Discussion:
Would Such A Staging Be Understood By Today's Audiences?
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A.C. Douglas
2015-09-11 01:28:04 UTC
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In 1958 I was eyewitness to Wieland Wagner's radical new staging of _Die Walküre_, part of his radical new staging of the complete _Ring_ for the 1951-58 post-war reopening of the Bayreuth Festival which staging I previously described in an S&F entry thusly:

=== Begin Quote ===
With Wieland taking his (unacknowledged) cue from the groundbreaking work of Swiss stage designer Adolphe Appia (1862-1928), the production's almost total absence of stage furniture, its use of non-period-or-place-committal costumes and settings, and the creative use of lighting to model and shape space and the characters who inhabit it, Wieland -- taking his grandfather at his word when in 1853 he declared that the yet unwritten music of the _Ring_ "shall sound in a way that people shall hear what they cannot see" -- created a neutral "frame" or "matrix" for the tetralogy, so to speak, that permitted the music itself, working in tandem with the text and the audience's own imagination, to fill in all the missing stage furniture as if it all were right in front of the audience's eyes. It was a masterstroke, a stroke of genius even, as it made manifest to the audience in the most intimate, Werktreue way imaginable Richard Wagner's deepest interior vision of the _Ring_ while rendering Wieland's properly transparent.
=== End Quote ===

Except for historically informed Wagnerians with knowledge of that previous radical new staging, I strongly suspect not.

Any thoughts on the matter?

ACD
Bert Coules
2015-09-11 10:55:37 UTC
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Why wouldn't a contemporary audience understand it? I never saw a Wieland
staging in the theatre, but from video clips it seems he was always (or
perhaps almost always) faithful to the spirit of the works: a Wieland Ring
would probably be greeted with joy these days, at least by those who don't
care for what they see as today's directorial excesses. I don't understand
why "knowledge of that previous radical new staging" would be a factor at
all. Are you saying that it could only be appreciated for its historical
interest?

Bert
Jay Kauffman
2015-09-11 14:02:12 UTC
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Post by Bert Coules
Why wouldn't a contemporary audience understand it? I never saw a Wieland
staging in the theatre, but from video clips it seems he was always (or
perhaps almost always) faithful to the spirit of the works: a Wieland Ring
would probably be greeted with joy these days, at least by those who don't
care for what they see as today's directorial excesses. I don't understand
why "knowledge of that previous radical new staging" would be a factor at
all. Are you saying that it could only be appreciated for its historical
interest?
Bert
No he's only looking for SOMETHING to complain about
A.C. Douglas
2015-09-11 14:49:21 UTC
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I don't understand why "knowledge of that previous radical new staging"
would be a factor at all. Are you saying that it could only be
appreciated for its historical interest?
No, not at all. I only meant to exclude from my opinion those with prior knowledge of that staging as they would also be aware of the various commentaries on it explaining what it was all about which explanations would, of course, not all be the same (mine, for instance, is, to my knowledge, unique) but explanations nevertheless so such a person (as opposed to one who was totally ignorant of the staging's prior existence) would have lots of help informing his understanding of the staging.

ACD
Bert Coules
2015-09-11 15:07:39 UTC
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I'm not sure that such "help" would necessarily be a good thing, and it's
possible that it would be the exact opposite. Isn't an "innocent" reaction
(for want of a better term) the best way to respond to a production?

Bert
Jay Kauffman
2015-09-11 15:14:58 UTC
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Post by Bert Coules
I'm not sure that such "help" would necessarily be a good thing, and it's
possible that it would be the exact opposite. Isn't an "innocent" reaction
(for want of a better term) the best way to respond to a production?
Bert
Yes unless you have decided, even before you see it, that you will hate it.
A.C. Douglas
2015-09-11 16:24:52 UTC
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Post by Bert Coules
I'm not sure that such "help" would necessarily be a good thing, and
it's possible that it would be the exact opposite. Isn't an "innocent"
reaction (for want of a better term) the best way to respond to a
production?
I never suggested "such 'help' would necessarily be a good thing". I merely remarked that such help would be available to those with prior knowledge of the Wieland staging and so could be used by them to inform their understanding of that staging.

But to respond to your question: it most assuredly is -- and in spades.

