigation into exclusive ticketing practices; the publicized struggle to find the director for a new Ring cycle; administrative policies that have reportedly shortened rehearsal time; widely reviled productions; and — most recently — the last-minute withdrawal of Russian baritone Evgeny Nikitin … due to an alleged swastika tattoo….” More….

8/31/12: Rebecca Schmid, writing for Musical America: In Bayreuth, Persisting with the New: “‘Kinder, schaff Neues,’ (‘Children, create something new’) Wagner wrote in an adage frequently quoted by stage directors in Germany. In Bayreuth, 136 years after the founding of his festival, the spirit is alive and well. Provocatively-minded Regietheater, for lack of a better blanket term, has come to stamp the recently installed administration on the Green Hill….” More….

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Burkhard Fritz as Parsifal and Detlef Roth as Amfortas
(Enrico Nawrath, Bayreuther Festspiele)

8/25/12: Jason Victor Serinus, writing for Stereophile: Exploring Bayreuth’s Fabled Acoustic: “For audiophiles, the acoustic of the Bayreuth Festspielhaus in Germany, home of the annual festival of Richard Wagner’s operas, vies with Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw and Vienna’s Musikverein as one of the most fabled for recording as well as listening…. I had the opportunity to not only explore the venue from a near-ideal seat in Row 25 Center but to also visit the fabled ‘covered pit’ from which many of the greatest Wagner conductors of the last 136 years have led exalted performances….” More….

8/28/12: Jason Victor Serinus, writing for San Francisco Classical Voice: Visiting the Wagner Bayreuth Festival: Myths and Realities: “To many, the Wagner Festspielhaus (Festival House) in Bayreuth, Germany, represents an untouchable holy shrine on the hill. From August 18-22, I had the opportunity to demystify the site by attending all five of the annual Wagner Festival’s 2012 productions.” More….

12/21/12: For reviews of these operas by Scott Cantrell, originally published in The Dallas Morning News, click here.