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GoetheInstitute

28/07/2006

From the Feuilletons is a weekly overview of what's been happening in the German-language cultural pages and appears every Friday at 3 pm. CET.. Here a key to the German newspapers.

"Le Nozze di Figaro" in Salzburg and "Rheingold" in Bayreuth

The feuilletons are completely taken up with two productions today: Mozart's "Le Nozze di Figaro" under Nikolaus Harnoncourt at the Salzburg Festival, and "Rheingold", the first of Richard Wagner's four-opera "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle at the Bayreuth Festival, both of which premiered on Wednesday. Musical director of the Ring cycle is Christian Thielemann, one of Germany's foremost conductors (interview here). Stage director is 80 year old dramatist Tankred Dorst, who jumped in two years ago when Danish filmmaker Lars Von Trier backed out.

From Salzburg...

The ending gets a bit sluggish, but the first two acts of "Figaro" are a "stroke of musical and visual genius," crows Reinhard J. Brembeck in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. "Director Claus Guth denies the pair, Susanna & Figaro, loving closeness, intimate collusion and a shared future. That's fully in accord with conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt, who from the outset insists that no wedding actually takes place in 'The Marriage of Figaro' - but rather that one interruptus follows the next, and that this pursuit has been under way for quite some time. For so long, in fact, that its tempo has become decidedly slow-motion, and every revolutionary impetus gives way to a no less dangerous private simmering." He found the singers gorgeous - especially soprano Christine Schäfer as Cherubino: "She gives her all to this pubescent boy, she makes first love tangible, and uninhibited excitement, the scent of women, eroticism, sex, seduction. She sings it all. Her voice is a sigh, a scent, a gentle stroke, a caress."

Nikolaus Harnoncourt's slow tempi in "Figaro" were not to everyone's liking and garnered him a number of boos. In the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Wolfgang Sander comes to the conductor's defense. "Harnoncourt's tempi aren't customised to today's hectic zeitgeist. Instead, they've been developed with utmost attention to the inner dynamics of the music. They hesitate, delaying events with caesura. When a change of key announces a mood swing, Harnoncourt operates the transition with nuances in rubati and accelerandi. And this from the restrained Sinfonia at the start right through to the ten protagonists' final chorus in the fourth act. It's all done in a sophisticated, thought-provoking way, in view of the craziness of human love relationships, and the result is strikingly effective. Certainly, it is not intoxicating, but which subtle art form is?"

And from Bayreuth...

Julia Spinola of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung questions the approach of Christian Thielemann to Wagner's "Rheingold". But she likes the sets of Philipp Schlössmann and the stage direction of Tankred Dorst: "Just as the expelled heathen gods return to the ruins of history in Dorst's 'Merlin or the desert country', so the gods of 'Rheingold' now inhabit our forgotten urban wastelands. Suddenly, the atmospheres of such places seem to congeal into the form of oddly dented phantasy figures that creep out of the cracks and fissures in our civilization, which we thought was seamlessly sealed."

Music critic Joachim Kaiser writes in the Süddeutsche Zeitung that he's not especially thrilled with this "Rheingold". Tankred Dorst seems to be out of his depth with his production, he writes. Even Christian Thielemann, whom Kaiser thinks will ultimately be the "Rheingold victor," apparently considers the first part of the "Ring" a "conversation piece accompanied by music," followed in the next three parts by the fate of humanity and the struggles of the gods. "At the same time we know that this is a 'Ring' that means to be taken seriously. So audiences have something to look forward to."


Süddeutsche Zeitung, 28.07.2006


Sonja Sekri explains the success in Egypt of the film "The Yacoubian Building," based on the novel of the same name by Alaa Al Aswany (more here), which just four weeks after hitting the screens has already been seen by one and a half million Egyptians. "The entire country is present in the Yacoubian Building. The poor stew on the roof, while the rich live amid period furniture. And in between are 1001 stories of humiliation and deception. There is that of Saki Pasha, a blue-blooded playboy (Adel Imam) who - like the building itself - has his best days behind him; there is Hatim, the homosexual publisher (Khaled El-Sawy) who has to pay for love; there is Taha (Mohammed Imam), who becomes an Islamist because as the son of a caretaker he can't become a policeman: He then turns into a terrorist after he is raped in prison. The film tells of Bussaina (Hind Sabri), the most beautiful and bitter of them all, who every day must choose between honour and eating. At one point she lets her boss take advantage of her. He thrusts money into her hand when he's done and says: 'Come out when your dress is dry.' One young spectator says he knew the film would be hard, but as hard as that?"


Berliner Zeitung, 28.07.2006

In an interview with Inge Günther, Israeli author Abraham B. Jehoschua describes life in Haifa, putting forward one scenario for a ceasefire: "Wanting to disarm Hizbullah completely or even disband the organisation would amount to a veritable 'Mission Impossible.' The only thing that's actually practicable would be to force Hizbullah back from the border, and station an international troop in its place."


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 28.07.2006

Actress Veronica Ferres tells Hannes Hintermeier why she ultimately rejected the role of "Courage," the one-woman play that writer Wilhelm Genazino created especially for her: "In the third act, there is a situation in which she offers to prepare a little girl sexually so that a soldier may rape her. She does this to gain advantage, but she's not punished for it. That crosses the moral boundary for me, I can't put myself in that position and get applause for it. It just doesn't speak to me."

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