ACD
Jay Kauffman
2015-09-11 16:37:47 UTC
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Post by A.C. Douglas
Post by Bert Coules
I'm not sure that such "help" would necessarily be a good thing, and
it's possible that it would be the exact opposite. Isn't an "innocent"
reaction (for want of a better term) the best way to respond to a
production?
I never suggested "such 'help' would necessarily be a good thing". I merely remarked that such help would be available to those with prior knowledge of the Wieland staging and so could be used by them to inform their understanding of that staging.
But to respond to your question: it most assuredly is -- and in spades.
ACD
Practice what you preach
Mike Scott Rohan
2015-09-12 01:34:01 UTC
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Post by Bert Coules
Why wouldn't a contemporary audience understand it? I never saw a Wieland
staging in the theatre, but from video clips it seems he was always (or
perhaps almost always) faithful to the spirit of the works: a Wieland Ring
would probably be greeted with joy these days, at least by those who don't
care for what they see as today's directorial excesses. I don't understand
why "knowledge of that previous radical new staging" would be a factor at
all. Are you saying that it could only be appreciated for its historical
interest?
Bert
The by then venerable Ernest Newman was at the premiere of Wieland's Parsifal, and he had no trouble adapting himself to it; he called it the greatest he'd ever seen. If an audience today had really and wholly adjusted to today's deconstructed style, they might have some trouble with it. But most audiences confronted with older productions are delighted, or simply accept them, apart from a few loudmouthed Crush-Bar wiseacres who demand "less conservative" stagings, as in this month's Opera -- apparently so they don't have to take any interest in the actual music.

I've seen, if I remember correctly, two Wieland stagings on video, one rehearsed at Bayreuth and one, long buried, recreated in Denmark, and none of them would present any problem to a modern audience -- except perhaps a certain feeling of barrenness at the emptiness of the stage. We've grown used to busier, often meaninglessly so. I think the Appia link is another of those perpetually parroted truisms; Appia's designs, unlike Wieland's originals, fill the stage with Cyclopean solid blocks. John Culshaw suggests that Wieland's New Bayreuth emptiness was originally created as much by budget constraints as artistic ones, and I'm inclined to agree. Appia was invoked as an afterthought, I suspect. Later, when they had the money, the brothers Chance (Slim and Fat respectively), filled the stage more thoroughly.

Cheers,

Mike
Jay Kauffman
2015-09-12 02:12:11 UTC
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Post by Mike Scott Rohan
Post by Bert Coules
Why wouldn't a contemporary audience understand it? I never saw a Wieland
staging in the theatre, but from video clips it seems he was always (or
perhaps almost always) faithful to the spirit of the works: a Wieland Ring
would probably be greeted with joy these days, at least by those who don't
care for what they see as today's directorial excesses. I don't understand
why "knowledge of that previous radical new staging" would be a factor at
all. Are you saying that it could only be appreciated for its historical
interest?
Bert
The by then venerable Ernest Newman was at the premiere of Wieland's Parsifal, and he had no trouble adapting himself to it; he called it the greatest he'd ever seen. If an audience today had really and wholly adjusted to today's deconstructed style, they might have some trouble with it. But most audiences confronted with older productions are delighted, or simply accept them, apart from a few loudmouthed Crush-Bar wiseacres who demand "less conservative" stagings, as in this month's Opera -- apparently so they don't have to take any interest in the actual music.
I've seen, if I remember correctly, two Wieland stagings on video, one rehearsed at Bayreuth and one, long buried, recreated in Denmark, and none of them would present any problem to a modern audience -- except perhaps a certain feeling of barrenness at the emptiness of the stage. We've grown used to busier, often meaninglessly so. I think the Appia link is another of those perpetually parroted truisms; Appia's designs, unlike Wieland's originals, fill the stage with Cyclopean solid blocks. John Culshaw suggests that Wieland's New Bayreuth emptiness was originally created as much by budget constraints as artistic ones, and I'm inclined to agree. Appia was invoked as an afterthought, I suspect. Later, when they had the money, the brothers Chance (Slim and Fat respectively), filled the stage more thoroughly.
Cheers,
Mike
I would agree about the finances - I don't think the Festival had much in the way of money to work with in 1951. Whether this forced Wieland to consider getting rid of all the old sets and costumes or that was something he had wanted to do anyway -that I don't know (certainly his 1943 Meistersinger wouldn;t have been a good portent of what was to come but I am sure there were outside influences at work there)
Jay Kauffman
2015-09-12 02:13:53 UTC
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Post by Mike Scott Rohan
Post by Bert Coules
Why wouldn't a contemporary audience understand it? I never saw a Wieland
staging in the theatre, but from video clips it seems he was always (or
perhaps almost always) faithful to the spirit of the works: a Wieland Ring
would probably be greeted with joy these days, at least by those who don't
care for what they see as today's directorial excesses. I don't understand
why "knowledge of that previous radical new staging" would be a factor at
all. Are you saying that it could only be appreciated for its historical
interest?
Bert
The by then venerable Ernest Newman was at the premiere of Wieland's Parsifal, and he had no trouble adapting himself to it; he called it the greatest he'd ever seen. If an audience today had really and wholly adjusted to today's deconstructed style, they might have some trouble with it. But most audiences confronted with older productions are delighted, or simply accept them, apart from a few loudmouthed Crush-Bar wiseacres who demand "less conservative" stagings, as in this month's Opera -- apparently so they don't have to take any interest in the actual music.
I've seen, if I remember correctly, two Wieland stagings on video, one rehearsed at Bayreuth and one, long buried, recreated in Denmark, and none of them would present any problem to a modern audience -- except perhaps a certain feeling of barrenness at the emptiness of the stage. We've grown used to busier, often meaninglessly so. I think the Appia link is another of those perpetually parroted truisms; Appia's designs, unlike Wieland's originals, fill the stage with Cyclopean solid blocks. John Culshaw suggests that Wieland's New Bayreuth emptiness was originally created as much by budget constraints as artistic ones, and I'm inclined to agree. Appia was invoked as an afterthought, I suspect. Later, when they had the money, the brothers Chance (Slim and Fat respectively), filled the stage more thoroughly.
Cheers,
Mike
Mike I have read that there are no official photographs of the 1951 Ring - Wieland had them pulled and destroyed - the earliest photod we see are from 1952 when he had already made changes.
Bert Coules
2015-09-12 09:06:24 UTC
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Post by Jay Kauffman
I have read that there are no official photographs
of the 1951 Ring - Wieland had them pulled and
destroyed - the earliest photos we see are from
1952 when he had already made changes.
I've seen two versions of the famous image of Siegfried facing a
dinosaur-like Fafner, which vary in one fascinating particular: in one,
which I presume to be the later, the dragon is flanked by two huge
hard-edged, vaguely Appia-ish solid blocks; in the other, the same objects
are softer and look like banks of vegetation.

