“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.