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Impressions from Bayreuth

Impressions of the 2017 Bayreuth Ring
from WSQ member Martin Kriewaldt

I attended Ring II; the singing and orchestra were magnificent, even from my seat in the third back row. 

The blocking left much to be desired as on a number of occasions the performers were behind the proscenium arch and the sound quality suffered. The same was sometimes the case for much of the set. As I was about one third of the way across the row, this shows either ignorance or malice from the director. Sightlines are 101 for directors. 

I applaud the Festspielhaus for doing challenging productions, but the risk is that they might fail. For me this one did. I am well-used to productions doing some violence to the actions mentioned in the libretto, but in return I want to learn something new about the work, which can indeed come from converting swords and spears to guns in the 20th century. 

This production did not achieve that for me, neither for those near me in the auditorium nor any of the dozen or so intelligent Wagner-tragics’ discussions at our dinner parties afterwards. Indeed, the production, as viewed, left several vital pieces of the “story” out. One had to supply those oneself as going to happen after the curtain fell (death of Hagen and Brünnhilde entering Siegfried’s funeral pyre are just two examples). Other parts made the story irrelevant. If an AK 47 from a box can kill Fafner, anyone can wield it and reforging the Zauberschwert is pointless as is breeding an innocent fearless hero to use it. Simply throwing the ring into a burning oil drum, without returning it to the Rheinmädchen, does not rid the world of it.

Whilst the settings were clever, even thought-provoking, they eventually just became distracting from Wagner’s great work and the magnificent performance of it. This was the case for me even though I had studied last year’s Stephen Fry-hosted television series on this production before attending and had already observed the distractions in it. Many members of the audience resorted to closing their eyes to remove these distractions. It is supposed to be a production of the Ring, not a set with Wagner’s score as accompanying music. Perhaps the next incarnation will be more insightful and revealing.

Even if the next production is rated more poorly, I still intend to return. The event can overcome any director. 

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