Brigitte Fassbaender will direct Wagner’s Ring

The retired mezzo-soprano, 80, has let on that she will start directing Wagner’s Ring cycle in 2021 at the Tyrolean Festival in Erl.

The festival has been under attack for all forms of abuse against singers and musicians. Its former music director Gustav Kuhn has been forced to resign and the arrival of Fassbaender is intended as part of a healing rebuild.

Brigitte is generally positive about the post #Me2 climate, saying that it has improved working conditions in opera. ‘One is more sensitive towards others, more cautious. When I think of the tantrums a director like Otto Schenk used to throw! Partly that was done for effectm to achieve an artistic end.  But that is not possible today, and that’s good.’

 

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  • Fassbaender threatened to resign from the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts if Siegfried Mauser was not removed from membership. It’s also good to see people like her addressing the issues of abuse in the opera world. Genunine progress is being made.

    • Very ironic then, once you consider her talking about what a ‘womanizer’ Carlos Kleiber was and in such affectionate terms too!!

      • The rumors are about Carlos Kleiber’s escapades being consensual. You understand better than I why he was quite a heartthrob.
        The more serious question is how it all affected his family life.

  • That’s interesting to learn about Schenk throwing tantrums. Most of his productions of dramatic operas were so dull and obvious that I wouldn’t have expected their creator to have temperament at all. He was somewhat better with comedies.

    Best of luck to Fassbaender. Petros asked if she’s directed Wagner before. I’m not sure, but her Operabase shows several Strauss productions (Salome, Ariadne, Frau ohne Schatten, Capriccio).

    • Carlos Kleiber didn’t think Otto Schenk’s productions were ‘so dull’. I’ll take Kleiber’s opinion over yours.

      • Kleiber’s opinion on Schenk matters a lot, especially because they worked together. But I a curious if you have a reaction of your own to any Schenk productions?

        • Only those I’ve seen on U-Tube, most notably Der Rosenkavalier. And the 2 documentaries about Kleiber with heavy lashings of Schenk. They were a great team, according to colleagues. Schenk is still going strong, at a ripe old age.

      • I’m with you there Sue. Addison has the arrogance to undervalue a classic director with a lifetime devotion and an unmatched knowledge of the opera art, and in favour of Eurotrash nincompoops who find their own ego and their own philosophical-political and sexual frustrations far more interesting than the author’s, and thus confuse the stage with the sofa of the psychiatrist.
        No Addison: when Schenk and Ponnelle and the “loathed” Zeffirelli had a production running at the Met, the 3.800 capacity auditorium was 100% full. R.I.P. the opera art.

        • It’s “arrogant” for me not to salivate over Schenk, but it’s something other than arrogant for you to dismiss what you don’t like with talk about the sofa of the psychiatrist?

          Please provide support for your attendance figures. Even in the 1980s, there were nights when Zeffirelli and Schenk productions filled far less than 100 percent of the house. Casting matters above everything else.

          From “James Levine: New Era at the Met,” Will Crutchfield, New York Times, 22 September 1985: “Nor is it true that splashy new productions guarantee sales when they cannot be well cast. There have been nights when Zeffirelli’s huge La Boheme played to a house only 69 percent full, and the famous mobile sets of Tales of Hoffmann have several times scored below three-fourths. Operas on the fringe of the standard repertory (Macbeth, Tannhauser, La Gioconda) have all done dismally at one time or another.”

          Both Hoffmann and Tannhäuser were Otto Schenk productions.

    • Thank you for your response regarding Fassbaender.

      I am most surprised at your opinion of Schenk. Have you seen his MET Ring? Rosenkavalier or Fledermaus, both on DVDs conducted by Kleiber? I find him consistently stylish and incisive. And I am not alone.

      Beyond directing, he’s quite a comedian himself.

      Check this slapstick parody of opera:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdZbL3rpHBc

      My favorite is the Lohengrin number, at 9:43.

      • Petros: I saw most of his Met work. I believe the only one I didn’t see at least one performance of was the ’68 Tosca.

        The only non-comedic one I liked was Contes d’Hoffmann. That opera has humorous elements, though, and maybe the phantasmagorical possibilities in the piece awakened something in him.

        But in the Wagner operas, Fidelio, Elektra, Rusalka, etc., I never felt he brought much inspiration or imagination to the proceedings, and as the years went on, he flattened out more and more. New productions would look like advanced revivals, with stock posing and attitudes, an “insert tab here” style. As I’m not one of those people satisfied just to get a production that looks like a more expensive recreation of illustrations or photos from the opera’s early years, the super-traditional work he requested of his design colleagues didn’t make up ground with me.

        The Kleiber-conducted Rosenkavaliers with Schenk’s Munich and Vienna productions are valuable to me for the conducting and the casts, rather than Schenk.

        Lest you think I want nothing but Bieito, Herheim Konwitschny, Tcherniakov and Warlikowski, some opera directors of Schenk’s era whom I rate more highly than Schenk include Patrice Chéreau, John Dexter, Walter Felsenstein, Götz Friedrich, Harry Kupfer, Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, and Giorgio Strehler.

  • Imagine anybody in the creative arts having tantrums!! Unheard of.

    They should all be acting soberly, like board members of a corporation.

  • I attended her staging of Britten midsummer night’s dream ( a boring opera musically) in Amsterdam but she did a really fantastic job in staging it.

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