At Bayreuth, Brünnhilde is replaced by man in Götterdämmerung

At Bayreuth, Brünnhilde is replaced by man in Götterdämmerung


norman lebrecht

August 29, 2017

Audience members tell Slipped Disc that the British soprano Catherine Foster was injured during the struggle at the end of Act 1 of Götterdämmerung at Bayreuth last night.

She sang the last two acts of the opera on crutches from the right wing of the stage.

A male assistant director, Andreas Rosar, dressed up in a glittering gold dress to act the rest of the part on stage.

It was the season’s closing performance.

Catherine has posted this message: Twisted too fast left to come out for a bow and calf went ‘pop’ so a ripped muscle – nowhere near as bad as the right leg last year though! Lots of ice and Arnica and it’ll be fine 

We’re waiting to see pictures of her stand-in.


UPDATE: Here’s one.


  • M. says:

    Another proof of Regietheater directors’ *blatant* and *scandalous* disregard for the libretto: “Das is kein Mann!”

  • Ungeheuer says:

    It is evident that this singer needs to learn to move properly. How and why is she cast at Bayreuth is anyone’s guess? What next? Conchita Wurst? Bartoli in drag? Still, we wish CF her due recovery, as we would any other human.

    • Jane Susanna Ennis says:

      Oh well that’s very gracious of you, I’m sure. She had an accident, pulled a muscle, and nevertheless CAME BACK ONTO THE STAGE IN A WHEELCHAIR and sang wonderfully while the Stage Assistant came on and mimed. In other words, she behaved with consummate professionalism.

      • Ungeheuer says:

        She may have behaved with “consummate professionalism” however not the artistic management. To have enlisted a man in drag was beyond the pale and an affront to consummate professionalism. It was amateurish. We expect as much of campy, provincial companies catering to gay men in New York but not at Bayreuth. Better to have cancelled the show.

        • Nadine Weissmann says:

          Better to have cancelled and sent 1974 people who have paid home after just one act? She was able and willing to sing the other two acts, and within one hour the assistant director (who was one of the few people who knew the staging enough to be able to jump in) was in wig and costume so the audience could at least enjoy Ms. Foster’s singing as well as Frank Castorf’s staging. He could have come out in street clothes as a man and would have looked rather silly running around the stage. This way at least the story could be told until the end.

        • Jane Susanna Ennis says:

          We would have been absolutely furious if the performance had been cancelled, this was our last chance to see this RING. Look, I was THERE , I thought it was the best solution to the problem. He wasn’t asked to sing, just to mime. Not everyone realised at first that the sub was a man, and when we did we all admired his courage. Imagine what it must be like, to be told at 5 minutes’ notice, ‘ Put on this wig and this gold dress and go on stage and mime Brunnhilde’.

        • Jane Susanna Ennis says:

          It was NOT amateurish, it was the best solution to an emergency. Apart from anything else, they needed to find someone who would fit in to the costume. I was THERE, I was among the vast majority of the audience who were grateful that he had agreed to sub.

    • Hagens Club says:

      What a ridiculous and stupid thing to say ! Ms Foster has been a consistent highlight of this Ring Cycle. Anyone can have an accident at anytime, Including you I would imagine. Or are you indeed not human ?

    • Hagens Club says:

      What a ridiculous and stupid thing to say ! Ms Foster has been a consistent highlight of this Ring Cycle. Anyone can have an accident at anytime, including you I would imagine …

      • Una Barry says:

        Exactly, four of my main singing teachers of international status, two of whom sang regularly at Bayreuth in their time, could have written about stage accidents. My question is: where was the understudy?

    • Nadine Weissmann says:

      Bartoli just sang in drag, as Ariodante in Salzburg. But perhaps you have objections to that, as well…

    • Una Barry says:

      Bit of a unnecessarily nasty comment.

  • John Borstlap says:

    If you know what is going-on in act II and III, you can only have the greatest respect and admiration for Mr Rosar’s courage to act-out this role with the singer’s voice in the wings. To carry-out such thing on stage, and without any preparation, is genius.

    And since in opera everything is make-believe anyway, that can be entirely believable. It should be noticed that the Brünhilde role is quite manly anyway, as a created character she is quite emancipated, as we could see in Wallküre and Siegfried, where she even sleeps in armor (which no contemporary emancipated woman would even dare).

    • Sixtus says:

      And let us not forget that in the original libretto the attempted rape in Act 1 is also performed by a character (Siegfried) in Tarnhelm-enabled Gibichung drag .

  • Sintolt der Hegeling says:

    This is another example of a major problem which Bayreuth continues to ignore: a total lack of understudies.

    Conductor Hartmut Haenchen fell ill the day before the “Parsifal” I saw at the beginning of August; luckily Marek Janowski, on the Green Hill for the “Ring,” agreed to jump in with one quick run-through. It was rather miraculous as he chopped nearly half an hour off of Haenchen’s timings; the chorus consistently worked very hard to keep from falling behind the new tempi.

    A few days later, Michael Volle was clearly not in good voice for “Meistersinger.” The second act portended disaster, as he was about to face the longest act in the longest male role penned by Wagner. To top it off, the 50-year-old Eva, Anne Schwanewilms, began screeching in “Sachs, mein Freund.” The audience was summoned thrice by the brass on the balcony to get into our seats for the third act, but the doors to the auditorium remained locked, with sounds of the orchestra emanating from within, and no front-of-house staff member with any idea of what was going on, causing insane congestion in the hallways and staircases. Once we were back in, some gentleman came out and whispered that Herr Volle was ill… BUT, trouper that he is, he would go on! The third act – all 130 minutes of it – was one disaster after another. Claus Florian Vogt, reported as undersigning at the premiere, painfully cracked a couple of high notes so egregiously that the audience gasped. Volle was reduced to marking and speaking. The low point was the quintet which was basically a trio for two tenors and a mezzo, with Volle inaudible and Schwanewilms consistently singing painfully, painfully, flat.

    After my trip, I read that at the next performance of “Tristan und Isolde,” Petra Lang announced in advance that she had no voice, but again there was no one nearby to jump in. Lang mimed the entire opera while the insanely overrated Ricarda Merbeth was brought in from somewhere – she was not on the roster this summer – who sang from the wings.

    So the absence of an understudy for Catherine Foster seems an appropriate end to a rather exasperating festival.

    This is not a new phenomenon. I recall a “Walküre” back when Wolfgang was still running the show where Endrik Wottrich totally caved-in midway through Act I. After an inordinately long intermission, we were fortunate enough to get Robert Dean Smith, in Bayreuth for Tristan, for Act II.

    If the rumors of a Netrebko debut for 2019 become fact, they damned well better have an Elsa in costume standing by at all performances.

    I can’t even begin to think of what may occur with “Die Walküre” in 2018…

  • Sue says:

    If the audience left feeling they had their money’s worth I don’t see the problem.

  • Singer/manager says:

    Sorry but what’s the discussion about? It is totally common that an assistant stage director takes the place of the singer when something unexpected like this happens, since they know the staging by heart. Either the soloist or his/her understudy will then sing from the side or the orchestra pit. Who cares if it’s a man or a woman, use your bloody imagination!

  • Maestro Tenore says:

    I assume the audience was told of the accident and that she would be singing from the wings with a stand in acting the part out? Just wandering.

  • Christine TEBB says:

    On hearing the announcement, we thought perhaps the brilliant Patrick Seibert was going to be promoted from Pruegelknabe/general whipping-boy to Saviour of the World! In any case, we were delighted that Catherine Foster could still sing. The make-up and costume teams and the stand-in did a great job and the night was saved.