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Thread: Wagnerians How would you stage Tristan?

  1. #31
    Senior Member NLAdriaan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Byron View Post
    Unfortunately it doesn't save us from pretentious directors with their abstruse concepts and mawkish imagery.
    ...or from cynical audiences who will never accomplish any artistic effort themselves, but are only capable of pissing at anything they see.

    We might also skip staged opera all together, close all opera houses and only listen to the music in concert halls with eyes closed. So everybody can imagine his own ideal staging at the back of their own eyelids.

  2. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by NLAdriaan View Post
    ...or from cynical audiences who will never accomplish any artistic effort themselves, but are only capable of pissing at anything they see.

    We might also skip staged opera all together, close all opera houses and only listen to the music in concert halls with eyes closed. So everybody can imagine his own ideal staging at the back of their own eyelids.
    Tristan und Isolde may very well be perfect for home listening for that very reason -- anyone who has a reasonably vivid imagination can conjure up the appropriate scenes in their own mind. We are unlikely to see any approximation of images that relate to the story and music on stage these days. And listening at home with one's eyes closed would certainly be prefereble to looking at a bunch of irrelevant video images of people submerged in water or surrounded by fire because it reflects a director's "aesthetic expression" and an odd obsession with nauseating New Age symbolism while one is attempting to take in the music and drama.

    If we are to stage the opera, there's nothing wrong in expecting what we see to coherently reflect the music, text, and narrative of Wagner's opera. If anyone is cynical and pissing all over artistic creation perhaps it is the directors who imagine that they are needed to recreate, deconstruct, or engage in a kind of meta-commentary on the work in order make it worthwhile or relevant to audiences, rather than letting the opera speak for itself.
    Last edited by Byron; Feb-16-2020 at 15:28.

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  4. #33
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    I think Bill Viola's Tristan project is interesting. It isn't a production of the opera, really, but seems to be more of a concert performance with an accompanying photographic interpretation. Pictures and other visual effects intended to complement musical works have their place - maybe the idea goes all the way back to Scriabin and his color organ - but I have to wonder about doing that with a four-hour opera. I fear that I might find the imagery a distraction from the music's emotional narrative, and the bits of the production I've seen on YouTube don't allay my fears. Someone should film the entire thing so we can all judge for ourselves.

    Tristan is far from the toughest Wagner opera to stage. There are really no special effects, and although the action is sparse for long stretches a good director and stage designer shouldn't find that too challenging. But I continue to feel that what Wagner really needs is first-class treatment on film, the only medium capable of doing justice to his imaginary worlds. Great films of the Ring and Parsifal are particularly needed, for obvious reasons, but a love story like Tristan would certainly benefit from the intimacy of the camera. I think Wagner would emerge as the greatest film composer of all time (which film composers who steal from him already know), and he'd probably be awarded a posthumous Oscar.
    Last edited by Woodduck; Feb-16-2020 at 19:05.

  5. #34
    Senior Member Couchie's Avatar
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    I didn't care for that Viola production, saw it in Toronto. Distracts from the singers and if I want to stare at a screen I can go to the Met in HD at the cinema for much cheaper.
    Doch dieses Wörtlein: und, -wär' es zerstört,
    wie anders als mit Isoldes eignem Leben wär' Tristan der Tod gegeben?

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    Senior Member annaw's Avatar
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    A slightly controversial idea but when it comes to Wagner and his Gesamtkunstwerk, it could even be argued that the staging should convey the original meaning the composer intended as it's as important part of Gesamtkunstwerk as is the music (this is a mere theory, so correct me if I'm wrong!). Therefore, as long as anyone isn't going to change the score of Wagner's operas, the staging shouldn't be drastically altered (he gave absurdly detailed staging directions as far as I know). I actually really appreciate and value great staging, even if it's non-traditional, but sometimes I feel it would be nice to have more traditional ones. Surely they might be more difficult to make, but I think the struggle is worth it .
    Last edited by annaw; Feb-16-2020 at 21:14.

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Couchie View Post
    I didn't care for that Viola production, saw it in Toronto. Distracts from the singers and if I want to stare at a screen I can go to the Met in HD at the cinema for much cheaper.
    That would be my fear. In Wagner the ideal is a feeling of unity, with everything contributing to the illusion. The modern aesthetic of making the stagecraft visible is alien to Wagner's work and prevents the total involvement he was after, and having to divide and shift our attention between the singers and a screen would only make it harder. If I wanted to see a video interpretation like Viola's, I'd prefer not to see the orchestra and singers at all so that I could simply lose myself in sounds and pictures.

