Big boos for Siegfried at Bayreuth

Big boos for Siegfried at Bayreuth


norman lebrecht

August 04, 2022

On a hot night when the bars ran out of ice, the black-tie audience vented its frustrations on the third part of Wagner’s Ring with a return to collective cat-calling.

Austrian director Valentin Schwarz continued his Netflix-aimed soap opera by portraying the dragon that Siegfried kills as the ailing head of a mafia family.

Andreas Schager as Siegfried was warmly received, as was Tomasz Konieczny as Wotan, back faster from injury than any summer footballer.

Photo © Bayreuth Festival / Enrico Nawrath


  • Paul Barte says:

    The production team has not been present for curtain calls, but I suspect will be after Götterdämmerung. Choruses of boos will descend then, no doubt. I will be among them.

    • Tamino says:

      It is telling, that this blog is keen on reporting on boos in Bayreuth for Siegfried, but not on the exuberant enthusiasm about Thielemann and his Lohengrin.

  • George says:

    That’s what happens when you make audiences suffer. Maybe some day Europe will enter the 20th century and discover air conditioning…

    • La plus belle voix says:

      Quite. Let’s install another few million units and heat up the planet.

    • Baruch Arbel says:

      Europe missed the 20th century. We are already in the 21st. In my country every public space is air cknditioned, as well as most homes.

  • TITUREL says:

    I’ve been listening to the “delayed” livestreams. It’s a great pleasure to just listen and not have to suffer the visuals. Having been there for Castorf’s perversion in 2014, I’ve long thought the most radical thing Katharina could do is to stage the works exactly as RW intended, and his intentions are ultra-clear in the scores. THAT would be revolutionary.

  • J Barcelo says:

    Seeing a production in Bayreuth has been on my bucket list for some time, but every time I read a review like this, where the production bears little to no resemblance to what Wagner had in mind, maybe I’ll take if off. The dragon is a mafia killer? No thanks.

    • sonicsinfonia says:

      I had that feeling in 1976 – though came to reliase just what a fine director Chereau was (I had just been longing to see the Neue Bayreuth lighting/bare stage style – which that production replaced! I had the same feeling in 2013 where Castorf seemed to have little to say about the work – good recreation of Potsdamerplatz U-Bahn station though.

    • Clem Rob says:

      Actually the best productions in Bayreuth, from Wieland Wagner until today, bear little or no resemblance to what Wagner had in mind. Herheim’s Parsifal integrating Wagner’s life and Germany’s history, the Neuenfels “rat” Lohengrin, the blasphemous and hilarious current Kratzer Tannhäuser, the “noir” current Tcherniakov Holländer all are thoughtful, stimulating explorations of the inexhaustible potential of Wagner’s works.

      My first impression of this new Ring, from what I hear and see, is that this isn’t thoughtful. It looks shallow and cheap. But taking risks means things can go wrong, and taking risks is preferable to bloodless, archaic and superficial productions with pretty sets, spears and breastplates.

  • Don Ciccio says:

    Are there any directors left who actually love opera?

    • Marie says:

      Thielemann !

    • IP says:

      Possibly, but they never get the job.

    • Superfluousorange says:

      Wow this a depressing site. Guess what, opera will change with or without you. I’m guessing it will be the latter case.

    • Nick2 says:

      I have seen several productions directed by Sir David McVicar which i have greatly enjoyed.

    • Maria says:

      Do you mean the conductor or the stage director come producer, as we call them in Britain?

    • MuddyBoots says:

      Yes, but only a few. Just off the top of my head…Stephen Wadsworth is a genius at illuminating the relationships of the characters. Every single person on stage, including the chorus and dancers, is an individual and has a dramatic reason to be there. His Seattle Ring was mostly traditional, emotionally powerful and stunningly beautiful. It is a very great loss that it is not available on video. Tobias Kratzer’s work is always true to the spirit of the libretto and the music and is so insightful. Also devilishly funny when appropriate. Tcherniakov– another brilliant director who digs deep into the libretto and creates the most compelling dramas even when there are voids in the text. Barrie Kosky can be outrageous, but he is also very thoughtful and his crazy ideas are meaningful and evocative. These directors may be too “creative” for some, but they never do something just to be outrageous or different. And yes, it is true they are not hired as often as they should be.

  • M McAlpine says:

    I can never fathom why people go to endless expense and trouble to see these tiresome productions which become more and more perverted as time goes on. What is the point of going to Wagner’s theatre to see something that doesn’t resemble what the composer intended?

    • Nick2 says:

      I saw the very average Wofgang Wagner Ring in 1971. Horst Stein conducted with some overly fast tempi. Yet the experience of sitting in that theatre, being for almost the first time in one that was virtually pitch black as the house lights went out (apart from a faint glow from the enclosed orchestra), hearing the low E flat on the basses almost as though they surrounded me and later the full glory of its quite extraordinary sound made the entire experience all extremely worthwhile.

    • Tamino says:

      The point is still to HEAR it as Wagner intended. Music, sound of music, is always more than half the experience in opera. No goosebumps were EVER had from visuals. None. The essence of why opera is still around is all in the sound.

      Stage directions de jour come and go, the music is eternal.

