The Music Theater of Walter Felsenstein: Collected Articles, Speeches, and Interviews

The Music Theater of Walter Felsenstein: Collected Articles, Speeches, and Interviews

The Music Theater of Walter Felsenstein: Collected Articles, Speeches, and Interviews

The Music Theater of Walter Felsenstein: Collected Articles, Speeches, and Interviews

Excerpt

Peter Paul Fuchs

In the mid-fifties, when the cold war was still in progress, it was considered somewhat adventurous for the holder of an American passport to visit East Berlin. Not too many Americans did it, and consular officials frequently advised against it.

Among the Americans who did cross the border into what was then known as the Russian sector, many had a rather strong incentive: they were either opera professionals or dedicated opera fans. And what they expected to find in East Berlin was not just opera but a minor miracle. Word had been received from various sources about a new "magician" of the opera stage; at the Komische Oper there was a leading stage director named Walter Felsenstein, who was responsible for opera productions such as had never been experienced anywhere. However, these reports mentioned not only the excellence of Felsenstein's productions but also the "strangeness" of his working methods. "You know, he had a hundred and three rehearsals for Magic Flute " was the kind of awe-stricken remark one was likely to hear.

It must be remembered that in the fifties outstanding opera productions on the Continent were not hard to come by. West Germany had rebuilt most of its bombed-out theaters and had reestablished excellent and progressively oriented opera companies in many cities, even in some very small ones. New works were being presented, new techniques and new equipment experimented with, and in Bayreuth there was a new era: under the . . .

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