‘Worst booing for years’ at Vienna’s new Tristan

‘Worst booing for years’ at Vienna’s new Tristan


norman lebrecht

April 15, 2022

First reports say there was audience uproar at Calixto Bieito’s new Tristan und Isolde at the Vienna State Opera last night.

The Salzburger Nachrichten critic writes: ‘at the premiere of Tristan und Isolde there was more protest than it had been at the Vienna State Opera for a long time.’ He blamed the protest partly on the production and partly on the flouting of a Vienna tradition to perform Parsifal on the eve of Good Friday.

The Upper Austrian Volksblatt writes: ‘Easter without “Parsifal” at the State Opera was just as unimaginable as Easter without a service in St. Stephen’s Cathedral.’

Kleine Zeitung praises the precision booing, directed at irrelevant effects in acts one and three.


More reviews as they land.


  • Karl says:

    I was there. This production is a shame. Every “booh” is one to less for this “garbage”

    • Anthony Sayer says:

      Agree wholeheartedly with your opinion of that charlatan’s work. However, it would be more accurate to describe the production as ‘shameful’ (Schande) as ‘a shame’ translates as ‘Schade’.

  • Günther Kraus says:

    I am not surprised. So far all of the new productions created under the direction of Bogdan Roščić have been a disaster. The only reason there was no booing for last year’s Parsifal is they premiered it to an empty house and a livestream.

    The man has no taste and seems to be quite a bully…what can you expect?

    • Fred says:

      Maybe you saw the announcement today. The State Opera has his position up for offer with the contract starting 2025!

  • Player says:

    Was there any booing during the music?

    That is now, for me, the acid test. William Tell première, Royal Opera House 2015. Never heard scenes like it. Conductor booed while conducting etc (“Shame on you, Tony!”) for allowing the farrago onstage. Music briefly halted.

  • Bloom says:

    How not to love apriori such a booed production. All the morons go against it.

  • Petros LInardos says:

    What is so special about the Vienna Parsifal that it gets so much coverage? There is no shortage of awful new opera productions, in Vienna or elsewhere.

    • Petros LInardos says:

      I meant Tristan. Maybe I was misled by the photograph, which looked more like a lousy Parsifal to me.

    • John G. DEACON says:

      Although he is not alone I suggest that the “theatrical hooligan” Bieito must be brought to heel – this continual insulting of audiences has to cease – and what about the composer who can no longer reply ? Do those few supporters of this kind of operatic rubbish in some way think that they enhance themselves by supporting such nonsense and trying to appear as a clever know-all smart-ar*e by coming over all arrogant and “luvvie-like” ? Bieito has a string of truly ghastly productions behind him (Barcelona’s Ballo & Wozzeck for example) and he’s one of several that I now avoid (but Herheim’s Parsifal holds the record – the biggest insult of all time).

    • Hans Mueller says:

      the problem of every Parsifal production is that this religious junk and kitsch hurts every intelligent person. But giving it in exchange to a Bieito production is going from bad to worse.

  • Fred Funk says:

    No booing was directed at the viola players. Such a thankless job.

  • NorCalMichael says:

    This comment is not intended as a statement specifically about Bieito’s Tristan, which I have not seen, but more generally.

    These shocker productions are actually playing into an old trope in the arts, one as old at least as modernism’s origins. This is the trope of offending the public by disturbing the status quo, showing them things they don’t want to see.

    There’s nothing new about doing this. It’s what Manet did in the Salon of 1865 with his painting Olympia, and Mozart with Nozze di Figaro, and etc etc etc… It’s as old as can be. Épater les bourgeois. By booing, the audience is playing its standardized, predictable, totally expected role.

    What would really be different would be an archaeologically informed depiction of medieval Ireland in all its ugliness. If we can have that on TV shows set in the Middle Ages, maybe someone will imagine that it can be approximated on stage…

    Just ruminating.

