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Bayreuth tenor, director clash

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This was supposed to be the summer of scandal in Bayreuth, Germany, maybe the biggest ever at the holy shrine of Wagnerism. The festival had hired an outrageously irreverent director with radical leftist political views and no experience in opera to presumably thumb his nose at “Parsifal,” the most revered opera in the Wagner canon. Christoph Schlingensief, after all, once invited all of Germany’s unemployed to jump in a lake at once and flood the vacation house of then-German chancellor Helmut Kohl.

The Sunday premiere, however, generated little controversy, despite the fact that Schlingensief found room for a fat topless woman as a central image, as well as for voodoo rituals for the knights of the Holy Grail and lots of blood. Video screens, when not displaying images of Osama bin Laden, concentrated on a rotting rabbit. First-night boos and cheers were reported to be about equally divided (which is par for the course in Bayreuth), and the reviews were mixed, with most of the praise going for Pierre Boulez’s conducting.

But now scandal has erupted in remarks traded between the director and his Parsifal. During rehearsals tenor Endrik Wottrich publicly chided Schlingensief’s concept as “an abomination” and said he regretted ever accepting the engagement. According to Associated Press, Schlingensief responded at a news conference Monday by accusing the tenor of objecting to the use of African culture in the staging and saying that “Wottrich has a purity notion of Germany that I cannot share.”

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-- Mark Swed


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