GLENN LONEY'S ARTS RAMBLES
Report for The Bregenz Festival of 2012
Caricature of Glenn Loney
by Sam Norkin.
To navigate to items in this table of contents, click on (*)
This is the Bodensee Festival that was… *
Polish Science Fiction of the Early 1960s—SOLARIS: From Films To Opera! *
Is there intelligent life on other planets? *
Look Where It Comes Again! André Chénier Returns To The Great Lake Stage on The Bodensee! *
Let’s Hear It for Schubert! Orchestral Concert am Bodensee *
David Pountney into the Sunset: New Bregenz Intendant out of the Rising Sun! *
America’s Ed Ruscha at Kunst Haus Bregenz & Other Optical Treats… *
Angelika Kauffmann Lives On in Schloss Schwarzenberg! *
In Luzern, The Dance of Death—or Totentanz—Proves a Killer! *
This Summer marked the 67th Season of Operas, Operettas, & even American Musicals on the Lake Stage of Bregenz, Austria’s Western most Provincial Capital.
The Bregenz Festival was founded in 1946—shortly after World War II ended—when Austria was finally freed of Nazi Domination.
Something was needed to Jump Start the formerly thriving Pre War Tourist Industry.
Outdoor Musical Theatre was just the ticket, as both Motorists & Train Travelers had to pass through this charming Harbor City, along the Lake Front of the Bodensee.
They could hardly miss seeing the Great Scenic Construction on the shores of what the French like to call Lake Constance…
If you were in No Hurry to get to Innsbruck or Zürich, you could either Park Your Car or get off the Train & find out what that Huge Thing actually was!
That’s what happened to Your Roving Arts Correspondent, way back in 1956, just ten years after the Festival’s Founding!
I parked my Blue Beetle Volkswagen, went over to the Ticket Office to get a Seat for that Evening’s Performance—I think it was Wiener Blut—as well as to find a cheap Overnight Pension, before driving onward the next day to the Baroque Monastery Church of Sankt Gallen, just over the Swiss Border.
The Geographical Wonder of Bregenz’s Siting on the Lake is that you can drive from German Lindau, through Austria, & enter into Switzerland, in a matter of less than an Hour!
The Annual Summer Wonder—at least for an American Journalist Critic—is that you will also get to see & even meet the friendly & open President of Austria, Dr. Heinz Fischer!
Can you imagine President Barak Obama turning up for the Opening of the Santa Fé Opera Festival?
At the Opening Ceremonies—which also featured Snippets of the Entertainments awaiting Festival Guests—Dr. Fischer’s thoughtful Address was almost eclipsed by the impressive statements of Dr. Claudia Schmeid, who is the Austria’s Bundes Ministerin für Unterricht, Kunst, und Kultur…
In English, this translates into Education, Art, & Culture. Which, at least in America, is a Fantastic Notion!
Who—whether in Washington, Albany, Austin, or Sacramento—would ever dream of anything So Foolish as Linking Education to Art & Culture?
Even as Washington Congressmen & Senators—not to mention State & City Pooh Bahs—seek to Save Money by slashing Arts Programs of all sorts, as well as to Cripple Education at All Levels, Austria believes that Education, Art, & Culture are intimately linked, as part of Life Long Education!
This, of course, includes Handsome Subsidies for Drama, Dance, Opera, & Music Theatre Ensembles & Playhouses, freely given by the Austrian Federal Government, the Provinces, & the Cities.
Paying Performers & Musicians to Perform Creates JOBS! [It also guarantees Health Care & Pensions!]
In addition, it offers both Austrian Citizens & their Tourist Guests a Welcome Diversion from Hundreds of Channels of TV…
British Born David Pountney—longtime Intendant, or Artistic Director, of the Bregenz Festival—has made the Theme of Festival 2012: Erinnerung an die Zukunft.
That can mean Remembering the Future, but it could also imply Thinking Forward about the Future?
There is an Old French Saying: The More Things Change, The More They Remain The Same.
That is Especially True in France.
But it also applies Elsewhere as well…
The Crisis of the Euro & the Euro Zone, however, may seem to be Something New.
But Earlier Attempts to Unify Europe under such Banners as the Holy Roman Empire & the Austro Hungarian Empire—not to Overlook the Territorial Ambitions of Prussia & of Adolf Hitler’s Thousand Year Reich—disastrously Did Not Finally Succeed.
In the handsome Festival Program, there is also that Famous Reminder: Those Who Do Not Study The Past Are Condemned To Repeat It…
So, at least this summer in Bregenz, we have been Remembering both The Past & The Future!
