Opening tonight: which opera?

Opening tonight: which opera?


norman lebrecht

December 02, 2020

Dies it have to be so ugly?

So unsexy?

So… contemporary, in the worst sense of the word?

It’s at the Bavarian State Opera online tonight. Figure it out for yourselves.


  • José Bergher says:

    Puccini’s “Suor Angelica.”

  • A.L. says:

    This is, by the by, the legacy of hubris (and worse), the detritus left behind by (the late) Peter Jonas.

      • A.L. says:

        No, VERY TRUE. Does, for example, Planet of the Apes sound familiar to you?

        • I served as the Director of North American PR during Sir Peter’s brilliant tenure and was privileged to witness some of the most glorious productions I ever saw and present them to an international public. Sir Peter and David Alden were the best that could ever happen to the Bavarian State Opera.

          • Ms.Melody says:

            David Alden is an absolute criminal! Every production of his that I had the misfortune to see was as ugly and perverse as they come, including Lucia molested by her brother during the duet, Marzellina in Le Nozze molested by everyone including her father, the gardener , and Duke’s page in Rigoletto molested by all the courtiers. One needs a long shower after watching one of his productions, but, I suppose, this is how he measures his success.

  • Anonymous Bosch says:

    Like they say: “Tutto nel mondo è burla” – especially in München.

  • Dalledu Alletre says:

    Wasteful, ugly, sicko, quickly dropped stagings have long been par-for-the-course at Nikolaus Bachler’s Bavarian State Opera. But more to the point, why are there no Italians in a cast for Falstaff, a work so wholly dependent on its text? Why is a baritone with no career in Italian opera assigned the coveted title role? Why was no explanation issued for General Music Director Kirill Petrenko’s withdrawal months ago (his replacement understands Italian music) from what was supposed to be a highlight of his last season?

    • Novagerio says:

      Dalledu: I still believe serious artists refuse to take part of this nonsense. This madness and “monument-bashing” started with the “genius” Gerard Mortier in Bruxelles and Salzburg,
      appointing stage directors and set-designers of dubious talent, but with the right political ties.
      The problem is that those madmen confuse the stage with the shrink’s sofa. And let’s not forget the Homoki-Years at the Komische Oper. No sane human being would imagine professional artists with a minimum of integrity taking part of Calixto Bieito’s staged orgies of violence, sodomy, scatophilia or being urinated in the mouth (yes, I’m thinking of the notorious Seraglio in particular) – all in the name of “artistic freedom”.
      For this kind of insanity they have usually had an ensemble of no names with 3.000€ a month, and of course, they can’t complain. Just save money on the singers and put it all on a well-staged scandal “pour épater les bourgeois”.
      Then came Covid-19 and shut down the whole business. But the damage to the artform can’t be blamed on the Covid entirely.

      • jan neckers says:

        You probably have not seen the productions at De Munt in Brussel when Gerard Mortier was general manager. They were opulent, beautiful and by today’s standards mostly very traditional. “Zjejarke” as we often called him in Flanders was a complex man: outspoken, briljant linguïst, full of ideas, genuine opera lover. At the same time idle (the “Flemish peacock” was his surname), a moron in financial matters and often unsure (his driver -later one of my collaborators at Public Flemish Radio and Tv- wrote a higly illuminating book; in Dutch of course). Mortier did not belong to the better classes (he was the son of a baker) and in our generation “coming out” was not easy. At the end of his second tenure at De Munt he somewhat radicalised. In Salzburg he was snubbed by the German speaking elite who considered the horrenduously expensive tickets an occasion to show their dresses and jewels. After all, for them he was only a burocrat and not the big north pole star Karajan had been. Mortier gave it back with a vengeance and on purpose engaged crooks like Neuenfels. In his Dutch language interviews he sometimes dropped his guard as he was well aware few people speak or read the language of Flanders and the Netherlands. He once admitted that opera as an art was dead (though as a Puccini-hater he didn’t dare to mention Turandot’s première as the end of the road); something he would never have said in German or English.

        • Robin Worth says:

          Not sure about this : did you see his Trovatore with the tightrope and his Don Carlo with the static and seated chorus? But at least he did have Pritchard to help the music along

    • erich says:

      The problem is the fixation the Munich Opera has with baritone Wolfgang Koch, who seems to get almost every new production. Not only is he at best a B+ singer, but his appearance with greasy hair and balding dome is extremely unaesthetic. But he is managed by the wide- boy manager of Petrenko, who managed to impose a number of his roster during the Bachler reign.

      • PeterX says:

        Falstaff: “A fat, vain, and boastful knight, he spends most of his time drinking at the Boar’s Head Inn with petty criminals, living on stolen or borrowed money. ” . Wolfgang Koch (helped by the costume designers and make up artists) has the right looks.

      • IQP says:

        The house baritone in Munich under Jonas used to be the estimable and greatly missed Paolo Gavanelli, who seems to have disappeared. Does anyone have insight into his whereabouts or current doings?

