Post by Mike Scott Rohan Post by A.C. Douglas
I, too, would suggest it was Wieland who started the Eurotrash rot.
Thank you for the quote, which which I can only agree, at least as applies to
the Wagners. New Bayreuth was a product of a certain genius, indeed, though
as John Culshaw points out, it was also a matter of budget, and there were
other influences at work also. But there came a point at which the balance
between Wieland and Richard shifted; one might argue when it was, and more
likely it was very gradual. In the end it was as you say.
However, while Wieland can certainly shoulder a lot of the blame, similar
forces were at work elsewhere, and some of them were undoubtedly those other
influences I mentioned. One example, less familiar to Americans perhaps but a
major part of European theatre history, was the very young Peter Brook's
notorious Covent Garden staging of Salome in 1949, with Ljuba Welitsch and
designs by Salvador Dali; it could quite easily be mounted as a Eurotrash
production today. It made a sensation across Europe, and Wieland could hardly
have been unaware. (The stagehands hated it so much that without orders they
smashed up the sets to make sure it couldn't be revived...) And Brook in his
turn was undoubtedly influenced by Brecht, a "first-rate theatrical pimp" as
one UK director called him, accurately to my mind. Brecht's entirely cynical
habit of rewriting classics into ideological posturing and anti-naturalist
gestures, such as Farquhar's enjoyable Recruiting Sargent into the "Trumpets
and Drums", was also a blueprint for the deformative processes of today's
directors. It took such a hold in Germany, especially of course the East
(although Brecht was careful to live in West Berlin...), that his versions
have eclipsed the originals. As I've mentioned before, when two leading
directors were invited to Britain to stage Shakespeare's Coriolanus, they
arrived expecting to stage Brecht's Coriolan -- the Shakespeare they'd never
even heard of! (They did it, though, and I have to admit it was rather good
thanks to the young Anthony Hopkins.) And Brecht, of course, was at that
time, conveniently, an impeccably politically correct influence, whose
supposed resistance to Hitler people lauded while ignoring his slavish
toadying to Stalin. Drawing on Brecht underlined Wieland's disassociation
from the old regime, and allegiance to what was then the new and
revolutionary. So while Wieland can be blamed for much of Eurotrash, Brecht
for me is its evil progenitor.
Some remarks on Brecht (little correction or addition). Brecht never
lived in West-Berlin after the war. Before the war he fled from Germany
in exile in fear of being prosecuted by Nazi justice for his communist
believes. He took refuge at first in Denmark, later in the USA. During
World War II he lived in exile in the USA, but fled in 1947 when he was
accused of 'communist activities'. He found at first a stay in
Switzerland, as he was not permitted entrance in the American zone of
In 1949 he became a citizen of East-Berlin (not West-Berlin, Mike),
then proclaimed as 'Berlin, Capital of the German Democratic Republic'
(shortly GDR, DDR). He became one of its most famous inhabitants and he
was granted a house in Weissensee, then a Berlin neighbourhood for the
elite of the GDR. He had his fame as a real anti-fascist, which he was
as we already know. At the same time he was not only a 'socialist' as
the communists described themselves, but a great believer in Stalinism.
When confronted with the show processes in the USSR, which took an
immense toll of human lives, he only replied, "the more innocent they
are, the more they deserve to die".
During the demonstrations of the workers in East-Berlin in 1953, he
sent a telegram to the Soviet military commander to thank him for the
Russian 'help' and he wrote a long piece in the socialist party paper
'Neues Deutschland' (New Germany) praising the 'socialist' (communist)
government of the GDR.
Not a pleasant man who was rewarded the Stalin Prize for Peace shortly
before his death in 1955, 58 years old.
Met vriendelijke groet,
Herman van der Woude