Christian Thielemann slams Dresden for cutting his Ring rehearsals

Christian Thielemann slams Dresden for cutting his Ring rehearsals


norman lebrecht

January 26, 2018

The music director has lashed out at the Semper Oper in an open letter, saying this would be his first and last Ring in the city unless conditions changed.

Due to lack of rehearsals, he charges, the Siegfried was of unacceptably low standard.

Apparently, rehearsals were cut back due to extra stage time needed for the social event of the year, the Semper Oper Ball.




  • Andreas B. says:

    as I understand the letter, it is not about “cutting his [Thielemann’s] rehearsals”.

    in fact, he complains that there weren’t enough piano stage rehearsals (which most likely would not have been lead by CT), so that singers, being not perfectly prepared for the staging, thus couldn’t concentrate fully on the music.

    his other point is that the orchestra had to play other demanding repertoire at the same time as the Ring.

    he also laments poor communication in the planning process.

    if he were GMD, he might have had more influence to prevent all of this …

    • Andreas B. says:

      to clarify:
      CT is chief conductor of the Staatskapelle and their concert programme, therefore he is not actually part of the opera house’s administration.

      • Anon says:

        That’s not exactly true. As far as I know, his contract specifies also a number of opera productions. But he is not GMD, because nobody wants him to be in charge of hiring and firing, since he has shown anywhere where he worked in the past, that he is not mature enough to having that responsibility over other people.

  • erich says:

    It is surely not the case that Thielemann can have been unaware -and not personally sanctioned – the number of rehearsals, piano or otherwise, allocated for the production. Even in the case of a late substitute for one of the roles, someone who prides himself, as he frequently states, as possessing the skill of an old-fashioned Kapellmeister, should have been able to cope perfectly well with the situation. Methinks he doth Protest too much!

  • AB says:

    I do not know about this particular case, but the trend of less and less rehearsal time in opera has been notable for some time now. I can remember when I started out in the late 1980s that we more often than not had two and a half to three weeks rehearsal for a new production, pre – dress and dress rehearsal included. Somehow by the mid / late 90s this became two weeks rehearsal then the performance run.
    A similar story in vocal chamber music – even for more complicated or new works – less and less rehearsal time is paid these days. While sight reading skills and rapid grasp of the work in hand should clearly be up to the task, certain pieces require more integration time into the voice- some of which happens together during collective rehearsal time .

  • CounterTenor says:

    To clarify comments in Norman’s notes below the letter: It was the opera ‘Siegfried’ that was below standard, not the performer of the title role.
    Wouldn’t want to upset any singers, now, would we?

  • N.N. says:

    “Personelle Konsequenzen wären zu ziehen.”
    So who’s head Thielemann is asking for?

  • T Sculco says:

    Thought the whole ring was glorious, Congratulations to the entire company and Maestro Thielemann.

  • Christine says:

    This is again a typical example of trying to show CT as irascible and irresponsible. This alleged “open letter” is an “Aktennotiz” – which is in fact a strictly internal note which definitely should not be disclosed!

  • CB says:

    Fascinating read – but a storm in a tea cup methinks. The letter is no more than would be seen in any organisation where strong opinions are held about upholding standards and if planning has been poor – I can imagine much worse!

    I attended the first Ring cycle and Die tote Stadt and have to say I was surprised they had scheduled Gotterdammerung and DTS on consecutive nights – so the letter’s point on that is no surprise. It’s pretty mad planning. As an aside, as DTS is right up Thielemann’s street (he conducted it in Deutsche Oper Berlin days but not since?), someone missed a trick not scheduling the opera so he could conduct it.

    Fortunately, as one of the “international audience … carrying the reputation of performances to the outside world” – outside world – this Ring was of very high quality. Thielemann and the orchestra excelled throughout and Andreas Schager was on thrilling form as Siegfried. He’s enjoying some golden years at the moment. However, there were some slips ups on staging – it wasn’t as precise as the performance in 2017 which could be what Thielemann was using as a point of reference. The mistiming of Schager miming /blowing that darn horn for example – which did create some giggles in the front row. Probably not what Thielemann was after. But yes – I agree with the comment above – overall – bravo – I would have gone again to the second cycle if I could.