Monday, 3 September 2012

Bluebeard’s Staatsoper

I usually find myself at Grafenegg in the first weekend in September, and have always missed the Wiener Staatsoper’s day of the open door. Well not this year. Briefly for readers outside of Austria and Germany: the Tag der offenen Tür is a tradition maintained annually by institutions ranging from government ministries to schools and colleges and somewhat disingenuously named, as the space made open is always restricted and everything the public sees stage-managed. As such the exercise is less about openness than image. When I ventured down from the Carlos Kleiber rehearsal room to the Direktion’s offices on the second floor, a burly bouncer of a steward warned, oblivious to irony, ‘it is not possible to get past me’, while announcement boards had been expunged of all memos except for the very first Dominique Meyer released, concerning a new employee wellbeing policy and the appointment of a consulting mental health professional (subtext: I know how much Holender traumatized you. It’s over now).

While this open day stymied those of us who might have pried too much, judged as a fun-filled family afternoon out it was a resounding success, with the snow machine and wandering crocodiles from Marco Arturo Marelli’s Zauberflöte big hits with the assembled Kinder. There was also a live show of sorts beginning with a Küchl-led Staatsopernorchester and a Figaro overture which soared a great height beyond the day’s call of duty. The lovely Ileana Tonca appeared from behind the curtain ready to be Susanna but conductor Guillermo García Calvo had other ideas, deciding that the overture needed some contrived ‘rehearsal’ (it didn’t) while his spotlit singer just stood there awkwardly. The Staatsoper wouldn’t be the Staatsoper unless the right hand didn’t know what the left was doing, but for Calvo to slow-mo descending violin runs from a friggin’ Küchl-led section is something no ear needed to hear. Tonca’s ‘Deh vieni’ would have been exquisite were it not for a frankly unmusical tempo; Eijiro Kai fared a little better with the conducting but gave an underpowered ‘Non più andrai. The orchestra excused, there followed a sequence of strange sights all coordinated to the strains of a recorded Barbiere overture: the fly system came down and did a little Mexican wave (easily impressed woman next to me: ‘das ist einfach Klasse’), something resembling the love duet dance from Giselle competed for attention with our Ring’s crummy 90s video game graphic of Siegfried slaying Fafner, and Octavian got chased by the crocodile. Random, indeed senseless, and yet thrown together so entertainingly that maybe the Staatsoper should ditch Sven-Eric Bechtolf for Cenerentola and go with whoever directed this.

More photos after the jump.

Ah, mein lieber fluoreszierender Kosky Schwan, your final journey has indeed been spared:

This kitty from Nicolas Joel’s Daphne actually breathes. Sadly the same could not be said of the production it appeared in:

As a stagehand confided, ‘we call him Ioan’:

Dominique Meyer’s No. 2, Thomas Platzer. No sign of Meyer all afternoon:

Part of the set for Bechtolf’s Arabella:

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