Mariss makes friends with the rat-man

Mariss makes friends with the rat-man


norman lebrecht

August 01, 2018

Many conductors have reservations about the radical director Hans Neuenfels, whose production of Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades opens at Salzburg on Sunday. Neuenfels, renowned for his Bayreuth production where the chorus were dressed as rats, said yesterday that ‘it is very rare and almost bizarre for conductor and director to form a close-knit unit’.

Mariss Jansons is an exception.

Neuenfels (l.) said: ‘I have rarely felt that conductor and director could communicate so well.’

Jansons, calling the production ‘delightful’, added: ‘It is immensely joyful to be working at the Salzburg Festival with a first-rate orchestra such as the Vienna Philharmonic, a wonderful ensemble of singers and an outstanding director – I feel as if I’m in paradise.’

photo:  SF/Anne Zeuner


  • John G. Deacon says:

    After the Bayreuth “rat fest” Neuenfels is on my “regietheater” black list. That truly ghastly year at Bayreuth is, so very sadly, impressed on my memory as we also had to suffer the even more ghastly, irrelevant and insulting Parsifal of Herheim (he’s also now on the same list)….. and that same year the Tristan was so dreadful I couldn’t even sell my ticket ! A trip that was a staggering waste of money.

    I am old enough to have seen the Wieland Parsifal (1966) – what a memory that was – along with the Ring and the Böhm Tristan of that same year.

    I don’t do Bayreuth any longer.

    • Sue says:

      Oh dear, this is really priceless. These self-actualizing regietheater types who take themselves so seriously should really be the butt of all jokes. It’s hilarious. Rats!!

      Reminds me of “The Big Lebowski” and “….leads”!! The Coens – I’d like to see them hook up with the rats regietheatre; I mean, they’ve done bowling. Side-splitting, all of this.

    • Caravaggio says:


    • John G. Deacon says:

      Sue’s reply is somewhat trite and almost juvenile and she misses the point totally. Regietheater is concerned, primarily, with productions that insult the regular operagoer (and I suggest she’s too inexperienced to be insulted yet – never mind; there’s plenty of time before she reaches the end of this road).

      Many such productions are also entertaining and worthwhile but where they are not so, they end up telling us nothing, they insult us and do not entertain – at that point they have failed (especial when one has seen operas upwards of 20 times). Then it all becomes stiflingly boring. A novice might be amused – but this ain’t opera.

      In Valencia Sue would have loved the Fura dels Baus’ production of Samson & Al Qaeda where a strung up pregnant woman had her belly cut open and the foetus fell to the stage ? Something there surely to match her inexperienced comments and give her a real thrill. Many of us have had enough of all this rubbish.

      The Parsifal in question contained the usual swastika, Parsifal dressed as a boy-sailor (c.1900), battle scenes of Rommel’s campaign projected through Wahnfried’s windows, Red Cross nurses humping the wounded patients along with the Flower Maidens and other untold stupidities all of which combined to tell us nothing at all about the work as it was all irrelevant, largely offensive and quasi-delinquent. Par contre the following Bayreuth production, set in a monastery in Sinai did not insult in any way at all.

      I am glad she found my note funny – some growing up to do, and more operas to see, before making any further absurd observations about a very serious problem of our time.

  • Nik says:

    I hope Jansons is right about this one. With Neuenfels it can go either way. This is a piece that has so much to offer dramatically if the director works with the material and not against it.
    I’ve spent a lot of money on tickets and travel to see it on the strength of the cast and conductor.