Richard Wagner is high on the list of bad artists. Racist, sexist, dead white composer. Wrote the opera four-part The Ring of the Nibelungen that smokes with abuse of power, violence and incest. Hebbes, thought the young guard at the Schauspielhaus Zurich. We’re going to muck out that barn.
Result, at the Holland Festival: a ‘multi-voiced adaptation’ of ‘omitted stories’. They get voice through characters who have been pushed into a less attractive role by Wagner. Think of Alberich, the ugly dwarf who stole the Rhine gold. Or Fricka, the meek wife of the supreme god Wotan. In sometimes brilliant, often funny and always strongly acted monologues, the German lyricist Necati Öziri links them to modern injustice such as privilege and gender suffering.
Director Christopher Rüping already counts the theater audience among the falling gods. White, well-to-do, lives in a solid walled Valhalla. ‘People of opera’, is his message, the world is changing rapidly. Rather join us, the burgeoning majority of minorities. The only older actor who takes office, white and man, throws his confusion into the room with the foam on his mouth. It is a pity that this contradiction ends in a caricature (‘and now prosecco!’). In this way meaningful questions become — does not claiming an identity undermine the understanding of ‘the Other’? — calm down.
The young people from Zurich provide an amusing three and a half hours. Meanwhile, Wagner is not so much purged as being circumvented. There is hardly a trace of the music, his greatest talent. Or is it: between the electro sounds of DJ Black Cracker dives the militant Valkyrie ride on. In a hilariously puffing play clock version.
The Ring of the Nibelungen
By Schauspielhaus Zurich, director Christopher Rüping
21/6, ITA, Amsterdam.