Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Fear and loathing in Los Angeles

Four annoying boring fads that will not go out of style:

1.) Backwards baseball caps.

2.) Loud car stereos.

3.) Atonal "music."

4.) Silly stagings of Wagner operas!

Will they ever end? They were doing this when I was a kid and they are still doing it.
In today's Wall Street Journal, Heidi Waleson writes about this production in Los Angeles of "Die Walkure." You can read it here. It is called "A Perplexing Walkure."

That is a picture of the production above. The really sad thing is, it is not even as bad as other productions I have seen and heard about.

Waleson begins:

Achim Freyer's new production of Richard Wagner's "Die Walküre," the second installment of his "Ring" at the Los Angeles Opera, is a curious combination of the abstract and the whimsical. The severely raked stage is dark. Oversized, papier-mâché-like figures representing different characters loom around a central turntable. The singers stand still in large, sculptural costumes and gesture stiffly; a dozen silent actor/dancers who also represent the opera's characters perform what little interaction there is. Movement is slow and deliberate. A huge eyeball, high on stage right, watches over the proceedings. ...

Oh, for Pete's sake.


Plus, they are wasting Placido Domingo.

Waleson, to her credit, criticizes the production for dehumanizing "Die Walkure," which she points out is the most human drama of the "Ring" cycle. "Die Walkure" is that, judging from the number of Kleenex my sister Katie and I went through when we saw it in Toronto.

But first she puts in this tactful paragraph:

Mr. Freyer's distinctive stage pictures leave space for the opera's music and invite interpretation. Are the twins Siegmund and Sieglinde half blue and half black because they are half god and half mortal, or because they are really two halves of the same being, waiting to be joined together? In the beginning of the opera, the good guys wear white and carry luminous white rods; the bad guys get red. But in Act III, the angry Wotan, pursuing his disobedient daughter Brünnhilde, is wearing red. Has he switched teams? It's fun to watch, and speculate...

I disagree.

No it is not!

When I am listening to "Wotan's Farewell" excuse me, I do not want to waste time speculating on whatever this lesser mind who staged it had to contribute and whatever he had in mind.

I just want to lose myself in the drama and you know what? Goofy staging gets in my way. You know what would leave space for me to appreciate the opera's music? Just give it to me straight.

Even if the staging is minimalist, that's OK. I just do not want it to be intrusive. This "Wotan's Farewell" from Bangkok, it is not exactly traditional and it is not perfect but it does not bother me.

People do not always feel it necessary to louse up Shakespeare. You can stage "King Lear" in normal robes and tunics and no one says, "God, how backwards."

What is it about Wagner?

I have my theories. I can explain. The reason is --


Oh, look. I was going to go into this dandy rant. But darn, instead I found myself watching that clip from Bangkok that I linked to up above. That is an oddly affecting production. Brunnhilde is this petite beautiful Asian woman and there is this moment when she and Wotan rush into each other's arms that made me cry.

There is such a magic in this music. I guess all I wish is that everyone could respect that.

At least don't fight it, you know?

1 comment:

  1. Either the set designer managed to steal a Jedi light sabre, or Billie Lawless has found a new niche for his chef d'oeuvre.