Katharina Wagner to make way for Calixto Bieito

Katharina Wagner to make way for Calixto Bieito


norman lebrecht

December 10, 2017

We hear from insiders that Leipzig Opera is planning to replace Katharina Wagner’s Tannhäuser, called off last night, with the 2015 Antwerp production directed by the iconoclastic Spaniard Calixto Bieito.

Be careful with the air-kisses.


  • Theodore McGuiver says:

    Good to see they’re forty years behind the times. Had the fraud Bieito been Northern European he would have been decried as passé ages ago.

  • Razz Matazz says:

    Doesn’t Mr. Bieito claim to be Catalan? Maybe Spain might choose to declare unilateral independence from Bieito …

  • John Borstlap says:

    Leipzig tries to be as modern and western as possible to compensate for its histories and the negative reputation of E-Germany which is building-up in the present with all the extremists in the field.

    • Urania says:

      The Leading Team at Opera Leipzig is mostly from the West. They had to ‘rebuild’ the Opera, public attendance was down at 60% with Konwitschny. That’s my Riccardo Chailly did not conduct any more at the opera house. Things had been planned differently, remember Intendant Meyer did leave short notice.

      The city Leipzig is in competition with Dresden – always was. Now they want to play with the top cities in Germany – see the soccer team. The center of Leipzig is well redone but outside not much has moved. They count on tourists and business. University is strong as well. Wonder how strong the influence of City Hall is in the Opera House. Also the city does promote Richard Wagner as son of the town. That’s why they like to have good connections with Bayreuth. All not very pleasant for art, going slowly towards a kind of Disneyland of old Germany.

      • John Borstlap says:

        The question is, which ‘old Germany’ is intended. There is more to it than the ‘brown period’: there is the Germany of philosophy and classicism and great literature & poetry…. so, if they would skip oldfashioned Regietheater which is a chunk from a less interesting past and try to create something truly artistic, that would, maybe, mean a return to what has been really good stuff.

        There is a difference between Disney kitsch and a truly recreation of the best of the past: see the reconstruction of the Berliner Stadtschloss, or the rebuilding of Frankfurt’s old town centre, or the attempts here & there to rebuild old monuments which have been bombed in the war. In terms of music, Leipzig has such an impressive history, and its starting location of the peaceful DDR revolution in 1989 is it latest heroic deed. The tragedy is the mental warp of postwar modernism eroding any sense of the artistic and meaningful.

        • Urania says:

          John, Germany is and was a difficult country. No trust in tradition. When most other European countries had become some kind of nation, Germany still was a bundle of little ‘kingdoms’ until Bismarck did build a nation.

          I have been in Leipzig since 2000 and have been in the Eastern parts regulary since 1993, involved with art institutions, lived also in Berlin. The call for freedom which did start in Leipzig was routed in the desire for free travel and a better life style. It had not much to do with Goethe or Schiller. Communist upbringing did leave a mark in the minds of people.

          Anyhow I do not understand why suddenly Oper Leipzig is going towards KW and now Bieito. Public is very conservative and I only can think that the town marketing wants to have more international headlines – scandals. Leipzig did miss a chance for a renewal of art based upon the traditions of 19th century, but they do not think that far back.

          Germans are complicated as told before. Berlin Stadtschloss and Frankfurt Römer ok – but if they would have done attractive appartments with greens for affordable rents people would be more lucky. Berlin Mitte became truely Disney Land. Housing in Berlin, Frankfurt and other cities is out of reach for regular people now and Germans are renters. Well anyhow as Leo and Mr. Schwa commented, the problem is huge. We need to change on many levels.

          • John Borstlap says:

            All very interesting. I know that Germans are complicated and that their country is complicated.

            But – “No trust in tradition”? My strong impression is that under the surface Germans are VERY traditional, also when they do not want to own-up to it. This may explain their MANY orchestras and theatres and the audiences for them. The whole Regietheater trend seems to me a forced gesture towards ‘modernity’ and not a genuine one. I have never spoken to a German who expressed enthusiasm about Regietheater or glass-and-steel modernist city centres. But when you mention something from their interesting past – pre-brown – they get nervous, probably because never having read Goethe or Schiller or Kant. It’s like rich people hiding their jewelry and being embarrassed about having them.

