Wagner set designer Denic courted reaction and got a revolt

Fri Aug 2, 2013 2:02pm EDT
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By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters) - The reviews are in for the scandal-tinged staging of Richard Wagner's "Ring" for his 200th birthday at Bayreuth, and while Serbian set designer Aleksandar Denic doesn't confirm he and German director Frank Castorf intended to provoke, he doesn't deny it either.

The French expression "epater les bourgeois" - which, in Bayreuth terms, might be translated as "provoke the BMW and Audi owners" - seems apt for a production in which a crocodile gobbled down the gaudily clad young singer playing the Forest Bird in one gulp while the lovers Brunnhilde and Siegfried carried on singing nearby as if nothing were happening.

That sort of thing was replicated over and over.

"I'm very happy if there are emotions," the thin, wiry 49-year-old Denic told Reuters in an interview at the opera house's press office on Wednesday, a few hours before he, Castorf and the production team took their now infamous curtain call in which the booing went on for some 10 minutes.

"If somebody's happy, sad, angry or I don't know what, for me it's a compliment. I hate when there's no response," Denic said.

While the audience let its reactions be known in Twitter time, some of the critics cogitated for a day and, in so many words, said the same thing.

"Castorf's production should be binned," critic Martin Kettle wrote in the Guardian.

"Mr. Castorf's deeper fault, it seems, was cynically to undercut the musical drama during some of the most romantic, poignant and heroic scenes," New York Times music critic Anthony Tommasini wrote.   Continued...