A Bayreuth Journal

Bayreuth Ring

[W]ith three Ring operas down and one to go, there is time to address a burning question at the Bayreuth Festival. If one manages to get a coveted ticket to this most exclusive of festivals, what does one wear?

The formal dress code that was observed for decades has been loosening considerably of late, which is probably inevitable. Still, a clear majority of people continue to arrive in formal wear. And the men mostly favor black tuxedos, not the optional summer white jackets [ … ] Enterprising younger couples dress fancily while taking liberties in deference to the weather. At Die Walküre on Thursday, a steamy hot day here, there was a beautiful young couple, Bayreuth fashion pace-setters, she in a simple short aqua dress, he in an open-collared silk white shirt and white pants. One older gentleman wore kilts! Now that was clever. But believe it or not, you can show up in chinos and a T-shirt, and the cheerful, mostly young ushers will still show you right in.

That’s part of a fascinating journal which New York Times music critic Anthony Tommasini is publishing from the Bayreuth Festival. The excerpt is from his entry for day 4 of his experiences. The whole thing is well written, and offers an interesting insight into the Bayreuth phenomenon. Of course, this is all the more interesting this year as far as our Group is concerned, since Ron will be flying our flag in Bayreuth later this month.

‘Let’s keep this short and suite’

Thanks to Bernard for finding this article in The Times. It’s an interesting idea. The article is quite short, and worth a read. Follow the link below. I’ve quoted the opening paragraph.

Bite-sized concerts at the Edinburgh Festival
Overture, concerto, symphony. How did we get stuck in this three-tune rut? Like meat and two veg, it’s a classic menu that’s tried, tested, and trusted everywhere Western classical music is played. But much like our gastronomic tastes, musical appetite has also evolved. Go back 150 years and the four-hour concert was the norm. A further 50 and you’d be thrilling to the latest Beethoven in the comfort of your front room — with 70 of your friends, of course. There’s plenty of precedent, so why is the perfect recipe so elusive? In Edinburgh the outgoing International Festival director, Brian McMaster, has been musing on exactly this point. After years of experimenting with format and much audience analysis, McMaster has come up with his most audacious solution yet: the Lloyds TSB Scotland Concert Series, three concerts a night running for nine nights at the Usher Hall during the three-week Festival. At £10 a pop, it’s the price of a ticket to your average Fringe show — without the risk.

Autumn Fair: Swap & Buy/Sell, 23rd September

Also on the schedule sheet is info about the session in Bernard’s on 23rd September. For starters, we’re warned that the music will begin at 1.00 pm sharp. Then, we’re invited to bring along our unwanted or duplicate CDs and DVDs for swapping or selling. Bernard is setting aside the half hour between 2.30 and 3.00 pm for horse dealing, following which we’ll have the presentation as usual. I’m off now to check my shelves and that big pile of un-sorted recent purchases (‘recent’ as in up to a year ago!). I’m sure there’s something there which would find a better home.

Thanks for the initiative, Bernard.

Anna Netrebko becomes Austrian citizen

Opera News > The Met Opera Guild
Russian soprano Anna Netrebko has been granted Austrian citizenship under a special proviso with the Austrian government that allows athletes, musicians and celebrities to bypass the compulsory ten-year-long waiting process, the Associated Press has reported.

In naturalizing the soprano, the government cited Netrebko’s “special merits” as one of the world’s most in-demand opera singers. Deputy Chancellor Hubert Gorbach characterized the move as a “confirmation of Austria’s status as a nation of culture”.

I wasn’t even aware of Anna’s nationality before reading this report (though I suppose ‘Netrebko’ does have a certain Russian ring to it). Interesting, too, to read of her difficulties with the Russian media because of wanting to become an Austrian citizen.

New kid on the block going to Gothenburg

Gustavo Dudamel

“[Dudamel conducted a] blazing Mahler Fifth. From the opening trumpet fanfares, which he had painstakingly shaped in rehearsal, one sensed a real performance was in store. The huge orchestral eruption after the funeral march, frightening but superbly played and balanced, still reverberates in the mind. The Adagietto was ruminative yet pulsated, and the last movement was breathtaking in its exhilaration. Wherever Dudamel turns up next, it will be worth the voyage.” —— Financial Times, 13th May 2004

“In his US debut … a 24-year-old conductor from Venezuela with curly hair, long sideburns and a baby face accomplished something increasingly rare and difficult at the Hollywood Bowl. He got a normally restive audience’s full, immediate and rapt attention. And he kept it. With the opening bars of Silvestre Revueltas’ “La Noche de los Mayas,” the party sitting next to me put aside its just-opened giant bag of Cheetos and forgot about it until intermission. Once into this arresting depiction of a night of the Maya’s revelry and enchantment… the crowd clapped and whooped. That’s not just rare but a downright wonder at the Bowl on the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s classical Tuesday and Thursday programs.” —— Los Angeles Times, 15th September 2005

“Venezuelan with a film-star look in his eyes and the physical stature of Paul Newman without heels, has been storming concert halls on scant rehearsal this past year as a last-minute substitute. He helped the Philharmonia out of a hole at the Beethoven Festival in Bonn, deputised for Esa-Pekka Salonen and Zubin Mehta in Switzerland and Israel and went on air worldwide by stepping in for Neeme Järvi at the BBC Proms in a programme that included the Sibelius Fifth with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. He has a record deal with Deutsche Grammophon and two Beethoven symphonies in the can. He’s smart, he’s cute and, in case you’re getting interested, he has just married a ballet dancer, Eloisa Maturen. All the right moves, in just the right order, and backstory to break hardened hearts.” —— Norman Lebrecht, The Lebrecht Weekly, April 19 2006

This guy’s CV is nothing short of astonishing. He was born in 1981 in Barquisimeto, and was appointed Musical Director of the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela in 1999 (at the ripe old age of 18!). In addition, he recently became Music Director of the Youth Orchestra of the Andean Countries.

