Exclusive: Vienna’s Tristan gets booed at dress rehearsal

Exclusive: Vienna’s Tristan gets booed at dress rehearsal


norman lebrecht

April 11, 2022

is this a record?

After act one of today’s dress rehearsal of today’s Generalprobe of Tristan und Isolde in Calixto Bieito’s new production, our man in the aisles says there was a storm of booing – unheard of from an invited audience, mostly of people under the age of 27.

Before the 2nd act the Staatsoper director, Bogdan Roscic, came out and told the audience that they are attending as guests and he would have them thrown out if there was any repetition of the booing.

Our experienced operagoer says: ‘the production is the worst and most amateurish I have ever seen.’


  • Piano Lover says:

    All of these operas ,no matter who they belong to,should be booeed.
    -no music
    -when there is music….background music only
    -“singers” should convert to theatre in public schools.
    -most of them can’t even read music…

  • Paul Dawson says:

    Whether at public rehearsal or scheduled performance, I feel that booing should be held off until the very end. It’s a legitimate form of feedback, but mid-performance can have regrettable impact on the performers.

    • Nick2 says:

      If booing is to be held back until the end of a performance, presumably applause should also be held back. And if that is the case, singers should not appear in front of the curtain until the very end. They cannot have it both ways.

      Further when any singer worth his/her salt knows that Bieito is going to be the director, he/she will be well prepared for extensive booing. If not, then they should have learned a little about this particular Director. Plus it should have not the slightest effect in the rest of their performances.

    • Kathleen E King says:

      Participation in a crime makes one at a minimum an accessory.

  • Clem says:

    Oh dear oh dear. I guess Bieito’s provocations were too much for their tender souls. No surprise there, I gave up the illusion that young audiences are adventurous a long time ago. You need maturity to accept being drawn out of your comfort zone.

    Of course, many “experienced operagoers” never reach that maturity. It’s funny how many self-styled Wagnerians never listen to Wagner’s / Hans Sachs’s advice:
    “Wollt Ihr nach Regeln messen,
    was nicht nach Eurer Regeln Lauf,
    der eig’nen Spur vergessen,
    sucht davon erst die Regeln auf!”
    (If you want to judge according to rules that what doesn’t follow your rules, then forget your own they and look for the rules of that [which you are judging]!)

    • Tiredofitall says:

      So, no opinions except yours?

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      If only they all shared your enlightened values and exquisite virtue.

    • Oliver says:

      I see just the opposite : perhaps people who boo certain things are mature enough to know what they like or don’t like. Just because something looks different and has absolutely nothing to do with Wagner’s original work doesn’t automatically make it interesting or fascinating.

    • justsaying says:

      Clem, fair enough. Your Hans Sachs would have been fine with having his melodies replaced by rapping. (Judge it by its own rules!)

      Question: would you advise a director davon erst die Regeln aufzusuchen when approaching an opera? Or does this only apply to those who find Bieito’s rules unproductive?

    • Petros Linardos says:

      Being unconventional does not necessarily mean being inspired.

      I remember being mesmerized by listening live to the young Ivo Pogorelich. His sound and highly individual interpretations had so captivated me, that I didn’t care how many musical conventions he had thrown out of the window. Yes, in the context of the young Pogorelich live (his recordings didn’t capture his sonority), I can relate to Hans Sachs’ wise insights.

      Not so with Regietheater interpretations. To me they are generally a tasteless distraction from the music and the libretto. If I want a deeper understanding of the latter, I study the text.

    • Mefisto says:

      You need maturity to accept people might dislike your work, and boo it. Of course, many “experienced directors” never reach that maturity. Very often they prefer to stay in the comfort zone where people will find them brilliant and clever no matter what.

      One should understand that not everybody goes to the opera to be provoked, some people just want opera well sung and well directed.

      By the way, I love regie-theater, but that never made me feel more clever or mature than anyone.

    • Kathleen E King says:

      AS I said, want new? Write it yourself.

  • Hermann Lederer says:

    There was no storm not even nearly a gentle breeze. There where two or three booers and they came not from the seats of the 27 year olds but rather from 72 oldies. The production is not provocative at all; rather a little bit boring. Today’s mainstream….

