Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Shower Off Your Sins at "Tannhauser"

A new production of Wagner's early (1845) opera, "Tannhauser," opened at the San Francisco Opera on Tuesday evening, directed by the acclaimed British genius Graham Vick and choreographed by Ron Howell (pictured above).

For the last month, I've been rehearsing a ten-minute scene at the end of Act One with six other supernumeraries (Alan Goes is pictured above). We've been working with six principal singers, including the great German tenor Peter Seiffert as the tormented knight Tannhauser, while carrying a dead wolf around my neck, and dodging a live horse who has been getting spooked onstage. Tonight it all went off brilliantly.

For those worried that David Gockley, the new General Director, would be taking the company back to the literal, dumb days of Lotfi Mansouri while scorning the European subtext style of Pamela Rosenberg, this production should be a corrective as it is both daring and bizarre.

In this version, the famous Pilgrims Chorus is sung by mostly shirtless male choristers with various "sins" carved into their torsos in blood.

The first dress rehearsal was extremely amusing watching the chorus lined up in the basement makeup room while they were handed out personal sins that ranged from "LAZY" to "DRUNK" to "RAPIST." Then the two young gentlemen above would make sure everyone's hands and feet...

...looked perfectly filthy.

In the men's chorus dressing room area, there was a hilarious, unironic bit of signage advising them, "Please let us know if you are planning to shower off your sins after Act I, so that we can supply you with a shower cap..."

I have no idea how the production worked from the audience's point of view, and it's impossible to be even remotely objective when you're backstage in a costume, but the finale at the end of four hours struck me as an absolutely amazing coup de theatre, and musically it couldn't have been more exquisite. The spontaneous applause for Graham Vick, the director, from the entire cast at the curtain call was unusual and heartfelt.


Matthew Hubbard said...

mike, I know you are loath to include yourself in the pictures, but just to be clear: Did you wear a shirt, and if not, what was your sin?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Civic Center said...

Dear matty: I'm a hunter like the guy in the second picture, not a sinner. When I can get somebody to snap a photo with my wolf around my neck, I'll put one up.

The Opera Tattler said...

I enjoyed the hunting party's entrance, it was quite charming.

Nancy Ewart said...

What? No sins? And you live in SF. How disappointing! If we ever met in person, I'd be glad to snap your photo - with or without wolf.

zoo said...

dear michael,
you should take a look at this

he was going to be the next captain of the ship.....
the patriot act in action!

Anonymous said...


You always take such awful pictures of me - you'd think by now you'd know how to use a damn camera! And those casting people are idiots - I should have been a real hunter, not the 'cover' hunter.


ps - I should have been 'envy'.

AlbGlinka said...

I think that's the best photo you've ever taken of me. I'm glad I took clippers to my back!

love, Sacrilege