            “When most other European countries had become some kind of nation, Germany still was a bundle of little ‘kingdoms’ until Bismarck did build a nation.” Actually, he did not build a nation at all. The real heart of Germany and its culture has always been its western part, western of the Elbe, which had in former ages much contact with the Roman world and the rest of W-Europe. It was the most developed and richest part. Behind the Elbe it was Prussia, and it was that part which with violence forced the other German countries into a whole, dominated by Prussia, which was a terrible tragedy, all the German craziness stems from Prussia and its despiccable culture of militarism.

  • Save the MET says:

    As long as they keep him away from the U.S. we are just fine.

  • Arto says:

    Good choice. I’ve seen the production in Antwerpen and it was fine. Nothing chocking or controversial, but a clear reading of the libretto.

    • Urania says:

      ….clear reading of the libretto could mean anything…depends the angle of perpsective of the viewer and his ethical understanding of opera and life…..this kind of thought liberation has brought us nothing….

      • Max Grimm says:

        An entire recording of Bieito’s production of Tannhäuser* can be seen here:

        *Recorded earlier this year at the Teatro la Fenice and made available to view by courtesy of Culturebox and France Télévisions.

        • Uranis says:

          I am glad that I have seen all the great productions between 1985 and 2000 – things got down later. Wagner has nothing to do with these jogging suits, sweat and brutal sexual and moral behavior shown lately. Venus in her underwear – how charming. Nodbody would risk life for this poor girl. I feel sorry for all artists who do feel differently and have to indulge in this dark state of mind on stage. The battle with the senses can also been shown in a much different nobel way which is uplifting for the audience, like a greek drama.

          • RW2013 says:

            The singer of the title role is more of a scandal.

          • John Borstlap says:

            When, in aesthetics, the main intention is to transgress boundaries, you will end up with nonsense and destruction. It is perfectly logical. Such drives have also much to do with the passionate desire to be ‘original’, in the sense of doing something that nobody ever has done before. But originality is not an artistic category. Such misunderstanding is also based upon a very primitive notion of what is original in art, or in opera production. True originality in the sense of a personal approach or treatment, can only become visible against a background of tradition, as the entire history of the arts and of music irrefutably demonstrates.

            The best – i.e. most appropriate – production style for Wagner operas seems to me the one that was cultivated by Wieland Wagner: reduction of props, poetic light direction, shedding of superfluous details and concentrating on the psychological and mythical things, underlining the universal and the timeless. In such context the music and the expressive meaning can fully come into their own right.

          • Max Grimm says:

            Personally, I have come to appreciated concert-performances of many operas more than staged performances.

          • Max Grimm says:


  • Urania says:

    Yes – I do agree with all – so it is. And the way of treating opera nowadays is mostly an insult towards existence on this planet. Music is such a wonderful gift and tool. It should be used with respect. We do not only have pollution outside but also inside.

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    Wonderful ski mask. What can one sing using it?

  • Leo says:

    The music world is being ruined from the inside. People like Bieito are just the visible parts. The real culprits are the managers who hire him, the politicians who keep them in place, and the critics who don’t bite when they should:

    • Mr.Schwa says:

      Great post!! So true!! Pathetic know-nothing frauds run the opera houses. They enable frauds like Calixto etc. He stinks and so do his mediocre productions. Opera is dying. Too bad, because it is a great art form.

    • Max Grimm says:


      • Leo says:

        What can be done???

        • Urania says:

          Build your own opera house as Richard Wagner did 🙂 and still his operas are not safe today, even by his family. Genius is not a heritage. Well, what to do? Protest! But as long as government officials who do give the big money – at least in Germany – have no clue about the art of classical music, the Leading Teams have a free hand. They just need to convince the money givers that art is what they are doing and if the sales are ok – no problem. The more headlines, the fancy opera travelers fly around the world to be part of the scandal. The problem is a social and educational one; all parts of life are subject to Change and not always in the good direction.

          Just now the former artistically successful Bregenzer Festspiele are on a downward motion regarding musical mastership.