>I apologize in advance.
When I was a wee voice student in college, we learned about the “decadent” phase of music and arts steaming out of Germany in the years between the World Wars, which, to us age-of-Woodstock children, didn’t seem all that decadent. From what we see and hear about now on the stages of German-speaking countries, one may assume that those years were not something short and peculiar, but the beginning of something that is still going on (with a brief interruption brought to you by the Third Reich). Nudity on stage? Not every day, maybe not even every season, but yeah, it’s happening. Blood and guts? Absolutely. Murder, rape, torture — hell, that’s what opera and drama are all about, although I don’t think Verdi imagined Oscar to be raped during his cheerful aria in “Ballo in maschera” (saw this a few years back). I doubt even Sondheim envisioned his Beadle in “Sweeney Todd” to sing his Parlour Songs while getting off with a woman’s panties on his head (saw this last year in Munich), but on the other hand he may be open to the idea…
my point is that things often get produced here in ways that the composer hadn’t intended, and I’m not talking about just moving “Cosi fan tutte” to the Civil War era. Opera, despite being called dead and old and unintersting, lives, and is reinvented continuously, and hey, I don’t mind.
That said, up til now the weird stuff usually stayed on the stage, and didn’t much affect the conductor and the orchestra, who mind their own business in the pit and are not normally known for their, uhm, sense of adventure. So it did surprise me, just a little, to read this, in Will Robin’s review of “Pierrot Lunaire” in Berlin:
Though Schoenberg had eroded tonality five years earlier in his Second String Quartet, the 1912 Pierrot is the archetypal work-to-hate, the one which most immediately alienates a classical audience who isn’t interested in “ugly music.” And in this way, Bruce LaBruce’s staging of Pierrot at Hau[s] Eins does it justice: the unsettling music becomes just one part of an evening of unsettlement. After all, when the soprano is pretending to fellate the conductor, who cares if she’s not singing in C major?