PASSING GLANCES AT SCENES SEEN:
Among the Many Innovations the Mutton Chop Whiskered David Pountney has made in the Bregenz Festival is the Commissioning of New Operas!
Last Season, England’s Judith Wier had two of her New Works on view.
They have not, as yet, been programmed at the Metropolitan Opera…
Watching the fascinating Stage Opticals of Detlev Glanert’s Solaris—based on Stanislas Lem’s Space Fantasy of 1961, written when Poland was under the seemingly unending Domination of the Soviet Union—I thought that American Audiences might well be intrigued by the Visuals, as well as by the Oddly Developed Narrative.
But would his Unusual Musical Formulations appeal to Opera Elitists, more accustomed to the Lilting Melodies of Puccini or the Thunder Blasts of Wagner?
Years & years ago, Christa Ludwig & Walter Berry worried about learning the difficult Music & Librettos of New Operas for the Salzburg Festival, only to discover—to their Distressed Disappointment—that the Costly Productions would NOT move to the Wiener Staatsoper.
Solaris is not, as yet, on its way to Vienna, but it will soon be seen in Berlin, at the late Walther Felsenstein’s Always Innovative Komische Oper!
Perhaps the embattled New York City Opera—now properly ensconced in the Historic Opera House of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, or BAM—will be able to bring Solaris to America?
It is just the kind of Avant the Prevailing Avant Garde that BAM’s Innovative Director, Joe Melillo, likes to discover!
Lem’s Solaris has earned a Worldwide Audience, not only of Sci Fi Buffs.
It has been Filmed at least twice: first, in the then Soviet Union, in 1968, for TV.
Later, in 1972, André Tarkovsky’s version won the Special Grand Prix at the Cannes Festival.
Then, in 2002, Stephen Soderbergh filmed Solaris with George Clooney!
The Handlung of Solaris involves the Space Flight of Kris Kelvin [the baffled Dietrich Henschel] to investigate what may be Going Wrong on a Space Station, originally intended to observe the curious Planet Solaris.
A Plasma Ocean covers this Distant Planet.
This Orb not only Emits Sounds, but even Words. It can also Read the Minds of those aboard the Space Station, eventually absorbing them into its Mysterious Mass.
Talk about Mad Scientists!
Station Chief Dr. Sartorius [Martin Winkler] is conducting Bizarre Experiments that have already resulted in Alien Forms, such as an Overstuffed Negress [Bonita Hyman, in a Fat Suit], a malevolent Old Lady [Christiane Oertel], & a much abused Dwarf [Mirka Wagner].
Kirk’s Mentor has committed Suicide, his body being kept in a Deep Freeze…
Kirk’s beloved Wife, Harey [Marie Arnet], who committed Suicide some 14 Years Ago, is recreated by Solaris in Two Versions, both made of Luft Stoff…
Kirk falls in love, all over again, with Both Entities. But he feels he finally has to destroy the Harey Apparition.
In his Transformative Agonies, he calls out for a Spiegel—or a Mirror—because he finally has come to understand that we do not need to be rocketing around in Space to study Other Planets.
We really need to take a Close Look at Ourselves!
This Operatic & Filmic Formulation recalls the Answer to that Epic Futuristic Question:
The Answer is also a Question: Is There Intelligent Life on This Planet?
We do not actually get to see the Strange Sea of Plasma on Solaris, but we do see its Effects, reflected on the Pristine White Post Modernist Chambers of the Space Station, designed by Christian Fenouillat.
Solaris can be heard Moaning, Singing, & Chanting, thanks to the Prague Philharmonic Choir.
Reinhard Palm provided the Libretto Text, with short, even choppy Dialogue Exchanges.
Glanert’s Score effectually musicalizes the Conversations, without creating any sweeping Symphonic Texture.
Staging was devised by Moshe Leiser & Patrice Caurier, with Markus Stenz valiantly conducting the Wiener Symphoniker.
A Night To Remember—Errinerung an die Zukunft indeed!
Later in the Fest Season, Detlev Glanert premiered another Relatively New Work: Nijinsky’s Tagebuch…
Actually, this was premiered in 2008 in Aachen—or Aix la Chapelle, as the French like to call it—but it was all new to Stefan Ender, Music Critic for Vienna’s leading newspaper, Der Standard.
His Rave Review made me wish I’d been able to stay around in Bregenz to see it, but Bayreuth was calling…
Both Staged & Choreographed by Rosamund Gilmore—with a setting of White Suitcases & Trunks, shuffled around among Six Players, against a Black Background—Vaslav Nijinsky’s often Mad Ravings while On Tour with Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes achieved a Mad Life of their own.
