Stage Malfunction, Boos Greet Opening of Bayreuth Festival

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BAYREUTH, GERMANY—The opening night of the 2014 season of the Bayreuth Festival, the mecca for lovers of the operas of Richard Wagner, was disrupted by a technical breakdown that resulted in a one-hour delay.

Toward the end of the overture of Tannhäuser, a large piece of scenery rose out of the middle of the stage making a huge blast of sound that was obviously not meant to be heard even in this very modern production, in which the setting has been transplanted from medieval Germany to a factory in which excrement and other refuse are converted into biogas.

The Tannhäuser (Torsten Kerl) and Venus (Michelle Breedt) gamely continued their singing until the curtain was brought down and a stage manager came forward to announce a 20-minute intermission until the problem was resolved. The audience of approximately 2,000 (including many dignitaries and government officials) was asked to leave the auditorium for what turned out to be a one-hour delay. The performance resumed more or less at the place where it was halted. No more technical problems were reported.

The opera, which began at 4:00 pm and was supposed to end at 9:05 pm, ended at 10:12 pm, delaying the gala opening party at the Neue Schloss, the palace on the Hofgarten park where one finds Wahnfried, the home and burial place of Wagner. The musical forces of this performance received warm ovations, especially the chorus, while its producer, Sebastian Baumgarten, was accorded thunderous boos.

The Bayreuth Festival continues through August 28 with performances of Der fliegende Holländer, Lohengrin, Tannhäuser and the four operas of the Ring Cycle.

Fred Plotkin’s next two articles will report on Bayreuth, Wagner and the Festival.