Bayreuth’s male Brünnhilde: I was the only one there without a beard

Bayreuth’s male Brünnhilde: I was the only one there without a beard


norman lebrecht

August 30, 2017

The Süddeutsche Zeitung has an exclusive interview today with Andreas Rosar, the assistant director who played two acts of Götterdämmerung on stage after Catherine Foster injured a leg.

The trouble, he says, is that there were no female assistant directors.

‘The problem: There were no female assistants in the team this year. So I talked to my two male colleagues to clarify who now plays the role. They just grinned at me with their bearded faces and said, “You do not have a beard.”‘

Read on here.


  • Bravo~ You have done a really good job, ma’am!

  • Ungeheuer says:

    The pivotal question remains unanswered: ***Where was the female understudy?*** That would have been the consummate professionalism to follow. But no, the artistic team had to create an unnecessary, small-time scandal. Worse, they chose camp over substance. As I wrote that may be acceptable and even affirming to, for example, Ira Siff and her type in their campy bubble. But at Bayreuth? It is galling.

    • Jane Susanna Ennis says:

      Ungeheuer, people have tried again and again to explain this to you. I was THERE, and like 99% of the audience I thought it was an ingenious solution to the problem. Just THINK……’re faced with an emergency, here is someone who knows all the moves and fits into the costume, so he can save the evening. It was NOT an ‘unnecessary, small-time scandal’, far from it.

      • Ungeheuer says:

        Disingenuous, you mean. To cover emergencies is the reason understudies (of the same sex) exist. I am not buying your rationalizations or anyone else’s on this topic. Period.

      • Bruce says:

        Jane – the fact that you were there is meaningless. Ungeheuer has a much greater understanding of everything that happens anywhere than you do. Obviously.

        • Patrick Gillot says:

          I don’t see the point of being there or not. Having no substitute for an Opera as long as Gotterdamerung for which people wait for up to 7, 8, 9 years to watch in Bayreuth is properly scandalous. Only people with an Agenda which have nothing to do with music can find a silver lining here. Of course congratulation to the hairless man who performed the role but this should not happen in a serious theater.

    • Patrick Gillot says:

      you are right it smacks of a complete lack of professionalism.

    • I think I actually see the point of UNGEHEUER. Here is how things usually work nowadays:

      The “Profis” prepare and do their jobs poorly, sometimes at the edge of complete disasters. Then they improvise some quick-and-dirty, half-baked solutions, which naive people often wrongfully perceive as ingenious stunts. So in the end poor jobs and disgraceful unprofessionalism are enthusiastically celebrated as the “greatest miracle of art”.

      And it is not just an unique phenomenon in the “high culture” business. If you look at how things are done in the politics, finance, urban planing etc., it has almost become a standard to sell something inferior as great achievements. The “Profis” aren’t good at DOING the right things anymore, they are only good at SELLING bad things.

      Remember, Baytreuth Festspielhaus is not just any no-name provincial theater around the corner. It is supposed to be THE holy temple of R.Wagner’s art.These people have been running this business for over a century. They know Brünnhilde is not Rheintochter. How can they fail to have a solid Plan B for Brünnhilde in the first place?

      While I still want to sincerely congratulate Herrn Rosar for his great job, because he was probably the last person to blame in this situation, I do think we should not hang this story too high and carve it as one of the “miracles” in the Baytreuth history, except that they definitely will …

    • Max Grimm says:

      “Consummate professionalism” would have been abstaining from the commission of Frank Castorf in the first place.

  • Nadine Weissmann says:

    Not all principal roles have covers at Bayreuth, especially if the covers are not otherwise employed singing other roles there. Depending on the season, the house is well aware of who else has sung other roles, but since this was the last performance of the season, all other ladies who might have stepped in were no longer in Bayreuth… and with an hour’s notice, this was by far the best solution. From far away, you could barely tell it wasn’t a woman because of the wig and dress so expertly altered to fit Mr.Rosar. This is what live theater is all about – and the show did indeed go on. The audience was gracious and happy!

    • Ungeheuer says:

      No. Live theater is about the joint acts of singing and acting as embodied by one individual (of the sex assigned by the composer for a particular role). Take away one or the other (or the other) and one is left with half-baked theater made on the cheap. Or worse, camp. That this small time charade is justified, let alone celebrated, speaks volumes about the degeneration of discernment and standards. It bears repeating that Bayreuth is decidedly not a drag queen’s bargain basement theater.