What dazzled Critic Ender was the way in which all the Performers —whether primarily Actors, Dancers, or Singers—were able to Dance, Act, & Sing in permutations & variations such Ragings as: Ich bin Gott! Or Ich mach Kack…
This Chamber Opera & this Bregenz Production—at least from the Photos & Ender’s enthusiastic Description—should be seen in New York & Beyond.
How about BAM? Or even the Lincoln Center Festival?
According to Enders, Detlev Glanert, born in 1960, has been given—with some 14 Works of Musik Theater—More Productions than any other Contemporary German Composer!
Once again, the Great Head of the Murdered Marat was swarming with Platoons of Revolting French Revolutionaries: Singers, Chorus, Aerialists, Dancers, & Supers on the Bregenz Festival’s Lake Stage.
This was the Second Year of Keith Warner’s astonishing staging of Umberto Giordano’s Opera about the Victims of the French Revolution, André Chénier.
Revolutions almost always Eat Their Children—with the American Revolution being, perhaps, the One Exception…
Designer David Fielding’s decision to make the Head of Marat—stabbed in his Bath, by Charlotte Corday—the Centerpiece of this Spread Out Staging was almost Counter Intuitive, as Marat has No Role in the Opera.
[For the Full Stage Treatment of the Death of Marat, check out the Video of Peter Brook’s Royal Shakespeare Production of Peter Weiss’s Marat/Sade…]
Considering the varied Beauties of & Emotional Crises in Giordano’s Solos, Duets, & Choruses, Chénier is a work that would be much more Powerful on a Small Stage, whether Proscenium or Thrust.
On the wide, wide, wide Bregenz Lake Stage—with Spotlights on Major Characters—one often doesn’t know Where to Look, to see Who is actually singing & Where…
Nonetheless, this is a Great Show that will Live on in Memory.
Next Summer’s Magic Flute will have to be amazing to Top It!
Rather than repeat my Last Summer Report—which you can find On Line—it should be sufficient to Salute the Chénier of Héctor Sandoval, the Gérard of John Lundgren, the Maddalena of Tatiana Serjan, & the other important roles played & sung by Rosalind Plowright, Krysty Swann, Tobias Hächler, & David Stout.
Ulf Schirmer conducted the Vienna Symphony deep in the Bowels of the Lake Stage, visible from time to time on Video Monitors on both sides of the 7,000 Seat Bleachers.
For the Record: Next Season’s newly commissioned Opera for the Festspielhaus will be André Tchaikovsky’s Kaufmann von Venedig!
The Composer is No Relation.
The Time is probably Long Overdue for an Operatic Treatment of The Merchant of Venice, is it not?
Macbetto, Romeo & Juliet or I Cappeletti è I Montecchi, Otello, Falstaffo…
Isn’t there also a Hameletto somewhere in the Italian Repertory?
Why have we waited so long for Shylock to Sing?
Fest Intendant David Pountney—believing in the Paradoxes of the Past being bound to the Future—programmed the Schubert/Glanert Einsamkeit, along with Anton Bruckner’s Symphony Nr. 5.
Pountney sees all Three Composers as Romantics!
Gisela Stille was the excellent—but Non Silent Soprano, not Stille at all!—in Einsamkeit, feeling every Surge & Recession of Emotion: virtually Inhabiting this Song Cycle about Solidtude.
The Symphonies of Anton Bruckner are a Different Matter. No Beethoven he… Nor Brahms!
With Numero Cinco, it’s not a matter of each Movement contrasting with, or building upon, what came before, but, instead, diving immediately from Thumping Crescendos into Calm Seas of Quiet Delight.
Even in the Midst of a Movement, the Thundering Score suggests a Rousing Climax—to be followed by Lusty Applause.
There’s More to Come—with Markus Stenz frenetically conducting the Vienna Symphony—not to be confused with the Vienna Philharmonic, who were busy over at the Salzburg Festival…
Handsome Maestro Stenz—who has even Better Hair than Mitt Romney!—is something of a Gymnast on the Podium, getting into the Swing of Things a bit like Leonardo Bernstein.
In 2015, David Pountney will retire as Artistic Director of the Bregenz Festival.
He will be replaced by Elisabeth Sobotka, who has already made quite a Name for herself as Intendant of the Graz Opera.
For those who have never heard of Graz—well, there are some Americans who have never heard of Bregenz, after all—it is the Capital of the Easternmost Land or State of Austria.
