Opera and the Politics of Postdramatic Theatre: Frank Castorf’s Bayreuth 'Ring'

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This article considers Frank Castorf’s Bayreuth Festival production of Wagner’s Ring (2013–17) and its relationship to postdramatic theatre, including the latter’s fraught relationship to conceptions of the political. Framework and context are provided by Castorf’s theatrical practice, both prior to and following German reunification; by Wagner’s nineteenth-century revolutionary and post-revolutionary experience, both historical and as dramatised in the Ring; and by Hans-Thies Lehmann’s theoretical writing on postdramatic theatre. The production was a story of fascinating collisions: on the one hand, between different, often opposing, conceptions of drama and theatre; on the other, between different, yet in some ways complementary, political experiences. Interpretation proceeds by means of detailed description and analysis of the staging and a broader theoretical discussion. Compelled to reconcile themselves, at least in part, with ideas of musical drama and the work concept, Castorf’s postdramatic aesthetics underwent significant challenge. In the wake of this production, ideas of Wagner staging and, more broadly, staging of opera in general have similarly undergone transformation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-49
Number of pages26
JournalCambridge Opera Journal
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

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