Take that, dragon: Siegfried blasts Fafner for Wagner's 200th

Mon Jul 29, 2013 6:39pm EDT
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By Michael Roddy

BAYREUTH, Germany (Reuters) - It was bound to happen in a staging of Richard Wagner's "Ring" cycle someday, but few would have expected that in Wagner's own opera house in his bicentenary year his hero Siegfried would kill the fierce dragon Fafner with a machinegun instead of a magic sword.

Crocodiles also copulated on stage during the love duet between Brunnhilde and Siegfried - something the famed composer never had in his libretto.

The unorthodox production at Bayreuth by Berlin theatre director Frank Castorf was booed by the audience at the final curtain on Monday, but the singers and Russian conductor Kirill Petrenko won cheers.

"It's not a catastrophe, the singers are the best in years," Manuel Brug, critic for the German newspaper Die Welt, said at the end of a "Siegfried" that produced laughs and snickers but also seemed intentionally designed to offend traditionalists.

Several people noisily left the opera house - which has no aisles down the center, only side exits - after Siegfried pumped Fafner full of lead.

"The interesting thing is he tries to be very naturalistic, with naturalistic sets, and on the other side there are very surrealistic moments," Brug said of Castorf's production.

"On one side, he is giving what Wagner wrote, but at other points not, and I think that is the most disturbing for people because they never know what they will get."

The production of the third opera in the four-opera cycle was set at the foot of a likeness of Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, but with the heads of four American presidents replaced by the heads of communist notables Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao.   Continued...

German director Frank Castorf gestures before the beginning of the dress rehearsal for the play "Nord, Eine Grandguignolade von Frank Castorf nach Louis-Ferdinand Celine", as part of the "Wiener Festwochen" festival in Vienna June 6, 2007. REUTERS/Herwig Prammer