Just as Bregenz is the Westernmost Capital…
Sobotka comes to Bregenz with the Blessing of the Fest’s former Chief, Dr. Alfred Wopmann, who began the Popular Policy of Programming Forgotten or Neglected Operas in the Festspielhaus.
Dr. Wopmann is now an Arts Power to Reckon With in Graz, which is Most Famed for its Ancient Zeughaus!
Not quite the same thing as an Opera House: Long, long ago, the Grazers kept Weapons & Armor in their Zeughaus.
Protestants & Catholics were frequently at each other’s Throats in the endless Wars of Religion.
Arts Rambles News & Notes:
You really have to see Ed Ruscha’s Installed Artworks on all Three Floors of Bregenz’s Glass House Kunst Haus, to believe what is Possible for an Innovative Artist way out there in California…
A Major Promotion by Gallery Giant Larry Gagosian, Reading Ed Ruscha is sure to Show Up at a Museum of Modern Art near you soon!
Born in Austrian Egg & Buried in Westminster Abbey:
Few Women in the 18th Century received any attention as Painters.
The Good Fortune of the brilliant Angelika Kauffmann was to be born into a Family of Male Painters.
Not many Men in her time were invited to paint the Pope in the Vatican.
But Angelika Kauffmann was much much more than the Cindy Sherman of her day, as this impressive show demonstrates!
On a Day Off from Bodensee Theatrics, Your Roving Arts Reporter—with Critic Colleague & ARTS ARCHIVE Web Master Scott Bennett—took the Zürich Express, to make some Photos for INFOTOGRAPHY™…
We call our Efforts Glenn’s Lens & Scott’s Shots.
Stopping En Route, we first went to the Great Monastery of Sankt Gallen, surrounded by ornate Fachwerk—or Wood & Plaster—Houses, some dating back to the 1500’s.
But what Stops the Breath in the Center of what was once a Medieval Catholic Pilgrimage Site, is the Great Baroque Basilica of St. Gallen.
It even beats some of those Over Decorated Basilicas in Rome!
There is also an Ornate Baroque Library, crammed with Precious Illuminated Manuscripts & Early Printed Books:
Impressive Collections in an Ornate Showcase, but No Match for the Incunabula & Rarities amassed by JP Morgan.
But NO PHOTOS are permitted!
They want you to buy their Postcards…
Looking Backward as far as the Protestant Reformation—Geneva’s Johann Calvin was bigger here than Dr. Martin Luther was in Wittenberg & on the Wartburg—it is amazing that this Great Roman Catholic Foundation survived at all.
Protestants were everywhere around it.
In not so distant German Augsberg, they had the Augsberg Confession, still very much a Feature of some Lutheran Rites.
[Even Followers of that Renegade Priest, Martinus Lutherus, today cannot agree on What’s Up with God.
[In the Good Old USA, there’s the Missouri Synod, which doesn’t have the Same Dispensation as Real Lutherans: Is it really a Miracle? Or is it still just Bread & Welch’s Grape Juice?
[Martin Luther never even heard of Missouri! He had enough Trouble with the Diet of Worms!]
Somehow, the Monastery of Sankt Gallen was permitted to be Walled Around, a High Catholic
Architectural Enclave, surrounded by Passionate Evangelicals!
For some Centuries, the Wars of Religion raged across Europe: The 30 Years War, the 100 Years War, & What Have You…
One week, the Catholic Armies stormed through Your Village, Raping, Pillaging, & Killing.
The Next Week, the Protestant Armies—perhaps under Sweden’s Ultra Pious Gustavus Adolphus—would rage through, also Raping, Pillaging, & Killing.
If there was Anyone Left to Rape, Pillage, & Kill…
Bertolt Brecht has wonderfully satirized all this—with Music!—in his Mother Courage.
[At UC/Berkeley, one of my Art History Professors, Dr. Walther Horn, made his Study of the Plan of the Monastery of St. Gallen into his Magnum Opus.
[He was also on the Post War Allied Commission to restore Art Works stolen by the Nazis to their Original Owners—or Heirs, if Auschwitz had intervened…]
Trundling onward to Zürich, we alighted beside the huge Post Modern Zürich Art Gallery—which we planned to visit after photographing the Ancient Wooden Bridges over the Lake of Lucerne.
Unfortunately, on the way to the Bridge with Triangular Painted Panels—depicting the varied Steps & Movements in the Medieval Saga of The Dance of Death—I took a small step backward & fell flat on my Back…
Not a Good Move!
This was very nearly my very own Totentanz…
Caricature of Glenn Loney in header is by Sam Norkin.
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