  • Joan Nilson says:

    What I don’t understand is how these production teams decide to “update” an opera.
    Rigoletto set as the Sinatra Rat’Pack in Las Vegas? Lucia di Lammermoor set in depression-era Appalachia?
    How crazy is this?

    I’m convinced these directors either don’t know or understand opera, or really don’t care, or perhaps really enjoy mocking it.

    I look back to the ilk of Franco Zeffiirelli – who knew every note and word of the operas he staged!!

    Opera is ill-served by the current crop of alleged talented production teams who haven’t even read the score or seen the stage directions indicated by the composers!!

    So sad…

    • Maria says:

      The music comes last. Half of the producers can’t read music anyhow, and then fail to look at the score, only read the words as words, and ignore the composer completely.

    • JD says:

      You should blame the people who employ them, they must know what they are letting themselves/us in for….?

    • Kathleen says:

      I’m as traditional as many, but I have to admit the Rat Pack Rigoletto WORKED.

  • G. Chambers says:

    The title of this little article seems unnecessarily ambiguous given that it could imply that the tenor singing Siegfried was not appreciated rather than the production. I do agree with the majority of comments; it is always highly unfortunate when productions stray from the actual score and libretto . . .

  • Martin Kimber says:

    I now prefer the performances when the orchestra occupy most of the stage, the singers do what they do best .. sing .. with limited “acting”, and there is very little set or props to distract, often just lighting and other effects working subtly in the background. Cheaper, more effective, and less prone to mishaps!

  • Chris says:

    And we wonder why opera companies are having trouble filling seats.

  • Kathleen King says:

    SHAME on Bayreuth! These “modern” fancifications are a travesty and a waste of a great venue. “Mafia don” indeed! Phooey. Why is Wagner not good enough for Wagner’s own house? You guys who think you can “improve” masterpieces, write your own!

  • Amadeusg says:

    I’m all for experimentation and exploration, as long as the director/producer understands the material and respects where it came from. Neuenfels “rat” Lohengrin is a great example. I thought it was awesome. I also loved the infamous LaPage ring cycle at the met. Opera is more than just the music. It is the staging, the singers, the orchestra and conductor and all the people back stage doing the lighting and the costumes etc. When it works, the sum is more than the parts. I have seen insane productions that are able to highlight and reveal new facets of the Opera.
    Others seem like an attempt to look like an innovator by simply trashing a perceived norm. Leaving one to wonder if the director/producer ever actually saw or heard any opera before staging it.
    In art and music, you must master the craft before you can truly innovate. Even then, it may not always work.

  • Stephen R Gould says:

    I may already have posted this in an earlier thread.

    The hiring of a new Ring director

    “Und jetzt, so tell me, please, your ideas for Rheingold.”

    “Well, we start off underwater with the Rhinemaidens, who are like mermaids.”

    “I am not understanding, please, what is ‘mermaid’ ?”

    “Seejungfrau. On comes Alberich, a dwarf.”

    “Und, please, what is ‘dwarf’ ”

    “A short person, like Gimli in Lord of the Rings”.

    “But this is Der Ring, not Lord of Rings. Why is Gimli here ?”

    “No, he’s not. Alberich is the dwarf, and he comes out of a volcanic vent and sees the Rhinemaidens”

    “Still underwater ?”


    “I’m sorry, I’m not understanding. You have mermaids and a ‘dwarf’ and this all under water. Mein gott, this is too difficult and bizarre for our audience. NEXT”


    “So tell me, please, your ideas for Rheingold.”

    “I see the characters as clowns in a circus.”

    “You start tomorrow, yes ?”

  • poyu says:

    I am here right now, waiting for Act 3. I think the story comes together today and Act 2 was very well received. Booers will boo, but if they don‘t like challenge go to MET, Bayreuth is not for mental comfort. I will shout Bravi!

  • eye roller says:

    I would love to see a totally authentic Wagner staging at Bayreuth, not for the production itself, but to watch how Germans would react to such a complete national embarrassment. Especially the comedians would have a field day.

  • Antwerp Smerle says:

    There are now over 20 comments here, most of which, explicitly or implicitly, endorse the booing of an unconventional production of Siegfried. But only one of those commentators would appear to have attended the performance. It therefore seems to me that the others are (a) making a knee-jerk response, namely “Regietheater = rubbish”, and (b) forgetting Wagner’s exhortation: “Kinder, schafft Neues!” (“Children, make something new!).

    I have been going to opera for 50 years, and to Bayreuth for 35 years. I saw Castorf’s Ring and thought that it was indeed rubbish. But Herheim’s production of Parsifal, which (in Bayreuth of all places!) presented the piece in the light of what had happened in Germany since it was written, struck me as completely valid. And in a different way, Neuenfels’ rats in Lohengrin were, mysteriously but satisfyingly, fully aligned with the spirit of the opera.

    Similarly, some “traditional” productions of opera are great, others are rubbish. Please could we try to be more thoughtful and discerning before dismissing ANY production, especially if we haven’t seen it?

    • Observer says:

      “Children, make something new!” Well yeah, make your OWN something. Don’t hijack someone else’s work to promote a storyline and production that you can’t sell otherwise. Without Wagner’s name and music attached productions like this would attract maybe an audience of 50 at the local university facility.