      • Nadine Weissmann says:

        Tell that to Richard Wagner and his pink silk underwear…

      • Jane Susanna Ennis says:

        And of course you know better than Nadine Weissmann, who actually sang in this RING production.

      • Sixtus says:

        ‘Live theater is about the joint acts of singing and acting as embodied by one individual (of the sex assigned by the composer for a particular role).’ I find this an incredibly blinkered viewpoint. If Handel assigned the premier of a role to a castrato and a later performance to a mezzo, what then? So what gender of singer is Octavian supposed to be in Der Rosenkavalier? Certain aspects of gender (not all) are indeed a social construct, and in the theater the situation is at its most fluid. A gripping performance can make an audience believe anything.

    • Jane Susanna Ennis says:

      It is true that it wasn’t immediately apparent that the stand-in was a man…………and the vast majority of the audience were more amused than shocked when we found out.

    • For people who still don’t check it, here is the thing:

      It’s like you are running an airline company, which was founded by your grandfather. You are the boss just because who you are but not what you can. People are still booking just because the service WAS good. Your management is somewhat amateurish and things aren’t always being done in the right way. One day, your ground staffs didn’t properly fuel the aircraft so it was running out of power 30000 ft. above the Indian ocean. Due to some lousy work of routine inspection, the redundant system for emergency power wasn’t functioning properly either, God damnit. There weren’t even enough life jackets on the airplane. The crew members didn’t get trained professionally, had no idea about the standard workflow in such emergency, so everyone was in great panic.

      The single fortunate part out of all these misfortunes was that the pilot didn’t have a black out and was still able to pull a stunt of water landing. Thank god all people on the plane were safe in the end. The passengers all seemed to be satisfied and gracious. This story was shared and liked million times across the social media. The pilot was celebrated as a super hero.

      But hey, wait a minute! All these things shouldn’t have happened at all in the first place, right? There is actually nothing you, as the boss, can be proud of. Well, maybe except that you had a good pilot. But that’s pretty much about it.

      OK, now back to the earth. People should be grateful that these self-proclaimed “artists” aren’t allowed to do really important and sophisticated stuffs like designing nuclear power plants, building telecommunication infrastructure or operating public transportation services. When was the last time you got an electricity fallout? Did the power company just send you some scented candles as “emergency solutions”? You won’t even accept a diesel generator as a proper solution! You just want the electricity back, right?

      Such things never happened because the people doing these jobs are real professionals. They have Plan B, Plan C or even Plan D. If something did go wrong, because power network is inherently an extremely complicated thing, they will learn from the mistakes, modify the industry norm and improve the operation guideline.

      Why not just admit your mistake and say, “Hey folks, sorry, we did a lousy job this time. Thank god we didn’t completely lose our face. But we know we won’t be so lucky next time. We will learn from it and do it better in the future”.

      • Bogda says:

        Total nonsense and false comparison. Have you been at the performance? Do you know how it ran?
        What was amateurish in having a injured but capable singer (one of the best Brunnhildes of our time) sing the role after an accident from the side of the stage and having assistant play the role on stage. This is a common practice in many theaters when such accidents happen on a short notice. This was the best option management could’ve and should’ve made at the time.
        Vast majority of the audience would’ve been way more upset had the understudy sung and played the role on stage, knowing that Foster is willing and able to sing.

  • Bogda says:

    I really don’t get some of the comments. Situation was that Cathrine Foster was more than able to continue singing the role, and after her performances in the first Act, die Walküre and Siegfried most of the audience present would certainly prefer to hear her do it than anybody else. It would be a major let down to all of us present there to have to listen to her understudy knowing that she was able and willing to perform. that the substitute was a man was not that noticeable and done in a respectful way. There was no drag show as some here might imagine. But it helped move the story and let us enjoy the last performance of what most present at Bayreuth that evening would clearly call one of the best Ring productions in recent memory. 35 man ovations at the end proved that the decision was right

  • Franz says:

    A very entertaining disunion here…
    Among all diverse comments here there is one thing that is defiantly not true:
    You don’t wait anymore for seven, eight to nine years to get a ticket for this Festival.
    Usually you can buy them at the night.

    • Bogda says:

      That’s also not quite true. Regular ordering still takes 7-8 years. One can try internet sales, and there is a big chance to get something, however if you are lucky and well organised, and depending on the show. For several shows, mainly some parts of Ring, one could certainly get a ticket at the night. But for some, like Meistersigner, it was basically impossible