German director Frank Castorf has received boos from a sold-out audience following the highly anticipated premiere of Richard Wagner's "Rhinegold." He chose to set the infamous opera in a sleazy hotel in Texas.
"Rhinegold," the first of four instalments in Castorf's new production of Wagner's infamous "Der Ring des Nibelungen" ("The Ring of the Nibelung") cycle, was met with boos and whistles Friday night after its premiere at the Wagner festival.
However, the cast of singers received tumultuous applause from the 2,000 person audience at the sold out Festspielhaus theater in Bayreuth. Making his debut at the festival, Russian conductor Kirill Petrenko garnered a thunderous ovation.
The "Ring" performances have been highly anticipated as the climax of the Wagner bicentenary year for the popular festival, for which the waiting list for tickets is often 10 years or longer.
Instead of setting it on the banks of Germany's Rhine river, Castorf set the action to a seedy motel on Route 66 in the United States, where the traditional Nordic gods are replaced by sleazy gangsters and hookers.
The Rhinemaidens are played as blonde prostitutes and the giants Fafner and Fasolt are thugs with baseball bats and the fire god Loge is a sort of paparazzo.
Castorf, who is the general director of Berlin's Volksbühne Theater, often frustrates Germany's theater-going public with his highly altered reinterpretations of classic works.
Castorf, 62, had criticized the working conditions of the Festspielhaus, which is currently covered in construction scaffolding due to its dilapidated condition, but had told journalists that working in the historic theater was a "very special challenge."
The next instalment of the "Ring" will be "The Valkyrie" which premieres on Saturday.
World renowned festival
On Thursday, crowds gathered in the Bavarian city of Bayreuth to see Germany's rich and famous converge on the famous Festspielhaus theater. Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Joachim Gauck were the marquee guests at the festival's opening performance of "The Flying Dutchman," staged by Jan Philip Gloger.
For the first time, the opening night festivities were broadcast live to some 200 select cinemas worldwide and on public television.
The Bayreuth Festival runs until August 28 and features 30 performances of seven different operas: the four operas that consist of the "Ring," along with "The Flying Dutchman," "Tannhäuser" and "Lohengrin."
hc/ag (AFP, dpa)