Richard Wagner has turned in his grave.
And when Richard Wagner has turned in his grave? Well, I believe yesterday night, 23 March 2014, watching down from the Wahalla – his usual abode – the performance given in Hong Kong by a group of Finnish singers and musicians flew-in in our city with this purpose in mind (i.e. making R.Wagner turns in the grave).
Here on the left is the advertisement offered by the Hong Kong Arts Festival.
The stage was a total mess, costumes were absurd and ridiculous.We could see actors constantly giving out small paper swans, filming with a camera, shooting with AK47 and pistols, while singing about swords…This situation was comic not tragic and destroyed the magic created by Wagner’s notes flying in the air.
We all know that the danger of presenting an Opera like this is to find Uncle Adolf masturbating behind the stage but the answer should not be to trivialize Wagner’s masterpiece, quite the contrary, the answer should rather be to elevate it to loftier levels, then de-germanize it and put it on a position where that it might be called universal.
“Irresistible Lohengrin – a compelling experience, fascinating and captivating. Absolutely must be experienced.” Savon Sanomat
That was the description of the rendering of Wagner’s masterpiece. For people wondering who this Mr. Savon Sanomat might be, I had to check on Google to find out that it is actually a newspaper printed in Kuopio, a city in Finland. I would be curious to know if the New York Times share the same opinion…
Then read below the banal lines posted on their website and the flyers, I should have read them before to understand that something was wrong.
The sensational experience of a fully staged Wagner opera comes to Hong Kong
Containing some of Wagner’s most beguiling and beautiful music, including the famous Bridal Chorus played at weddings the world over, this is the romantic drama of Elsa, a young noblewoman falsely accused of a murder which sparks dynastic conflict and the threat of civil war. She dreams of rescue by a knight in shining armour, and miraculously that knight arrives, in a boat drawn by swans. He is Lohengrin of the Holy Grail, whose true identity must remain secret. But just as Elsa finds happiness, dark forces conspire against her. With Lohengrin she must undergo a trial of love and faith.
This acclaimed Savonlinna production was recreated for the 200th anniversary of Wagner’s birth in 2013. It alludes the medieval period of its setting, the Romantic era of its creation, and our present day yearning for heroes.
Yeah, indeed our present day yearning for heroes…
I must add that not all went wrong during the performance, for instance the music offered by the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra and its Finnish director was well executed and most of the singers were indeed first class (we can imagine their agony for having to behave like fools on stage).
Below is a list of the performers who, in my opinion, should change their job and start to raise chicken or plant potatoes, both seem far better options, given their scarce level of artistic skills, rather than carrying on with their further grotesque activities on stage.Stage director ROMAN HOVENBITZER Stage designer HERMANN FEUCHTER Costume designer HANK IRWIN KITTEL Lohengrin BRYAN REGISTER
The final stroke was seeing Elsa refusing to die and addressing the boy appeared on stage as ‘my husband’, instead of my brother (as the original called for the word husband not brother, and the husband, Lohengrin, was nowhere to be seen).
That is what should have happened but didn’t:
As Lohengrin sadly bids farewell to his beloved bride, the swan reappears. Lohengrin tells Elsa that if she had maintained her oath, she could have recovered her lost brother, and gives her his sword, horn and ring, for he is to become the future leader of Brabant. Then, when Lohengrin tries to get in the boat, Ortrud appears. She tells Elsa that the swan who drove Lohengrin to the bank was actually Gottfried, Elsa’s brother, on whom she put a curse by transforming him into a swan. The people consider Ortrud guilty of witchcraft. Lohengrin prays and the swan turns into another form, a young Gottfried. He elects him as the Duke of Brabant. Ortrud sinks as she sees Gottfried and her plans thwarted. A dove descends from heaven and, taking the place of the swan at the head of the boat, leads Lohengrin to the castle of the Holy Grail. Elsa is stricken with grief and falls to the ground dead.
The story of Lohengrin is taken from medieval German romance, notably the Parzival of Wolfram von Eschenbach and its sequel, Lohengrin, written by a different author, itself inspired by the epic of Garin le Loherain. It is part of the Knight of the Swan tradition. This opera had a strong appeal on the young King Ludwig II of Bavaria. “Der Märchenkönig” (The Fairy-tale King), who built his ideal fairy-tale castle and dubbed it “New Swan Stone”, or “Neuschwanstein”, after the Swan Knight.