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Why not do Lohengrin backwards?

July 20, 2018 by norman lebrecht

26 comments.


The US-Israeli director Yuval Sharon tells the LA Times that he’d like to do the four acts of La Bohème in reverse order:

 It will work really well, from devastation to the beginning. Some people might even think it’s the way it’s supposed to happen. …You can put it on the moon or anywhere else and it’s still the same old Bohème. But how do you get to the core of this piece if not by radically transforming our ability to listen to this piece and thereby open a door to a way that we’ve never thought about it before? So if we end in Act 1, with them singing offstage with these high C’s, what a wonderful way to end an opera.

Sharon is about to stage Lohengrin at Bayreuth.

Or should we expect Nirgnehol?

That has much a better ring to it.


Comments (26)

  1. jan neckers says:

    This is just a rehash of John Boyton Priestley’s “Time and the Conways” where this device was introduced.

  2. Bruce says:

    There is also “The Night Watch,” a novel by Sarah Waters, that works the same way: it starts with a cast of characters in the aftermaths of various interconnected love affairs, and works its way backwards in a how-did-we-get-here fashion.

    I kind of like this idea, for La Boheme at least. My one concern (not a singer so I don’t know how big a concern it would be) is, will Rodolfo and Mimi have the stamina to be able to float that high C from offstage at the very end of the show? If not, that might provide a different type of tragic end to the evening 😛

  3. Robert Holmén says:

    Elsa’s Recession from the Cathedral

  4. Caravaggio says:

    He should send his idea to the Bavarian State Opera as they will surely rubber stamp and implement it. Barring that, how about staging it in Yval’s own car garage in LA? The postmodernists and disruptors will go above and beyond themselves in ecstasy.

    WTF any longer.

  5. Alex Davies says:

    There is an excellent non-fiction book called Stuart: A Life Backwards by Alexander Masters. The biography charts the life of Masters’s friend Stuart, beginning with their meeting in adulthood and working backwards to Stuart’s childhood in an attempt to explain his pathway into criminality, addiction, homelessness (and, astonishingly, parenthood), and ultimately an untimely accidental death. It’s one of those books that would probably make the world a better place if everybody were to read it. Saliently, the story makes the most sense, and is all the more powerful, by being told backwards.

  6. John Borstlap says:

    For people who got bored with the usual classical fare, they can always explore the reversal of time:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rIHFLrjzgbA

    1. Anon says:

      BBC Radio 3 used to do this sort of thing as a quiz on their morning show. That was in the days before they started seriously dumbing down

  7. Patrick says:

    His Cunning Little Vixen production with the Cleveland Orchestra was fabulous!

    1. John Rook says:

      Try getting your tongue round that title backwards.

      1. Paul says:

        yksuortsyB yksil ydohirP
        😉

  8. David A. Boxwell says:

    Betrayal!

  9. John Rook says:

    At least it would solve the conundrum of keeping his name secret when it’s printed on the ticket.

  10. Professor says:

    I have always taken the Murger subtitle “Scenes de la vie Boheme” literally and assumed the opera is more vignettes than narrative. Like a collection of tone poems (Vlast, or Lemminkäinen for example) with a traditional ordering, as opposed to a symphony.

    This sounds like a charming experiement.

  11. Helene Kamioner says:

    Perhaps Sharon is influenced by the way Hebrew is written: from right to left?

  12. RW2013 says:

    Hindemith “Hin und zurück”

    1. Gerhard says:

      Right, and written in 1927!

  13. martin says:

    Just wait until the first night and the reviews of Lohengrin. I doubt he will get any big chance to direct anytime soon…

  14. Robert Holmén says:

    and Bach was doing backwards before backwards was cool…

    https://youtu.be/xUHQ2ybTejU

    1. Petros Linardos says:

      And Rachmaninoff did flexible and meaninful inversion, at a time when strict inversion and retrograde were a long established practice.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ml7nOcti1J8

  15. John says:

    So mimi comes back from the dead but still sick, then gets cured and reunites with her love, they go to visit the market while Musetta leaves Marcello and gets back to her old man, and after some love arias Mimi’s fire is back again and goes back home, while the four guys end without any inspiration and all alone.
    Right…. Lovely.

  16. Deborah Mawer says:

    Like the Seinfeld episode ‘Betrayal’ (influenced by a Pinter play) where the scenes are in reverse order

    1. Nik says:

      The film ‘Memento’

  17. Ms.Melody says:

    Whoever decided that following directions from the composer and the librettist and staging the opera in the time period intended is ” boring”. Great operas have withstood the test of time and do not need interference, reworking or reversing by the nobodies who forget that they have a job
    because these masterpieces were created in the first place. This is an example of artistic freedom becoming anarchy.
    Of course, artistic community is too cowardly to rebel for fear of being labelled backwards or reactionary and the public are held hostage to this garbage . If you want to attend a live opera you must suffer through a retarded spectacle that does nothing to serve the text or music.

    1. John Borstlap says:

      Indeed.

      I’m waiting for a production of Carmen with all the visuals of Lohengrin. Or the other way around. To ‘deepen’ the theatrical experience and ‘bring it up to contemporary times’.

  18. Michael Hurshell says:

    Stage directors should not have the authority to interfere with the score, the composer knew what the intention was. It’s bad enough when the visuals are crazy. Leave the music alone. Of course, those Regisseurs couldn’t do this if the conductors refused to collaborate… (Gues conductors have little say, but the GMD’s could resist a bit more…)


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