Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Wagner - Siegfried / West Gasteen Ghring Schne Waag Jun Herrera Zagrosek Stuttgart Opera|
Actors: Jon Fredric West, Lisa Gasteen, Lothar Zagrosek
Genres: Indie & Art House, Musicals & Performing Arts
No production of the Ring can conclusively answer all the questions thrown up by this theatrical cosmos. The puzzles, anomalies and contradictions will never be completely resolved or even reconciled. But Jossi Wieler?s di... more »
The Most Laughably Awful Opera Production I've Ever Seen
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 04/20/2004
(1 out of 5 stars)
"This production of 'Siegfried' has everything wrong with it but the music. The singing is generally quite good, the orchestra is spectacular under the direction of Lothar Zagrosek. But this 2002 production from the Staatsoper Stuttgart is so grotesquely awful that I will admit that I did not watch every last moment of it. After the shock of the first few scenes I was only able to bear skimming the rest of it, although I did settle down for such things as the Forging Scene, the scene with the Woodbird, the Wanderer's monolog, and much of the Third Act. Still, it was painful. Where to start? Well, the settings are grotesquely (and obviously purposely) inappropriate in the extreme. The opening scene, in Mime's cave, is set in a kind of kitchen/workshop that looks like it came out of the 50s, and perhaps the 1950s is when all this is supposed to be taking place. Why? In the opening scene Mime is peeling potatoes - the anvil strokes called for in the libretto and score are done by Mime hitting the side of a metal bowl with a potato peeler - you think I'm kidding? - I'm not. Siegfried, sung (well) by the more-than-morbidly obese Jon Frederic West, is kitted out in jeans, tennies and a grotty white teeshirt with the words 'Sieg Fried' written on it. [For some reason, the Dragon also has on a tee shirt with 'Sieg Fried' in mirror-writing.] Siegfried's blond hair is long, ratty, and even from a distance looks like it hasn't been washed in six months. He wears this same outfit through the whole opera; it is splattered liberally with Fafner's blood after he kills the him and through the rest of the opera we have a hero with a gruesomely bloody shirt. Ewwww! Wotan, as The Wanderer, is a motorcycle dude, in cycle boots, jeans, leather jacket, ball cap. This might not be so bad except that Wolfgang Schöne, the excellent bass-baritone who sings the character, looks embarrassed as he swaggers around; can't say I blame him. Then we are treated to a scene of Mime, erm, pleasuring himself rather vigorously. Right, we needed THAT. The Forest Bird appears to be a blind boy. Don't ask me why. Erda is an old woman who the booklet notes say is supposed to be a socialite, but she actually looks like someone's grandmother in her nightgown, sitting there writing in her diary. And finally, Brünnhilde, sung gloriously I must say, is played by Lisa Gasteen in another old nightgown; well, yes, she has been asleep for a long time, thanks to her old man, but still... It might not be so bad if she weren't, erm, rather more than zaftig. The scene with her lying on top of Siegfried (a beached whale) on the floor shows rather more fleshy leg than one could possibly want to see. Her 'Heil dir, Sonne' is sung while Siegfried is hiding in a closet. Hmmmm.My own take on all this is that the director and dramaturg of this mess, Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito, should be given a slow poison, hung from the yard-arm, and shot at dawn, and, if they should survive it (and they probably would - sigh) never never never be given another opera to produce. I had thought that the recent Salzburg 'Fledermaus' was the worst production I'd ever seen, but this one trumps it. I can easily see the DVD of this production becoming the 'Plan Nine from Outer Space' for the cynical opera set, with pitchers of martinis to compliment the hoots and hollers. Party on!Scott Morrison"
This DVD has got to be a joke
Frederick II of Hohenstaufen | right here | 06/29/2004
(1 out of 5 stars)
"This is not really a one star DVD, it is really zero stars. The costumes and stage design are the most ridiculous I've ever seen. Be warned!"
Musically Excellent - Visually Ghastly
G P Padillo | Portland, ME United States | 01/04/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Words cannot adequately describe the ghastly, physically repulsive Siegfried I watched over the holidays. It's taken me days (and purging myself through hours of football) to make myself remember that opera is my life's passion. This Siegfried, from Stuttgart was, on most counts, musically thrilling, one of the better sung productions I've heard in years, but almost unbearable to watch.
