Post by Bert Coules Post by Michel Casse
I have found in "Richard Wagner: The Stage
Designs and Productions from the Premieres
to the Present" by Oswald Georg Bauer...
That's not a book I know; many thanks.
I don't have it, but I've heard of it, referred to in other books; think it's been translated. As for Bauer, he was chief of the Bayreuth press office, and legendarily obstructive, secretive and -- well, let's say "German-oriented", especially in his choice of journalists -- and I use the word "choice" advisedly. Still, he had good access to sources, including some of Hofmann's originals, rediscovered not so long ago in private hands. Bayreuth bought some of them, and this may be one.
However, it's unlikely to be a good guide, as Wagner didn't follow Hofmann's designs for costumes, props, etc. These were mostly envisaged by the historical artist Carl Doepler, and further simplified because Wagner rightly thought them overdone. Who designed Fafner, though, is uncertain; it may have been Doepler, or even Wagner himself, but "interpreted" by the London prop-shop. People laughed at its appearance; Paul Indau describes it as "looking like a cross between a lizard and a porcupine, with tufts of hair".
That, I'm afraid, is the best I'm likely to come up with, because I can now confirm there are indeed no photographs of the actual premiere staging. The nearest we have is some photos of Angelo Neumann's 1878 Leipzig staging, which was modelled very closely on the original, and sometimes turned up in unwary books as the original. However, even some of these have been shown to be paste=up reconstructions -- a sort of 19th-century Photoshop job -- and therefore of unreliable accuracy. The picture I remember may be one of those, or from some other production, mislabelled. You really have to watch editors, sometimes; Opera magazine, for all its status, headed an article on Vivaldi with a very convincing woodcut of the "Red Priest" -- of whom, famously, no likeness exists. It was apparently just as mysterious to the author as to everyone else. So unless some long-overlooked blueprint turns up in a Berman & Nathans basement, we'll just have to guess at Fafner.
Incidentally, in Kevin Brownlow's Cinema Europe series, there is an old German WWI cinema commercial for war bonds, illustrated by Siegfried fighting the dragon -- a pudgy hero hacking vaguely at a large fabric-covered head sticking out of the undergrowth. It looks to me as if, rather than build the whole thing in-studio, it was simply staged in some local opera house's Siegfried Act II set. If so, because people still followed Bayreuth slavishly in those days, it may give us at lest some clue to how the thing must have looked. It's certainly grotty enough.