End of the road for Regietheater genius

End of the road for Regietheater genius


norman lebrecht

February 07, 2022

The veteran provocateur Hans Neuenfels has died in Berlin, aged 80.

He retired after the Salzburg Festival four years ago.

A writer, film producer and librettist, Neuenfels was the driving force in Regietheater from the 1970s.

He was fond of sexually explicit imagery, and rodents (the picture is from Bayreuth’s 2011 Lohengrin).




  • A.L. says:

    Well, Regie is down by one ‘genius’ today. Before planning on celebrations, though, first know that there’s a queue waiting to fill his shoes which means no end to the agony and demoralization.

    • Vienna calling says:

      Planning the celebration of the death of a human being? No matter what you think of this artist, this comment should be removed.

    • Ms.Melody says:

      De mortius aut bene aut nihil.
      In this case mostly nihil.
      Very true about the line of succession. It includes a number of women who think they need to outdo men in weirdness and pornography.

    • Esther Cavett says:

      Another undignified title. A man died for God’s sake. The SD titles could be a bit less sensational . Imagine next of kin reading them

  • Armchair Bard says:

    Well said, AL. Oh such happy memories of the East German directors/producers Götz Friedrich & (I think) Ruth Berghaus, two other early Regie-proponents of the 1970s. Their pseudy-Marxist antics were amusingly chronicled in Private Eye as the Götz & Daisy Show.

  • Pedro says:

    He was not a genious, just a provocateur. Strehler, Ponnelle and Chéreau were genious.

  • Anthony Sayer says:

    He was always entertaining, though his perpetual drunkenness did get embarrassing on occasions. Seeing how much he smoked and drank I think it’s a miracle he got to eighty at all.

  • The View from America says:

    Heaven, Hell or Purgatory?

    Enquiring minds want to know …

  • How we have suffered from “Regietheater” in recent years …. to the point that I hardly dare attend most presentations but I came to assume that the order of things today for one to be allowed to produce your “con”cept for the stage one had to prove to the management that you were a qualified “con”. But seriously is it not a question of being old fashioned or to suffer whatever abuse is levelled at people like me, the problem, in my view, is this. If you have seen most operas in 10-20 different productions over a lifetime then you only have to ask yourself, “Did this production entertain ? Did it inform ? Did it insult ? Yes, sometimes, but the answer to the final question is invariably YES ! And the Bayreuth Herheim Parsifal insulted one’s intellingence and one’s emotions in buckets. And when the Fura dels Baus took the finale of Les Troyens inside the Hadron Collider (Valencia) …… Well, I’ll leave you all to contemplate how ghastly things can yet become ! Such a long way from the unforgettable Wieland Parsifal of 1951 which I was lucky enough to have seen at Bayreuth in 1966. Insulting ? Never. Simply life-enhancing.

    • Hans Ulrich Mueller says:

      “seen most operas in 10 – 20 different productions” – how sad, this gigantic waste of time, time you could have used to live and to think. Just one Parsifal – this brown and stinking fairy tale for old man – not to mention for old Nazis – is an insult to the human spirit. (But the music is great – just don’t listen to the words and close your eyes.)

    • MJA says:

      Well I (and quite a few others) managed to find Herheim’s Bayreuth ‘Parsifal’ one of the most intelligently thought-through productions of anything in recent years, with the rare distinction of realizing its abundance of ideas not through superimposition but organically through continuously brilliant and striking stagecraft and theatricality. I could give example after example: the use of Wahnfried, both inside and out, as a window on to Wagnerian landscapes, internal and external; or the extraordinary theatrical coup of the Act 1 transformation into the recognisable set from the original production on that very stage; or drawing upon the wider narrative of German history as a backdrop right up to the present day Reichstag that turned into a great mirror reflecting the auditorium and embracing the audience in the transfiguration of the closing minutes. Perhaps some people would do better to open their minds and engage their intelligence rather than fancying it insulted, then they might be better able to distinguish great productions from bad ones.

      • Anthony Sayer says:

        Like you, I adored this production and saw it many times. If only it had been conducted by Boulez.

      • What on earth has this piffle got to do with Parsifal (except that the composer has to be ignored) ? I said I didn’t wish to be insulted but I DID wish to be informed and entertained. Herheim’s Parsifal does none of that; it just makes a fool of Wagner. The parallels drawn here are on the basis that because a pistol was invented murder thus became a good and legitimate activity ! Creating hooligan-styled scenes of theatrical operatic bedlam is a great technical skill, I agree, but such does not tell us anything. What was it that Rommel’s desert campaign had to do with anything whilst nurses and flower maidens “humped” the hospitalized on stage (all adopting different positions) ? And the dropping of a swastika onto the stage at the end was but nauseating and juvenile. Nauseating rubbish.

        • MJA says:

          I’m sorry you couldn’t appreciate (let alone be informed and entertained by) Stefan Herheim’s extraordinary production of ‘Parsifal’, Mr DEACON. However, the point is that many others were, so you might want to ask yourself what you were missing, while you bluster away about “piffle”. I may as well observe, though, that I’ve absolutely no idea what you’re trying to say in your sentence beginning “The parallels drawn here…”. I’d also add that no swastika was dropped on to the stage at the end (though they do feature earlier on in relation to Klingsor) so I’m wondering how well you are remembering the production, or even how much attention you were paying when you saw it. Maybe, as I originally wondered, you were putting too much energy into being outraged instead of asking yourself how Herheim might have been challenging his audience. At any rate, it is also simply inaccurate to suggest that Wagner was being “ignored” (let alone “made a fool of ” – really?) since all of Herheim’s theatrical ideas derive from the text, whether music or libretto or scenic or all three. Sorry.

    • JoshW says:

      By all means, let’s keep everything the way it was in 1951. Definitely a recipe for the successful evolution of art. (Did you actually read the drivel you wrote??)

      • Grow up, please. I never suggested anything of the sort. I emphasized that I seek always to be instructed, entertained and informed (by whatever presentation) but NOT to be insulted by poppycock and piffle. However one looks at it, the true theatrical genius that was Wieland (down) to Herheim manifests an appalling decline over 70 years but the “smart-a*sed” are clearly amused by supporting the trend towards “Traviata in the Cuckoo’s Nest” which is where we are heading unless the general public succeed in keeping the “cons” away from indulging their stupidities – and insulting us ? Bring back Jonathan Miller.

        • MJA says:

          Wieland Wagner was a great, innovatory director, Mr DEACON, as was Jonathan Miller. But so is Stefan Herheim. However, I wonder, from your stance and tone, if you would have been one of those heralding Wieland’s innovations at Neu Bayreuth, or calling for the restoration of the productions of yesteryear that they deliberately replaced? I think I can guess. And by the way, it demonstrably weakens your argument when you become pejorative about those who disagree with you.

  • Loisel says:

    Who cares? The Regietheater has been dead for some time now. Just a walking dead(the Regietheater, of course).