Heinz Göhrig is Mime and he's dressed rather like Mr. Rogers. In a, huge, filthy apartment (with a forge and billows by the stove?) we find him peelin' `taters. The anvil strikes are here produced by Mime banging his peeler against the metal pot. It's actually a bit of fun and one of the few gimmicks that works here. Unfotunately, after his interview with The Wanderer and having the bejesus scared out of him, he shoves his hand down his pants and masturbates. Really. I guess the guy gets off on fear.
I've never thought of Jon Frederic West as obese, but here he looks like Bruce Vilanch got up as the late Edith Massey (for those unfamiliar with either reference, trust me, it's about as gruesome as one can imagine). West, in "normal" costumes looks like a beefy, possibly overfed tenor and not a particularly good actor. Here, his ample carcass is stuffed into ill fitting jeans with a filthy grimy tee-shirt bearing his name SIEG FRIED (haven't figured out the blank space). His hair is a filthy mop of long blonde locks that appears never to have been washed. With his short stature and wide, ungainly girth, one would assume that his mobility would be severely unlimited. Oh, were that only the case. Instead, the portly West jumps and hurtles and races about the stage with a face exhibiting the complete range of human emotions from A to B. Or maybe A and a half. It's a "Johnny One Note" interpretation that grows wearisome and really is difficult to watch. Fortunately (or unfortunately) he offers the best singing I've ever heard from him - I'd go so far as to say, no one today can touch him in the role. I say unfortunately, because if he sang as bad as he looked, one could simply turn the damned thing off.
This is the principal problem with this set. It IS, for the most part, wonderfully sung. It's just so ghastly to watch.
The most attractive singer (by far) is Björn Waag as (can you believe this!) Alberich! Alberich is actually downright sexy, decked out in a dark suit, chainsmoking and stomping out (literally) dozens of cigarettes with his bare feet as he paces before the Cyclone fence that "hides" Fafner with a sign warning "Lebensgefahr'" He sings well too.
Fafner is Attila the Hun, er, Attila Jun, a Korean basso, who is robbed of the benefit of a dragon costume and forced to wear a tee shirt imprinted "DEIRF GEIS" (which is, of course, Siegfried as if seen in a mirror . . . brilliant and fraught with meaning, yes?). After the Dragon's murder Siegfried is stained/splattered repulsively with blood for the balance of the evening, West looking worse by the second.
The forest bird is a blind, blonde boy got up a la Eminem. Huh, you ask? Me too. He wanders about with one arm extended before him, grimly, like the Ghost of Christmas Future. When he wanders into Erda's filthy apartment (you heard me) he hides in a closet as The Wanderer enters. He enters looking like Wolfgang Schöne forced to wear 1950's hoodlum gear; creased blue jeans, a leather jacket, sunglasses and a baseball cap. Brilliant! The Wanderer urges Erda to rise from her sleep, but she's not sleeping, she's sitting on a 1950's doctor's stool before a mindbogglingly filthy sink, scribbling frantically away in her diary. She wears a dirty pink nightgown. She looks old. She sounds old. The bit gets real old. At the climax of her scene, she lays down in an equally filthy shower stall, curls up and goes to sleep. Unfortunately, Schöne's voice sometimes doesn't sound right for or up to the role, but he's an impressive actor (as much as one can tell) and every word is sung, if not always beautifully, then passionately and his text comes across with a nonetheless impressive authority. (The missing "eye" business usually covered up by a patch in most productions here, is fairly repulsive and fake looking.) As earlier stated, West's Johnny One Note performance of Siegfried remains so, and instead of registering something like proud surprise when Nothung busts The Wanderer's Spear (here, just a pipe he happens to find leaning against a wall in Erda's apartment literally a millisecond before he utters "My Spear"). The blind Eminem boy comes back out and leads Siegfried to Brunhilde's boudoir.
