Discussion:
Fafner, 1876
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Bert Coules
2017-08-06 16:07:20 UTC
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I ought to know the answer to this, but I'm ashamed to say that I don't. Do
there exist any drawings - or better yet, photographs - of Fafner the dragon
from the first Ring?

And just how true is the head-and-tails-to-Bayreuth, body-to-Beirut story?

Many thanks.

Bert
Bert Coules
2017-08-06 17:03:59 UTC
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Head and tails? Good grief. The Ring might have been revolutionary but I
don't believe even Wagner postulated dragons with multiple tails.

Apologies.
Mike Scott Rohan
2017-08-07 17:49:34 UTC
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Post by Bert Coules
Head and tails? Good grief. The Ring might have been revolutionary but I
don't believe even Wagner postulated dragons with multiple tails.
Apologies.
There are some in heraldry, I believe.

After all, if you can have coats of arms, why not shields of tails?

Sorry,

Mike
Michel Casse
2017-08-07 19:41:09 UTC
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Post by Mike Scott Rohan
Post by Bert Coules
Head and tails? Good grief. The Ring might have been revolutionary but I
don't believe even Wagner postulated dragons with multiple tails.
Apologies.
There are some in heraldry, I believe.
After all, if you can have coats of arms, why not shields of tails?
Sorry,
Mike
Funny.
I have found in "Richard Wagner: The Stage Designs and Productions from the Premieres to the Present" by Oswald Georg Bauer (p.219 of the French edition, I do not know the exact pagination in the English one, but I say it would be easy to find) the drawing of a project of set by Josef Hoffmann for the 2d act but I am not sure the real prop was perfectly alike.
Michel
Bert Coules
2017-08-09 14:43:26 UTC
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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.

Bert
Mike Scott Rohan
2017-08-10 16:43:07 UTC
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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.
Bert
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.

Cheers,

Mike

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.
Bert Coules
2017-08-10 17:02:30 UTC
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Mike, thanks so much for looking into that. I have my local library
scouring out-of-county resources for the Bauer book but I'm not holding my
breath. Next time I'm in London with time to spare I might drop into the
Westminster Central Music Library in Victoria to see if they have it.

I've also never seen the Neumann photos: I must try to track those down.

The Brownlow series seems to be on YouTube; I'll have a look through that
(and watch it properly when time permits).

Thanks again.

Bert
Bert Coules
2017-08-10 17:32:50 UTC
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I just found the War Bonds clip: not perhaps as bad you remember, Mike:
compared to some the Siegfried is positively svelte, and Fafner - though
hardly fearsome and clearly not cut out for fighting - could be a lot worse.

For anyone interested the programme is here:



and the footage starts at 51 mins 18 secs.

Bert
Mike Scott Rohan
2017-08-10 17:42:13 UTC
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Post by Bert Coules
compared to some the Siegfried is positively svelte, and Fafner - though
hardly fearsome and clearly not cut out for fighting - could be a lot worse.
http://youtu.be/2fi1yarWLyQ
and the footage starts at 51 mins 18 secs.
Bert
Yes, not quite as bad, and I was indeed maligning the Siegfried -- though it's not yer actual Fritz Lang. Enjoy the series; it's a favourite of mine.

Cheers,

Mike
REP
2017-08-10 18:13:48 UTC
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Post by Bert Coules
compared to some the Siegfried is positively svelte, and Fafner - though
hardly fearsome and clearly not cut out for fighting - could be a lot worse.
http://youtu.be/2fi1yarWLyQ
and the footage starts at 51 mins 18 secs.
Bert
Good find. The Fafner looks pretty good to me, but then, I'm a fan of practical effects. A few changes (like beefier arms that do more than just dog-paddle the air) could transform it into a real beast. I'm more amused by the way Siegfried just walks up and displays his sword before dispatching the dragon, after which he displays his sword again. Very stagey, and it reminds me of Johnny Carson's advice to young comedians: "Tell the audience what you're going to do. Then do it. Then tell them you did it."

REP
Bert Coules
2017-08-10 18:32:33 UTC
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Post by REP
I'm more amused by the way Siegfried just walks
up and displays his sword before dispatching
the dragon, after which he displays his sword again.
It's said that the tableau vivant acting style introduced by Cosima (and
unfavourably compared at the time to her husband's direction) lingered in
Ring-staging fashion for a fair number of years. Perhaps we're seeing an
echo of it there.

Bert

Bert Coules
2017-08-09 14:40:08 UTC
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Nice one. Thanks for putting me right on exactly which bit of draconic
anatomy went astray, and also for scotching the Beirut story, though it's
really too good to lose.

If you can turn up any pictures, drawn or otherwise, I'd be grateful; but
please don't go to an enormous amount of trouble.

Bert
Mike Scott Rohan
2017-08-07 17:48:03 UTC
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Post by Bert Coules
I ought to know the answer to this, but I'm ashamed to say that I don't. Do
there exist any drawings - or better yet, photographs - of Fafner the dragon
from the first Ring?
And just how true is the head-and-tails-to-Bayreuth, body-to-Beirut story?
Many thanks.
Bert
I think I've seen one, but it's as well to be careful -- sometimes the attributions are very doubtful. I'm not sure there are actually any guaranteed authentic photos of the original cycle; most I've seen are actually from later ones. However, the dragon being an expensive and elaborate prop, might well have been reused. The photo I saw is certainly old, showing what looks like the original designs, with a sort of stepped slope and the dragon drawn up at the top of it. It's basically low-lying, with splayed legs and a spiky body and head -- and yes, it does look notably neckless.

However, I believe the story of the neck has been greatly exaggerated. It was ordered from a London specialist firm, London being the home of spectacular theatre at that time, with the Adelphi melodramas and the like. The head and body did arrive, but the neck was delayed -- not, apparently, because it had been sent to Beirut, though. Certainly they had to do without it at rehearsals, to some merriment, but according to some accounts it did arrive in time for actual performances. I had the idea of writing something about a search for it, to be called The Dragon's Neck or something of the sort --taking in the general mayhem at Bayreuth at the time -- but it never quite gelled. Not yet, anyhow.

I'll have a look through my sources for that picture, anyhow. Charles Osbourne's book is one possibility.

Cheers,

Mike
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