Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Die Frau ohne Schatten at the Salzburg Festival

I went to Die Frau ohne Schatten in Salzburg, and I wrote about it for Bachtrack.
This year’s festival brings a third complete Frau to Salzburg, conducted by Christian Thielemann and directed by Christof Loy. The Wiener Philharmoniker, the orchestra of the premiere, is in the pit, and they and Thielemann were unquestionably the highlight of this performance.
You can read the rest here. A few more comments and more pictures right ahead.

First of all, the PR made out like Christof Loy based his production off a historical event--a recording in the legendary Sofiensaal--but that recording took place in the Musikverein. Details, details.

I was excited to see a big new production of Die Frau ohne Schatten, because of the music but also because it's both a very difficult work to stage and one that presents a lot of opportunities for cool stuff. As the woman sitting behind me said, in English, "they have this fantastic production in LA, when the Empress talks about fish, there are the fish!" Well, maybe that's not quite what I was thinking of. Actually this opera has a lot of problems, like how women's sole purpose in life is baby-making and if they do not devote their full attentions to baby-making they are BAD.  Director Loy even points out that this should not fly today in his program book interview. I agree! But I don't think his solution of simply declining to stage most of the opera in favor of yet another theater-in-theater setting is any kind of solution at all. He doesn't even seem interested in the piece, and there's nothing really to make us interested in it. I found this vaguely offensive, like he had just refused to do the job which he had been assigned.

But the music was, indeed, fantastic.

When is Herheim going to get around to directing this one? Just a suggestion, opera houses of the world.

More pictures:
Theater-in-theater business (Empress)
Don't ask. I can't explain. (Dyer's Wife)
Business
The score DID sound vaguely Elektra-like upon the axe's first appearance.
Michaela Schuster makes the awesomest facial expressions.
There is perhaps something interesting being said in this stage image, but what it is beats me.
 Photos copyright Monika Rittershaus/Salzburg Festival

8 comments:

RadmilaS said...

Yes indeed, when is Herheim going to direct FroSCH? Hopefully, with a conductor of Thielemann's stature.

Thanks for a great review!

Opera Cake said...

Thanks for the excellent review. Apparently a very good production of this opera was premiered in May in Copenhagen, directed by Kasper Holten. Will be back on in February 2012.
I also read several good reviews about the Marelli production of FroSch presented in Graz and in Antwerp in 2010-2011.

Personally, I still think this libretto is at the dumbness-level of Rigoletto, and it is far trickier to stage than Rigoletto. As you say, it focuses on "Women's sole purpose in life is baby-making and if they do not devote their full attentions to baby-making they are BAD", but I believe Hofmannsthal's intention was to expose the absurdity of that (if you read the text it becomes more evident -- or it's my wishful thinking)
So, when/if read through a "reductio ad absurdum" prism, at the time when it was created this opera bore a pro-feminist statement. But how relevant or important it is today?

Henry Holland said...

As the woman sitting behind me said, in English, "they have this fantastic production in LA, when the Empress talks about fish, there are the fish!" Well, maybe that's not quite what I was thinking of

The production she mentioned is by David Hockney and it IS fantastic, I've seen it both times its been presented here in Los Angeles. It's not just the literalism, nice though it is to actually see a naked youth play The Naked Youth, but it's just a magical production all around. It is a fairly risible story --BABIES! BABIES!!!!!!-- but Hockney's production (and whoever they've had to help with the singers) actually make the plot not seem so dumb.

Zerbinetta said...

Henry--Hmmm, that does improve things a bit (and I would actually be interested in seeing that production!), but still it was a very Salzburg kind of comment. Yet I can understand it, too, because Loy left just about everything to the imagination, and when you're dealing with something as challenging as FroSch is in the first place that doesn't seem like a good idea?

M. Cake--yeah, I've been kicking myself for not going to see it in Graz, I also heard it was excellent, but there's only so much time. Bizarrely, the Met has a great (or so I've heard) Wernicke production, and it should be coming back in the next few years, so I'll catch that.

Radmila--Mark Berry at Boulezian has also suggested Herheim direct FroSch, so at least we're not alone. How about in Dresden with Thielemann again? Or Munich with Petrenko (whom I'm not entirely sold on yet but intrigued enough)?

Julien said...

Funny Zerbinetta, I was at this premiere too. I arrived quite tired (I drove there, and, despite some fun moments at 200+ kph, traffic was very heavy) but was kept very much awake by the music. I basically agree with you, so I won't repeat what you wrote. I was really taken by Herlitzius and Schuster, who both managed to sing without being strident (not a mean feat in those parts) and to be perfectly audible and convincing. I'd buy the CD anytime.

I won't buy the DVD. Nothing to add to your review, Loy's "concept" is stupid beyond redemption, and I booed as loud as I could ; to be fair, I expected a boo hurricane which never happened : the rejection seemed real enough, but kept to a part of the public. I read quite a lot of critics, and some even liked this silly stuff. Go figure...

Maybe we crossed paths, or not. Musicasola was in Salzburg too, but, being a dedicated contemptor of Thielemann, the WP and Frosch, he was otherwise engaged.

I hope you took the time to sample Sacher's Kaiserschmarren, they are the best I ever had (and I tried many, I love the stuff). Funnily, before giving an encore during a Mozartmatinee, Albrecht Mayer said a few words and praised them as the best ever.

Zerbinetta said...

Hi Julien, I was actually at the second performance so I probably didn't see you. I did talk to a few people who liked the production. They both had lots of experience with the piece and already had a good idea of what they thought it meant. I think they appreciated it because they could so easily project their own ideas onto its flimsy scraps of narrative.

I didn't go to the Sacher, alas, not for lack of time but because I was pretty broke by this point (see: Bayreuth), but I did make an awesome Kaiserschmarrn myself once I got back to the US. Once you get the egg whites just right it's easy.

Anonymous said...

As long as there is an audience not willing or capable to cope with alternative ways of reading a piece - yes: it's a festival and not a repertoire house - and obviously more interested in eating Kaiserschmarrn, it is served perfectly with the finale picture of this excellent and witty production!

stephen whitaker said...

"First of all, the PR made out like Christof Loy based his production off a historical event--a recording in the legendary Sofiensaal--but that recording took place in the Musikverein. Details, details."


Actually the PR is right and you got the wrong information from Decca.

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