Wagnerian crocs

Anthony Tommasini has an hilarious review of the current production of the Wagner Ring Cycle at Bayreuth by the German avant-garde director, Frank Castorf. When Castorf appeared on stage at the end, he was treated to a ten-minute orgy of booing. He stood there, unmoved and perhaps gratified. (After all, one of the pleasures of being avant garde is that one can annoy the bourgeoisie.) But that’s by-the-by. What I really wanted to say is that this passage from Mr Tommasini’s review made me laugh out loud:

Mr. Castorf’s deeper fault, it seems, was cynically to undercut the musical drama during some of the most romantic, poignant and heroic scenes. My earnest attempt to be open-minded about this baffling “Ring” almost foundered for good near the end of “Siegfried” when (you can’t make this up) a monster crocodile swallowed the poor Forest Bird in one big gulp.

This last scene, of course, is the ecstatic love duet between Siegfried, our rambunctious hero (who, by the way, instead of forging a sword assembles a semiautomatic rifle), and the smitten Brünnhilde. In this production, at the most climactic moment in the music, the stage rotated to reveal two of those monster crocodiles busily copulating.

Looking hungry after sex, the squiggling reptiles, their jaws flapping, headed toward Siegfried and Brünnhilde, who were singing away.

As the reptiles crawled closer, the Forest Bird, presented here as an alluring young woman (the soprano Mirella Hagen), burst upon the stage to save the day. Of course, the Forest Bird was not supposed to be in this scene, but who cares what Wagner wrote? This fetching Forest Bird bravely fought off one crocodile by jabbing a pole down its throat. But the other one opened wide and swallowed her whole. Throughout, Siegfried and Brünnhilde seemed only mildly concerned. But then, in Mr. Castorf’s staging, they also seemed only mildly concerned with each other, a much bigger problem.

Well worth reading in full.