December 14, 2006
New York Times
John Rockwell
Flesh and Transgression: Choreographers Take on Opera’s Canon
Choreographic Theatre Johann Kresnik, Stage and Costumes - Gottfried Helnwein
Mr. Kresnik's stage pictures are often powerful. His ''Rheingold'' and ''Walküre'' compaction introduces Wagner; Nietzsche; King Ludwig; various Wagner wives and lovers; Konrad Adenauer, the first chancellor of West Germany; a ''red figure''; and modern-day soldiers and G.I.'s among the characters. Ludwig dances in his familiar blue jacket, naked from the waist down. Alberich hacks off his penis with a giant sword. The first act of ''Die Walküre'' is a trio for three naked men, one of whom becomes visibly pregnant (the wonders of a prosthesis and flesh-colored makeup). This last, it might be argued, successfully reintroduces the transgressive impact of incest to a modern audience lulled by Wagner's music.
Mr. Kresnik turned 67 on Tuesday, and although Austrian-born, has been active all over Germany throughout his professional career. That he is unknown in the United States speaks to the gulf between the American sensibility and the wilder shores of German theatrical extremism. Mr. Kresnik's work is a choreographic variant on German Regietheater, or director's theater, in which directors manipulate and update classic texts, often with a left-wing agenda, in a way that makes Mr. Sellars look like a conservative.
Mr. Kresnik is further given to Expressionist shock: lots of blood, lots of sexual mutilation, lots of skin (naked men and topless women). All were on ample display in his take on the first half of Wagner's ''Ring''; the entire four-part extravaganza is due in early 2008.
Mr. Kresnik's dramaturgical reinterpretation of the ''Ring'' in the context of Wagner's life and the future implications of his work -- unlike, say, Maurice Béjart's widely performed version, which as I recall as more straightforward, more entertaining, more glitzy and less thoughtful -- might seem intermittently involving.
Der Ring des Nibelungen
2006, with Johann Kresnik, Opera Bonn

back to the top