Opera stars demand: Save the Munich Rosenkavalier

Piotr Beczala is among the first to sign a petition calling on the Bavarian State Opera not to scrap Otto Schenk’s 1972 Rosenkavalier production, which had its final performances last month.

Almost 1,000 have signed. You can add your name here.


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  • If it had its final performance last month, I suspect the scenery may already have been demolished. alas!

  • Dear Noman, thank you for the link. I hope the petition will be sucessful

    Hi Nick2, I attended the final performance. The scenery is ok and can still be used. The workshops of the MĂĽnchener Nationaltheater are excellent and will have no problems in repairing damages if it is necessary.

    • He means that they might have burnt the sets, rather than put them back into storage – or cannibalised the elements for sale, or for use in other productions. If they were able, they might have sold the production wholesale to another house, as Covent Garden did with its Tosca.

  • Londoners will remember the ENO Rigoletto, in the mafia production, which was supposedly retired after 20 years. The new production was so awful that the Mafiosi were back the following season. The ENO did have rather a bad run like that, from which it has not fully recovered.

    • The last outing for the Miller production was in the 2002/3 season, with Bonaventura Bottone replacing Rhys Merion from the Dress Rehearsal onward. It was not revived for about another 12 years. I don’t think they’d kept the sets. I think they rebuilt them…

      • Truly a landmark production! From 1982, I think.

        Inspired by an Edward Hopper canvas — and I’m not sure “mafioso” is the right description. It has to do with a period and place more generally.

        An entire generation learned from it. Peter Sellars, for one.

      • That’s not correct, Dominic. The production was revived in 2009 (conducted by Stephen Lord, with Anthony Michaels-Moore, Michael Fabiano in his British debut and – luxury casting – Iain Paterson as Monterone). The Christopher Alden production was performed in 2014 and then the Miller returned in 2017. The sets were renovated but not rebuilt – the original sets still exist and in fact were seen in Detroit earlier this season.

    • Why? When Otto Schenk was in early days of his theatrical career, his productions pushed out those of elderly or dead people of the prior era. It’s the cycle. It’s the way it’s supposed to work.

      The man who’s written the petition sounds sane and reasonable (I was fearing the worst), but I’m not signing to retain this Rosenkavalier. I see nothing especially remarkable about it, and it’s had a 46-year run. That’s more than long enough.

      • It works. That’s what’s remarkable about it. When you see its replacement, you will know what has been lost.

        • Maybe or maybe not. But even if Munich’s replacement is not good, I don’t think anything could move me from the view that 20 years is a good long life for a stage production, and 46 years is exceptionally generous.

          Some directors/designers may feel that they are as important as the composers, and their work should endure forever. Zeffirelli is a conspicuous example of this egoism. It is not something I support.

  • I wonder whether anybody is able to confirm the fate of the Bolshoi Opera’s 1948 production of Boris Godunov, which I was fortunate enough to see once on tour in London. I understood that it had been retired in 2007 and replaced with a new production by Alexander Sokurov. I haven’t ever seen the Sokurov production, but from photos it looks not dissimilar to the 1948 production (in the sense that both productions appear to be set in 16th-/17th-century Russia). However, there are more recent accounts that seem to suggest that the 1948 production has subsequently been revived. I also wonder whether there’s any chance that the Royal Opera House will ever revive the 1983 Andrei Tarkovsky production, which sadly I never had the chance to see, but looks superior to the new Royal Opera/Deutsche Oper Berlin co-production.

    • Re the Tarkovsky *Boris*:

      I last saw this remarkable production at the Wiener Staatsoper in October 1991, with Abbado conducting (as in London). The Staatsoper chorus was supplemented by Slavic singers from Bratislava (alias ‘Pressburg’). Their cries of ‘bread’ still resound in the memory.

      It was a tremendous performance, but one which was received with only modified rapture by the Viennese audience. (Contrast the long ovations at the ROH in 1983.) As I left Vienna the following day, I picked up a newspaper which carried the news of Abbado’s resignation from the SO. I wondered then, as I wonder now, whether the indifferent reception to *Boris* was the last straw.

      • Who knows about musical politics in Vienna??!! It’s treacherous territory there as, just to name one, Lorin Maazel could have told you!!!

    • 1948 Bolshoi production has been revived and is the production which they currently play on the main stage.

      • Interesting. So has the Sokurov production been dropped already, or do they use both productions from time to time?

        • It does seem that it has been dropped. It’s not on the list of Bolshoi’s productions, they currently list only the 1948 production. To be honest, I was not a big fan of Sokurov’s production anyway (it just didn’t work).
          They have actually replaced the old production during the reconstruction of the main stage, it would never fit on the smaller New Stage, and Bolshoi is not Bolshoi without a Godunov production. The old one (although it does feel old) still impresses with stunning visuals and all soc realism staging. It is in a way a museum piece, but quite an interesting one I must admit.

        • What is more sad is that a generation is growing up which knows little about Carlos Kleiber. And there is little we can do about it. I recall an eminent singer telling me more than a decade ago ago of her surprise that students at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music did not know the name Janet Baker, And Dame Janet had appeared very regularly with Scottish Opera and the RSNO throughout the 1960s and 70s.

          ‘Twas ever thus!

          • Janet Baker was one of my heroes. A great, great singer. But it isn’t just in the realm of culture and music that this generation is ignorant about. Don’t blame them; it’s the completely shallow education system and its focus on propaganda which is to blame. Surely people 40 years and under have been manifestly cheated about their history.

            And Carlos Kleiber was a polymath who loved literature and poetry and knew all about history. In his honour we owe it to our own children to show them, not tell them. I’m introducing my grandchildren (8 and 6) to classical ballet and music. In the name of Carlos.

        • I meant it purely as a fact. But I suppose I chose the wrong wording. When he passed away in July 2004 I felt I had never been as shaken by the death of a person I didn’t know personally.

          • I feel and felt exactly the same way as I do about 2 or 3 people in the public sphere. But Kleiber is the only musical one in the music field.

  • I believe the petition reasonable in that it doesn’t oppose a new rosenkavalier production, whatever it might be, it just wants to preserve the old and successful one alongside.

    As most new productions today impose the “Regietheater” attitude, the value of preserving a proven old production is mainly in that it allows the public direct access to the work without its “reinterpretation” by this or that stage director, a reinterpretation for which the vast majority of the public never signed up in the first place.

    I’m afraid that neither with Bachler nor with Dorny after him, much change is to be expected, and unfortunately the progressive-snobbish contempt for the public is likely to continue.

        • This kind of intellectual acrobatics is the basis of most 20th Century “art”, of which Regietheater is an integral part.

          If the libretto says “A room in the place of A, vienna, end of the Y century. A big bed in the center” etc – there isn’t much to interpret or reinterpret. You simply do as written.

          The hatred to Regietheater is mounting and will sooner or later manifest.

          I will not be surprised if some of the leading practitioners of this fraud will in the future end up being legally accused of embezzlement of public money.

      • I have seen several Schenk productions live, notably the above Rosenkavalier (Munich 1985 as well as a similar one in Vienna in 1979) and the glorious MET Ring (in a 1997 revival). I am convinced that Schenk is as faithful to the libretto as, say, a modern conductor is to the score. Let’s say Schenk is to the Rosenkavalier libretto what Kleiber was to the music. Of course he is thoughtful and creative, but all the acting and all the sets are faithful to the libretto. Which is not the case with many Regietheater productions.

  • Save as many old productions as possible everywhere please. Modern stagings are so awful and ridiculous that it hurts !!!

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