Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Gorbachev Just Loves Tristan und Isolde! You Can't Make Stuff Like This Up!

A New 'Tristan' Gives 'Ring'-Less Bayreuth Plenty to Talk About

By JOHN ROCKWELL, The New York Times

July 28, 1993

BAYREUTH, Germany, July 27— The opening of the Bayreuth Wagner Festival is a great annual German occasion, equivalent to sports events elsewhere like the Super Bowl, the Henley Regatta in England and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe horse race in France. It is an opportunity for national pride and corporate display, with the richest Germans flaunting their status through the number of guests for whom they can provide Bayreuth tickets. Since there are seven times more requests than tickets, a fistful represents considerable status.

As always, there were guests of honor at this year's opening, on Sunday, 270 of them. Aside from the usual Bavarian and other German political potentates, Mikhail S. and Raisa Gorbachev were on hand. Mr. Gorbachev used the occasion to appeal for Western help, to be funneled through his foundation, in supporting Russian culture, imperiled by the current political and economic crisis. He also managed to get his dark suit splattered with eggs, but the hurler of the eggs said later that he was aiming at Edmund Stoiber, the President of Bavaria.

This is a "Ring"-less summer in Bayreuth, meaning the interregnum every five years or so between "Ring des Nibelungen" productions (James Levine is to conduct a new "Ring" here in 1994). On the program this year are five individual Wagner operas, four in stagings seen before. But that hardly means a festival without interest or heightened expectations. The one new production of the summer, of "Tristan und Isolde," not only opened the festival, but also included elements meant to whet a Wagnerian's appetite.

The Bayreuth Festival is to continue until Aug. 28, when the seventh and last performance in 1993 of this "Tristan" production will take place.

1 comment:

Gary Freedman said...

People have been coming up to me on the street, demanding to know, needing to know, how on Earth I could believe that Mikhail Gorbachev, President of the Soviet Union, could possibly know anything about me. Is there even any remotely rational basis to my belief, people have been asking?

Well, here's what I experienced. It was late December 1991. Bob Strauss was U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union. Gorbachev resigned on 25 December 1991 and the Soviet Union was formally dissolved the next day. Two days later, on 27 December, Boris Yeltsin moved into Gorbachev's old office in the Kremlin, in Moscow.

I don't know the exact date, but one day in late December 1991 there was a hubbub at the Cleveland Park Branch of the D.C. Library, managed by Brian P. Brown.

When I left the library that afternoon and arrived in my apartment building, the manager, Elaine Wranik (now deceased) looked through me, as it were, as if I was invisible! She seemed shaken -- but perhaps I am exaggerating in retrospect. If I were to attach words to her expression they would be: "Why, he was never anything but a smart-ass white boy!"

I thought at that moment: "He must have talked to Gorbachev."

And those were my perceptions and reactions. That's all I know -- or "know."