If that picture does show Wieland's first thoughts then it's a pity there
aren't more of them around.

Bert
Richard Partridge
2015-09-12 18:23:59 UTC
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On 9/11/15 9:34 PM, Mike Scott Rohan, at
Post by Mike Scott Rohan
Post by Bert Coules
Why wouldn't a contemporary audience understand it? I never saw a Wieland
staging in the theatre, but from video clips it seems he was always (or
perhaps almost always) faithful to the spirit of the works: a Wieland Ring
would probably be greeted with joy these days, at least by those who don't
care for what they see as today's directorial excesses. I don't understand
why "knowledge of that previous radical new staging" would be a factor at
all. Are you saying that it could only be appreciated for its historical
interest?
Bert
The by then venerable Ernest Newman was at the premiere of Wieland's Parsifal,
and he had no trouble adapting himself to it; he called it the greatest he'd
ever seen. If an audience today had really and wholly adjusted to today's
deconstructed style, they might have some trouble with it. But most audiences
confronted with older productions are delighted, or simply accept them, apart
from a few loudmouthed Crush-Bar wiseacres who demand "less conservative"
stagings, as in this month's Opera -- apparently so they don't have to take
any interest in the actual music.
I've seen, if I remember correctly, two Wieland stagings on video, one
rehearsed at Bayreuth and one, long buried, recreated in Denmark, and none of
them would present any problem to a modern audience -- except perhaps a
certain feeling of barrenness at the emptiness of the stage. We've grown used
to busier, often meaninglessly so. I think the Appia link is another of those
perpetually parroted truisms; Appia's designs, unlike Wieland's originals,
fill the stage with Cyclopean solid blocks. John Culshaw suggests that
Wieland's New Bayreuth emptiness was originally created as much by budget
constraints as artistic ones, and I'm inclined to agree. Appia was invoked as
an afterthought, I suspect. Later, when they had the money, the brothers
Chance (Slim and Fat respectively), filled the stage more thoroughly.
Cheers,
Mike
I saw the Ring at Bayreuth in 1953. I don't really know, of course, but I
thought at the time that budgetary constraints were a significant part of
the reason.


Dick Partridge

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