Watching Shakespeare and Remembering Wagner

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Klaus_Maria_Brandauer
Klaus Maria Brandauer

“…And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.”

The cultural capital has moved back from SALZBURG: VIENNA is awake from summer’s lease!

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And prepares “Hamlet” – directed by the famous German artist Andrea Breth – and “King Lear,” starring the fabulous Klaus Maria Brandauer, one of the rare international Austrian movie artists.

By the way, what will the British do with the bones of Richard III, which were discovered beneath a parking area in Leicester this February? The city of Leicester and descendants of Richard III quarrel about the last resting place…a renewed “Rose war”?

Rest in Peace

Two recently deceased prominent American figures had a special relationship to Vienna:

In August the patron Donald Kahn died. He initiated the beautiful “Jeanne and Donald Kahn Galleries” at the Albertina museum; he also had been a generous sponsor of the Salzburg Festival.

And a few weeks in advance of her 91st birthday Regina Resnik died in her hometown of New York. Her conductors were Otto Klemperer, George Szell, Erich Kleiber, and it was Fritz Busch, who introduced this mezzo soprano to the New York Opera Company.

Her career really started at the Vienna State Opera with her prime role “Carmen” and her last role in Vienna in 1973, “Klytemnestra”, and had its peak at Covent Garden. Right now there is a recording of “Elektra” available which proves her remarkable standing.

Wagner Recalled

“The world owes me all that I need!” Who else than Richard Wagner could have phrased better this maxim? “I must live in luxury, beauty, glory and light!”

He worked in Vienna for about three months in 1864 – and had to sneak out of town disguised as a woman to avoid a bunch of creditors…

richard-wagner
Richard Wagner

This, money, and Wagner’s understanding of sacrifice, Bayreuth, Judaism, angel, fire were topics which a moving performance looked into. The show was settled into a post office building at the end of the 19th century. The public went, accompanied by music of Richard Wagner, down into the vast basement, about 12 yards under level and through an underground passage to the park opposite….It was the “Nibelungheim,” the home and working place of the dwarfs in Wagner’s DIE WALK√úRE….

The public moved around in the basement on their own: the performers, almost all dressed in black costumes, repeated their scenes so everybody could enjoy, depending on their scene preference.

The performance finished at about 11 pm with a wooden coffin carried out of the building to a coach with two horses – the street illuminated with torches. The coach carried the mortal remains of Richard Wagner out of sight.

The public, standing in the park opposite, then entered the building to have a three-course meal and plenty of time to discuss their performance impressions.

The Vienna State Opera will host “Der Ring des Nibelungen: Die Walkure” in the summer of 2014.

Approaching the Vote

A reality performance of its own are the debates of the politicians one week ahead of the Nationalratswahlen (national assembly elections) to be held Sun., Sept. 29. During the campaign the mayor of Vienna recalled the construction of the underground line no. 5…there are five underground lines in Vienna, line 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6. The popular press is mocking because underground line no. 5 has been conjured out of the hat for several decades – and quickly buried after election day…

Since I am a kraut I already voted on Sept. 22 – riding to the poll location on A streetcar named desire….

But I’ve no desire nor yearning to be shaved by “Sweeney Todd”: this musical just had its first night at the Vienna Volksoper… even if Johnny Depp would act again as the demon barber…

I’ll report next time…so have a good time – we in Europe are looking forward to the election days!

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Gerd-Theo Umberg from 2002 served as a professor at the University of Music and Performing Arts at Frankfurt, becoming vice-president in 2006; since 2010 he has been professor emeritus. Previously he worked 36 years in different German theaters. From 1996 to 2004 he was director of the Staatstheater Darmstadt. He lives in Vienna.