      • C Rogers says:

        What’s wrong with a balding dome?

    • Anthony Sayer says:

      ☞ Dalledu: For all his talent in other areas, Petrenko has no feel for Italian opera. You rightly allude to this.

  • The View from America says:

    Korngold’s “Die Tote Oper”

  • Petros Linardos says:

    No, thank you. I tried, years ago, and gave up. It’s not only ugly, it’s also distracting from the music.

  • Peter X says:

    Die ursprünglich für Juli geplante Neuinszenierung von Falstaff feiert nun am 2. Dezember Premiere und Sie können dabei sein: Wir übertragen die Premiere live und kostenlos auf STAATSOPER.TV. Mateja Koležniks Inszenierung von Verdis Oper ist besonders von italienischen Kinofilmen des Regisseurs Paolo Sorrentino inspiriert. Die Handlung spielt bei Koležnik in einem fiktiven Casino. Wolfgang Koch feiert in der Partie des heruntergekommenen Edelmanns Sir John Falstaff sein Rollendebüt. In weiteren Rollen treten Ailyn Pérez als Mrs. Alice Ford, Boris Pinkhasovich als Ford und Judit Kutasi als Mrs. Quickly auf. Michele Mariotti übernimmt die musikalische Leitung.

    So it is Fallstaf and definitely not Il trittico.
    The three operas have the same, rather futuristic setting combined with props and costumes “d’époque”. I liked it.
    Fallstaf is set in a 1960-ies casino. It is a huge “Türen comedy” and technically very clever. I’ll watch.

  • RW2013 says:

    Can we just say thanks (as to Vienna) for the free and uncomplicated streams?

  • Ms.Melody says:

    VERGOGNA! Probably Falstaff, but could be Tannhauser , Act 1, or Carmen, or any other opera where 1 man is surrounded by several women. Looks disgusting, nothing clever about it. Thank G-d for the performances preserved on DVD and Youtube continuing to show them.

    • Peter X says:

      It definitely is Falstaff. One can and should argue about the voices , the conducting and the staging. But do watch the interviews at the Bayerische Oper website. There’s nothing shocking, nor disgusting in the clips shown. The set is really clever: an endless revolving series of enormous doors.

  • Lyrictenor says:

    Why not take a look at the whole production before you downgrade it to two pictures? When no art is made everyone grumbles and when art happens everyone grumbles as well. Sad.

    • Brian says:

      We have seen numerous productions in Munich. Even the comedies (L’elisir d’amore, for example) are about violence, brutality, perversion and body fluids of every sort.

    • Herne of Windsor says:

      Falstaff set in a casino? No thanks! I love Shakespeare and Verdi, and the theater, too much. Such a shame the wonderful Michele Mariotti attached himself to this sordid, puerile junk!

    • urania says:

      This has nothing to do with art, yes, I dare to say this. This is just rolling Verdi in the mud. Nowadays art snobs mostly enjoy!

  • IP says:

    It could also be Rheingold, Parsifal, Rinaldo. . . it doesn’t matter because they don’t care about the work or the audience, and they don’t have any ideas beyond being full of themselves.
    There is a lovely Russian who stages every opera in a bourgeois parlour. All his bourgeois parlours look exactly the same: ugly places with brown walls, which must have been the highest luxury he ever saw in the Ural. Beyond that, the heroine winds up being her own aunt, or something of the kind.
    Another favourite is the one who boasted that the first time she ever entered an opera house was to direct Carmen. She promptly discovered a gender-political meaning to which the whole world, not least Bizet, has been hitherto oblivious.
    Against that sad backdrop, Warlikowski does good productions, once you get over the inevitable and gratuitous prologue.

    • BruceB says:

      I remember seeing an interview with some opera director (can’t remember who) who set an opera or at least a scene from an opera (can’t remember which, except that it had nothing to do with his staging idea), in a railroad yard with fog and crisscrossing railroad tracks… because he remembered walking across a railroad yard in the fog as a child. That was his reason. No metaphor about journeys with uncertain destinations, nothing. Just a vivid childhood memory.


    • Kenny says:

      That was Lina Wertmuller, IIRC.

  • Enquiring Mind says:


  • Alviano says:

    “I don’t know it, but I’ve heard about it, and I don’t like it.”

  • Rodger says:

    Agreed. If you’re going to have bikinis you ned to have bikini bods on stage.

  • M McAlpine says:

    Funny these crude attempts to be funny and sexy just turn out in reality to be unfunny to the intelligent and crude to the sensible. They are the product of a depraved mind which are hired by even more depraved minds to damage high art.

  • JussiB says:

    Looks like Alberich and the Rheinmaidens to me.

  • Andy says:

    Am I the only person in the world that really enjoyed this production? From the Absolutely Fabulous women to the for once not rotund and bowdlerized Falstaff…

  • Watching Eye says:

    Didn’t know Jeremy Clarkson was moonlighting.