In 2006/2007 Gustavo Dudamel will make his debut with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, among others. He has re-engagements with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Filharmonica della Scala, Bamberger Symphoniker, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra of London and Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, of which he will become Principal Conductor from the 2007/08 season. Future plans also include concerts at the Lucerne Festival and at New York’s Carnegie Hall as part of the Berlin Philharmonic Residency under Sir Simon Rattle in 2007.

Has anyone else heard about this guy? The Deutsche Grammophon website has details of his debut recording, which is scheduled for release in September. If his talent lives up to his looks, I might even treat myself to a copy — even it is yet another recording of Beethoven’s 5th and 7th.

Trevor does different

It’s on the schedule sheet, but I guess it won’t go amiss also mentioning it here. Trevor is hosting and presenting on 2nd September. What’s different about that is (a) the session starts at 4.00 pm rather than the usual 1.00, and (b) Trevor’s presentation is promised to be an ‘unusual’ one, and not merely because it’s going to be twice as long as usual. So, kickoff on 2nd September is at 4.00 pm, and Trevor’s presentation will be from 5.30 to 6.30 pm.

Update, 12th August:  Unfortunately, Trevor is unable to go ahead with his hosting/presenting on 2nd September, as he’ll be out of the country at that time. Perhaps some other time, Trev?

A Ring to forget?

Rheingold sets off at a rattling snooze “Rattle’s Wagner as yet lacks that veteran conductor’s inexorable sense of drama. The momentum started and stopped and frequently dragged … The overall effect was soporific. Perhaps Rattle was as bored as the rest of us by what he saw on stage.” From a review by Hugh Canning in ‘The Australian’, 23rd July, of a performance of “Das Rheingold” in Aix-en-Provence.

Other quotes: 1. “Alas, this was the most anodyne and dreariest staging I have seen of the Ring’s so-called satyr play.” 2. “The momentum started and stopped and frequently dragged.” 3. “[T]he overall effect was soporific. Perhaps Rattle was as bored as the rest of us by what he saw on stage.” 4. “A lot of men in suits (the gods and giants), Fricka in a power-dresser’s two-piece and a dishevelled Freia in her nightie stood around the stage when they weren’t singing, looking like extras who had been given nothing to do.”

You’ve really got to read this review guys! It’s quite a hatchet job.

Musica Antiqua Köln to disband

this article on the Playbill Arts site. It’s sad news to learn that Musica Antiqua Köln will not be with us for much longer. Interesting, too, to see that the main reason is Reinhard Goebel’s suffering from focal dystonia, the same condition which affected violinist Peter Oundjian of the Tokyo String Quartet and pianists Leon Fleisher and Gary Graffman. It sounds, then, as if Leon Fleischer’s recovery and return to being able to play with both hands was all the more remarkable.

Production boos for Vienna Lohengrin

“Barrie Kosky’s Wagner is not Wagner’s Wagner. The audience at [a] new production of Lohengrin [at the Vienna State Opera] thought so too. At the end of a five-hour performance, there was prolonged applause and “bravas” for the soloists, choir, orchestra and conductor. But Kosky, the director, was roundly booed, along with stage and lighting designer Klaus Grünberg and Alfred Mayerhofer, responsible for costumes.

Most of their work was neither jarring nor controversial. It was worse — irrelevant, leaving the audience little choice but to concentrate on the mastery of the conductor Semyon Bychkov and the soloists Johan Botha, Soile Isokoski, Falk Struckmann, Janina Bächle, Kwangchul Youn and Adrian Eräd. They — and an alternately feisty, majestic or tremulous orchestra — wove a magical musical tapestry.

Of course, a lot of liberties have been taken with Wagner operas since. But those that don’t work because they are deemed out of sync with what Wagner might have done today are booed by audiences familiar with the German master, like [the audience] in Vienna. Worst was the second act, putting the scheming Ortrud and her weak-willed husband Friedrich von Telramund in a child’s playground, complete with Day-Glo toy house and plastic animals, including — you guessed it — a swan.”

(OK, so this isn’t exactly the very latest news, but I thought it was worth sharing nonetheless.) The above is an excerpt from an Associated Press review by George Jahn of the opening night (3rd December 2005) of Barrie Kosky’s production. The description of the staging of the second act sounds especially trying. I’m not sure if I would have joined in the booing if I’d been there (we’re just too polite really, aren’t we?), but the review suggests that the experience might even have been on a par with the now-legendary, and appallingly awful Munich staging of poor old Gounod’s Faust. Barrie Kosky: another name to add to the Black List of Producers.

Theme day in the offing

Fergus is scheduled to host and present on 28th October. Because it’s the Halloween weekend, he’s decided that we should have a musical theme for the day, and his choice is Myth, Magic and the Macabre.

But that’s not all. Fergus also invites us all for Afternoon Tea after the session. Finally, Fergus (he has been busy, hasn’t he?) has decided that the session in his place on 28th October will begin later than usual, at 3.30 pm.

All this info is already on the Schedule page, and is also set out on Bernard’s handout sheet, but I thought it wise to repeat it here for the sake of completeness.

Update, 12th August:  Fergus sought the views of the group at today’s session about the timing of the Afternoon Tea. It was agreed that this will be served when the normal session ends. The usual refreshments will not be available on that day during the session itself.