    • Petros LInardos says:

      What is the current status quo? I would argue it is regietheater: it has dominated major European opera houses for at least 2-3 decades. Extant naturalistic productions are relics from earlier decades.

    • Kathleen E King says:

      The difference is that MOZART gave us great music, da Ponte witty libretti. There is nothing wrong with casting and depicting art as written and envisioned (e.g., “medieval Ireland” — actually earlier, warts and all) but to transfer, re-interpret and generally butcher someone else’s work for “shock” value is a sin, the worst sin! Lacking actual talent, these people steal and defile the work of others.

    • Anthony Sayer says:

      I feel your second and third paragraphs are a little out of date. That may well have been the case when so-called Regietheater excreted itself into our collective conscience, but doesn’t necessarily hold good two generations on, where informed theatregoers have been able to witness successful as well as pretentious attempts to update and reinterpret the existing repertoire.

      It’s sad that some directors have been able to forge careers and create significant personal wealth by exploiting outrage for personal gain; it’s a tragedy that there are still many theatres who still consider these pornographers cutting-edge and relevant. They are neither. They are self-serving egomaniacs.

  • Philip wright says:

    If the production was bad enough for people to book ,one can only hope that ‘Dinner for one’ at Christmas will be ok…or will some halfwit cock up that production too…!

  • Larry L. Lash says:


    A recording made on the opening night (14. April, as one critic noted exactly 110 years after the Titanic hit an iceberg) will NOT be broadcast this evening (16. April) as scheduled for many weeks on ORF’s radio station Ö1, as part of its regular „Oper am Samtagsabend“ series.

    There are several possible reasons:

    Possible booing during the music (I am not sure of this, but I have witnessed it at Staatsoper);

    Some critics complained of the noise created by Tristan and Isolde as they tear-apart the sets at the end of their „Liebesnacht“ duet in Act II (one review said the noise was either overwhelming or simply too distracting);

    Certainly booing at the end of the acts, especially Acts I and III, which may prevent the hundreds and hundreds of tickets for the remainder of the run from being sold (I did some quick math and found that 16% of the house remains for sale for Monday’s show, at cheaper prices than the premiere; tomorrow’s „Der Rosenkavalier“ is totally sold out).

    Instead, lucky Ö1 listeners will get a performance from 1967 with Birgit Nilsson and Jess Thomas.

  • M McAlpine says:

    I would have thought that anyone parting with money to purchase a ticket for this nonsense would have been mentally challenged anyway, so what’s the odds? A mentally challenged director with clowns performing to na bunch of idiots who have paid to watch it.

  • wiener says:

    Die Aufführung ist auch musikalisch so schlecht, dass sie nicht im Radio ( ORF Ö1) übertragen wird . Ersetzt durch Karl Böhm/Jess Thomas / Birgit Nilsson 1977.

  • wiener says:

    Statt Tristan 2022:
    Aus dem Ö1 Archiv – Richard Wagner: „Tristan und Isolde“
    Mit Birgit Nilsson (Isolde), Jess Thomas (Tristan), Martti Talvela (König Marke), Ruth Hesse (Brangäne), Otto Wiener (Kurwenal), Reid Bunger (Melot), Peter Klein (Ein Hirt), Harald Pröglhöf (Ein Steuermann), Anton Dermota (Ein junger Seemann); Chor und Orchester der Wiener Staatsoper; Dirigent: Karl Böhm
    (aufgenommen am 17. Dezember 1967 in der Wiener Staatsoper).
    Präsentation: Michael Blees.

  • Fred says:

    The premier performance was scheduled this evening on Ö1 ORF (Austrian National Broadcaster) – but was “pulled”! They replaced it with a live 1967 premiere featuring Nilsson, Jess Thomas, Hesse, Talvela. Cond. Böhm!
    Wise choice I suspect!

  • Bart says:

    The State Opera withdrew permission for Austrian Radio to broadcast this Tristan last night, the radio played a 1967 performance with Birgit Nilsson and Karl Boehm instead