Brunhilde's Boudoir has a gigantic bed covered in ghastly green with a matching velvet headboard attached to the wall, and a matching bench at the foot. She is not in bed, but rather seated, slumped, at her make-up counter of stage wide vanity. She is in a sickly green nightgown, with a jockey's helmet on her head. Brilliant! When Siegfried rouses her, she falls on him, and, still asleep, starts writhing all over his body. He hides in the closet (Hmmmm?) as she sings 'Heil dir, Sonne." It's Lisa Gasteen, and she sings it wondrously, but looks . . . mmmmmm... terrible. She's forced to play Brunhilde as a tart. During the ensuing duet, she puts on her make-up, brushes her hair, jumps on the bed, patting the space beside her to a Siegfried who looks frightened (sort of). They strip the bed, he jumps up and down on it throwing pillows at her across the room while she brushes her teeth. To quote Anna Russell "I'm not making this up, you know!" They spend the duet's final minutes trying to make the bed but can't get the fitted sheet on, each pulling too much in their own direction, before, at the climax, Siegfried pulls the entire thing off, runs across the room, and then jumps into the bed where the two pasty rolly pollies writhe about, laughing in ecstasy. I almost hurled. Poor Gasteen is an attractive large woman who here is unflatteringly costumed and directed to be a bit whorish - not an association I think is genuinely representative of Brunhilde.
It all looks as if "Gotterdammerung" had already taken place and they're just reenacting the whole damned thing!
The ensuing ovation lasts 9 minutes, but when the directorial team comes out for a curtain call, there some vociferous booing occurs. They don't stay out there long and don't return with the cast for repeated bows.
Some of the ideas were indeed interesting, but I can't help but feel the unrelieved and overall ugliness to be done solely for "shock" purposes. Maybe I'm wrong, but that's how I felt. I wouldn't have minded the same structural production so long as the singers weren't made to look like grotesques. I have never needed literal-minded productions, and enjoy "out there" but the directorial silliness here didn't, for me, well serve the tale being told.
A fantastic production if you can drop your preconceptions
Mark E. Stenroos | Laguna Niguel, CA | 12/04/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"One either loves this production or hates it.
American reviewers - who are generally stuck in traditionalism and respond favorably only to Wagner productions that "honor the composer's production intentions" loath it. Europeans, on the other hand, absolutely loved this Siegfried. In fact, this Stuttgart Ring - and Siegfried in particular - won European Opera of The Year awards and has been playing to sold-out audiences since its debut. Go figure. (BTW - I believe Stuttgart has now officially retired this production).
Now, before I go any further, I have a BIG disclosure to make: tenor Jon Fredric West who sings the title role, is a very, very close personal friend of mine of many years standing. I've even studied voice with him and performed with him on many occasions. So, when I say that he is simply the greatest living exponent of the role of Siegfried, you should consider my prejudices. But better than that, buy this DVD and give a listen. You'll hear both strength and delicacy in a role that too often features a tenoric bull in an operatic china shop. Jon is the ONLY tenor performing today who can load up the high notes with impressive volume (they almost sound like his middle voice, so lacking are they in the strain you hear in others) while singing the Forest Murmurs and other lighter parts with a disarming mezza voce that is just as astonishing as the thunder. The price of the DVD is worth it for Jon's contribution alone. And, as Ring productions are taped so infrequently, this will probably be the only chance Jon will have to put the role down for posterity, so there it is.
It must also be said that the singing, acting and dedication of the entire cast is beyond reproach. This is a fantastically sung and acted Siegfried. And the orchestral contribution is also spectacular with conductor Zagrosek leading a simply unbelieveable performance.
So, it all comes down to whether or not you enjoy these types of modernized productions. Having seen the productions of both Die Walküre and Siegfried in the house at Stuttgart in 2000, I came away an enthusiatic believer in the production. Surely anyone with a deep grounding in Wagner can take away a lot from this re-thinking of the production values (and the Siegfried performance I attended was sans Jon West, and the production still held up). What's truly amazing about this production is the fact that it somehow retains the fantasy element of Wagner's Siegfried while setting the whole thing in a down-and-dirty modernistic time and place. In addition, the characters in this production are very much alive and immediate, something that I often find missing in the more-traditional productions (which can quickly devolve into museum pieces with performers that couldn't begin to touch the cast on hand in this particular Siegfried).
So give it a try. You may be pleasantly - or unpleasantly - surprised."