    • Karl says:

      You are right: The production is boring but also completely stupid, ugly and wrong. If you heard only 2 or 3 booers, well I suggest visit as soon as possible a doctor. You are in big danger.

  • Zvi says:

    After Bieito’s threat I would have booed even louder.

  • Bart says:

    The director added some more sentences at his short speech before the second act started.

    He said that the audience are welcomed guests on free tickets at a for singers very fragile moment in every new production, the dress rehearsal. It is the last chance to try things out and that singing these roles at 10am in the morning is very challenging. Unless other opera houses, that threw all the guests out after booing at dress rehearsals, the viennes state opera will continue the rehearsal with guests. But he urged, that everyone who wants to boo shall buy tickets themselves and do this at a performance…

    • Karl says:

      Bart you are right. But please consider the young people paid € 10 for their tickets. Its the same price what costs a standing (at the moment seating, because standing places have chairs) ticket. This means they have a “Contract” with the Opera and this includes free speech.They are not guests.

    • Nick2 says:

      Having worked for an opera company and since then attended many dress rehearsals and performances, I roundly contest Bart’s idea that the Dress Rehearsal is the “last chance to try things out.” That is plain nonsense! The stage, the stage/orchestra and the technical rehearsals are the last chance to make changes. A dress rehearsal is to all intents and purposes a full performance and it is thereafter too late to make any other than the most infinitesimal change. If you invite an audience to a dress rehearsal and get upset at their reaction, then you have a pretty good idea what the reaction will be once performances are underway. Mr. Roscic was just being stupid!

      • Karl says:

        Mr. Roscic has never led an Opera house. Except of terrible and wrong productions there is nothing to expect from him

  • Michael says:

    I think there are two rules when attending a dress/general rehearsal. First, you are quiet and polite during the performance itself and second, you do not talk to anyone publicly (especially social media or press) about what you have seen/heard until the first night.

    • Tiredofitall says:

      In theory I agree, but in the age of social media impossible to enforce or to expect people not to share immediately opinions publicly.

  • Anthony Sayer says:

    ‘the production is the worst and most amateurish I have ever seen.’

    So business as usual for Bieito. He gets paid monstrous sums and everyone is disgusted. We hosted his shitty Turandot a few years ago. His assistants were like followers of Charles Manson in their dewy-eyed devotion.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Since Salome, Tosca and the Sacre, music theatre productions looked for the shock value to draw audiences, and it became a ‘value’ in itself.

      A masterpiece was boo’d for its shock value at the first night. So, we try some shocking thing and it will be a master piece. It is not progress, but degeneration, and primitive, cynical ‘thinking’, damaging the art form. Such desperate attempts to make opera ‘relevant for modern times’, are truly suicidal.

      Is there a solution to this downwards spiralling? Yes, of course: returning to the roots, the original sources, and produce opera entirely from the inside-out instead of the other way around: trying to reveal the interior life of a work and the staging as much as possible in harmony with it.

  • Matthias Goerne says:

    Very well said.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    The mob will work you out, sooner or later.

  • Wiener says:

    Bieito’s Zeit ist einfach vorbei.

    • Robin Worth says:

      Wie man hofft!

      But the blame lies with whoever hired him : if you sign up Bieito you know what to expect, and should not be surprised if it is either sexually explicit or blasphemous or just plain weird

  • Wiener says:

    zu spät gebuht

  • Petros Linardos says:

    What if the audience walked out, early on, en masse? Wouldn’t that be a more civil way to express disapproval? Wouldn’t it sting even more? After all, sitting through all this nonsense and then booeing is still a form of attention, one that some provocateur directors seem to relish.

  • Hans Winkler says:

    I agree, dress rehearsals are still rehearsals and audience should refrain from booing . As to the premiere, at the end (and already after each act) there was very clear opoosition to the production. Not to the singers, musically the performance was unanimously cheered. I did not boo (I hardly, if ever, do), but share the general negative opinion about Bieitos production. But, it was almost very positively reviewed by the German speaking feuilleton. That’s the problem. The (dumb) audience and the feuilleton are growing more and more apart in modern Regietheater. By the way, Austrian radio just cancelled the broadcast of the Tristan premiere scheduled for today upon request of the Staatsoper. Too many indisposed singer due to illness, they say. Well, no one was announced as indisposed at the time. Do I smell censorship?