2017-10-03 15:21:38 UTC
I've been reading Oswald Georg Bauer's hefty "Richard Wagner: the stage
designs and productions from the premieres to the present" (uncredited
English translation, USA, 1983). Fascinating stuff, though it's a pity that
so many of the illustrations are in black and white.
It had somehow passed me by (or perhaps I had simply forgotten) that the
great Russian film pioneer Sergei Eisenstein directed a stage production of
Die Walküre at the Bolshoi in 1940. In his own words it would be "in its
essence realistic, in its structure mythological, in its generalised forms
epic, and in the changing variety of its musical and visual depiction
emotional" - I'm not entirely sure how that would have translated into
practical stagecraft though it apparently involved incorporating "everything
which is discussed or even mentioned in the course of the action".
And more, evidently, since he added what he termed "mimed choruses": silent
actors who illustrated the work's various monologues and came on as extras
at other moments: a photo of Sieglinde's Der Männe Sippe shows an enactment
of Wotan's visit to her wedding, bafflingly accompanied by what seems to be
a dozen or so onlookers all beseechingly holding out bowls like the orphans
in Oliver!. And after all, why restrict yourself to eight Valkyries when
you can have a whole crowd of them? They "hovered around their eight vocal
sisters" and "formed a funeral procession at the end of Wotan's Farewell"
Bauer tells us.
My thanks to Michael Casse for drawing my attention to the book. I was
looking for some idea of how Fafner was depicted in the first Bayreuth Ring
and as Michael said, Bauer includes Joseph Hoffmann's set-design painting
for the act two fight; I tend to agree though that the draconic actuality
almost certainly didn't come too close to the illustration.
Bauer was, as Mike Scott Rohan pointed out, chief of the Bayreuth press
office and there is a certain bias in that direction both in the text and
the choice of pictures, but the book ranges more widely than I was expecting
and is worth a look if you can find it: to my surprise (because I didn't
know they lent out their stock) my local library obtained a copy from the