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by annaw View Post
    A slightly controversial idea but when it comes to Wagner and his Gesamtkunstwerk, it could even be argued that the staging should convey the original meaning the composer intended as it's as important part of Gesamtkunstwerk as is the music (this is a mere theory, so correct me if I'm wrong!). Therefore, as long as anyone isn't going to change the score of Wagner's operas, the staging shouldn't be drastically altered (he gave absurdly detailed staging directions as far as I know). I actually really appreciate and value great staging, even if it's non-traditional, but sometimes I feel it would be nice to have more traditional ones. Surely they might be more difficult to make, but I think the struggle is worth it .
    Wagner's stage directions are specific and important mainly in relation to the behavior of the characters. I think that he knew his characters and that we should pay attention to what his directions tell us, even if we depart from certain details. I doubt that he'd have been as particular about the aesthetics of the stage sets, which he surely expected to differ in different productions. The possibilities are enormous for directors to be creative without resorting to absurd violations of the operas. Having Tristan and Isolde meet in the boiler room of a battleship may not alter the plot substantially, but it makes nonsense out of the nocturnal poetry of the music. Portraying the Rhinemaidens as prositutes hanging out atop a hydroelectric dam has nothing whatsoever to do with the Ring; I suspect that Chereau just didn't know what to do with the girls once he'd decided to make the work into an anti-capitalist manifesto.

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  11. #38
    Senior Member annaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    Wagner's stage directions are specific and important mainly in relation to the behavior of the characters.
    Thanks - this is exactly the sort of correction that was needed to my previous post! I'm actually not sure why Wagner's operas are (more?) frequently staged in a modernist style compared to, let's say, Italian operas. Maybe it's just the fact that when Bayreuth started with the innovations during the WW2, it became more popular or finally "allowed"... but I think it's an interesting phenomena.
    Last edited by annaw; Feb-16-2020 at 23:10.

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  13. #39
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NLAdriaan View Post
    ...or from cynical audiences who will never accomplish any artistic effort themselves, but are only capable of pissing at anything they see.

    We might also skip staged opera all together, close all opera houses and only listen to the music in concert halls with eyes closed. So everybody can imagine his own ideal staging at the back of their own eyelids.
    One of the problems we have is that operas have been done so many times that directors appear to think they must reimagine them. There was a particularly excruciating Tristan from the Met recently where What was happening on the stage appeared to be totally at odds with the music.Tristan is a very simple opera to stage. The whole thing is about suggestion, most of which comes from the music, and doesn’t need some cackhanded producer
    Last edited by DavidA; Feb-16-2020 at 23:21.

  14. #40
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by annaw View Post
    I'm actually not sure why Wagner's operas are (more?) frequently staged in a modernist style compared to, let's say, Italian operas. Maybe it's just the fact that when Bayreuth started with the innovations during the WW2, it became more popular or finally "allowed"... but I think it's an interesting phenomena.
    I'm not sure whether that's true - it seems that almost every opera now gets modernized or "rethought" - but since Wagner's are based on myths and legends and tend to be nonspecific as to time and place, and since they have an unusually strong philosophical component, directors can't resist "interpreting" them for all us dopes who may be wondering what they're about. Personally, I'm delighted to know that Lohengrin is about a handsome young fellow who rides his swan into the Kingdom of Cheese to save a damsel from pink and yellow mice.

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  16. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    I think Bill Viola's Tristan project is interesting. It isn't a production of the opera, really, but seems to be more of a concert performance with an accompanying photographic interpretation. Pictures and other visual effects intended to complement musical works have their place - maybe the idea goes all the way back to Scriabin and his color organ - but I have to wonder about doing that with a four-hour opera. I fear that I might find the imagery a distraction from the music's emotional narrative, and the bits of the production I've seen on YouTube don't allay my fears. Someone should film the entire thing so we can all judge for ourselves.
    I saw it in Los Angeles some years ago, and you're right that it isn't exactly a production of the opera. Yet I must say the act of creating images around extraneous concepts and pseudo-intellectual tropes with only the vaguest relation the substance of the opera and then having those images exist on a kind of parallel plane to the music and drama could pretty much describe most regietheater productions -- this one just happens to have the images being projected by video rather than the action taking place directly on stage and being acted out by the singers.

    I think the basic idea might even be appealing on a more limited scale, if some images were put together to accompany some short orchestral excerpts from the opera for example. But when you're listening to the entire score its only natural that you begin to follow the narrative context and immerse yourself in the music and sung words. At that point watching a couple of male and female figures getting undressed and jumping into a pool is nothing but disorienting and frankly almost laughable.
    Last edited by Byron; Feb-17-2020 at 02:57.

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  18. #42
    Senior Member fluteman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MAS View Post
    Why wouldn’t you stage it just like the composer and librettist directed? Same time, same setting. Yes, I know Wagner was his own librettist. That’s why it’s so darned long.... he needed an editor.
    Quote Originally Posted by OperaChic View Post
    Good question. Just the fact that it needs to be asked, because no current production available on video even attempts to tell the story as conceived and dileneated by Wagner in a medieval and chivarlic setting is what is extraordinary.
    Yes, an interesting question. My guess would be, the reason has little to do with Wagner. Rather, the idea is that in 18th- and 19th-century opera generally, while the musical elements can be preserved in their original form or very close to it, at least some of the theatrical elements are obsolete and need to be modified or replaced. I do think that theater is an art that doesn't translate as easily to other times and cultures as can music. Of course, that doesn't explain why original sets, costumes, staging and lighting can be completely abandoned while the libretto is sacrosanct, save for translation to a language familiar to a particular intended audience.

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