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… Anthony Tommasini, New York Times music critic, because he writes really well. His review of Bayreuth’s recent train wreck of a Ring Cycle is a thing of beauty. Excerpts:

When Frank Castorf, the avant-garde German director responsible for this confounding concept, took the stage with his production team, almost the entire audience, it seemed, erupted with loud, prolonged boos. It went on for nearly 10 minutes, by my watch, because Mr. Castorf, 62, who has been running the Volksbühne (People’s Theater) of Berlin since 1992, stood steadfast onstage, his arms folded stiffly. He sometimes jabbed a finger at the audience, essentially defying the crowd to keep it coming.

… Mr. Castorf presents the “Ring” as a metaphorical story of the global quest for oil, with the resulting era of war, oppression, corporate greed and environmental destruction. But Mr. Castorf did not follow through with this theme very consistently.

In the first act of “Siegfried,”which opened on Monday, Mr. Castorf and the set designer, Aleksandar Denic, playfully evoke the battle over energy that was a major component of the cold war. The setting is supposed to show the forest dwelling where Mime, the Nibelung dwarf, has raised the orphaned Siegfried into brawny young manhood. Here Mime’s home is a trailer-park campsite in front of a stunning scenic riff on Mount Rushmore: The faces of the American presidents have been replaced by Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao. But often the oil quest imagery just seems slapped on, literally: for no clear reasons, singers smear one another with crude oil.

… [N]ear the end of “Siegfried” …(you can’t make this up) a monster crocodile swallowed the poor Forest Bird in one big gulp.

This last scene, of course, is the ecstatic love duet between Siegfried, our rambunctious hero (who, by the way, instead of forging a sword assembles a semiautomatic rifle), and the smitten Brünnhilde. In this production, at the most climactic moment in the music, the stage rotated to reveal two of those monster crocodiles busily copulating.

… [One] crucial scene … begins at the Marxist Mount Rushmore, then moves to an almost-reproduction of the Alexanderplatz, the Socialist-era transit hub and shopping center in Berlin.

[At another point, a singer] scurried up a stairway to consult a hairy-chested man, who wheels a baby carriage down the stairs, spilling its contents — potatoes — everywhere. At least they looked like potatoes. If you are expecting me to explain this (or Wotan’s being orally serviced — one Rhinemaiden sucking oil off the finger of another as they look longingly into each other’s eyes), I am sorry to disappoint you…

This oil business reminds me of another avant-garde effort, in the pages of Vogue.

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3 Responses to “Longtime readers know that UD’s a big fan of …”

  1. tobe Says:

    Ironic that Anthony Tommasini appears on the site University Diaries since he was a college professor prior to going to the NYT.

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    tobe: I didn’t know that. Good – I always feel mildly guilty when going way off the topic of universities.

  3. Derek Says:

    I’m sure this guy is a great writer. But holy shit that first sentence is a word and comma salad.


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