Saturday, April 3, 2010

No sausages at the Stuttgart's Staatsoper ;)

Compared to my previous trip to Stuttgart --where I saw the most unforgettable premiere of Der Rosenkavalier directed by Stefan Herheim-- this time the long intermissions were not all about sausages with mashed potatoes and cabbage. ;)

This time I went to see one more unforgettable show: Parsifal directed by Calixto Bieito. I'll post a short/personal report on the production later today. It already received so many --mainly positive-- reviews, and I feel like I have very little to add except for putting a few personal comments...

The opera is 5 hours long and since it starts at 5:30 pm, you need to eat something during the breaks. Instead of sausages they now serve potato salad with some spinach rolls, Bretzels, petits fours, and there is also Quiche: a (g)astronomical improvement for vegetarians and vegans such as Yours Truly!

Like I said, instead of sausages in November...
which I thought were fun to see because they are part of German folklore [if only they didn't serve them with mashed potatoes and cabbage!;) ], they now serve the Quiche provençale, very tasty and INCREDIBLY cheap for an opera house: a large piece costs you only 3€. In Paris --where they charge you 5€ for a small bottle of water-- they would rip you off for a piece of anything served on a normal plate with normal cutlery!

I definitely should cut on sweets [don't you?!;)], but I must mention a large slice of their delicious cakes (Sacher, fruit cakes and others) served with a large cup of coffee for only 4,50€ 

What I want to emphasize by mentioning these prices is that amazing attitude you encounter in many German theaters: they don't try to double/triple the food prices and rip you off for any service provided on the site. Instead you get the feeling that the services are honestly provided to make your stay more enjoyable [i.e. w/o factoring in the money making argument].

I also must mention the program-book: it is very well written and excellently structured with the photos from the production and the texts that are relevant to the opera and to this production [a big bravo to Xavier Zuber!] The texts in the program and an interview with Calixto will give you all the keys for a full grip on the production. It costs you only 5€ [compare that to 15€ they charge you at the Paris Opera!]

On the other hand, the area around the theater is goddam fugly right now. All that colorful beauty I could see in November is now gone, and the new green is not coming...

As an example here is a pic taken in front of the opera house in November
and now on April 1st the best pic I can show you looks like this:

The city of Stuttgart is a pleasant-ville to live in (I guess!), but only OK to visit if you have a specific target [such as a night at the Opera ;) ]. Quite honestly there is not much to see if you plan to visit its museums, galleries...  That, however, is largely compensated by the sensational vitality of their city theaters.

To me the Stuttgart's Staatsoper is --together with the Komische Oper in Berlin-- the best opera house in Germany. Not because of its architecture (hell no!) but because of its theatrical content, because that flame of creativity, because of their refined know-how when it comes to making the best cutting-edge shows in Europe. That's what makes them one of the top opera houses.

Go through their program and find one trivially produced opera! NO way. They never look for the operatic super-stars to make their shows work (contrary to the Met where this is the guiding principle,  and very often at the Royal Opera House too). They always look for the most suitable singers to do justice to a given production. That's why you discover the less known singers in Stuttgart singing better than the operatic superstars in the same roles in Paris, for example.  You should watch and listen to Christiane Iven's Kundry in this production of Parsifal. Many would dismiss her a priori because she is not that big a star. And yet she gave a knockout performance the other night. I don't believe it could be done better either vocally or theatrically. Just plain awesome! It only compares to Waltraud Meier at her best.

When you go to Stuttgart to see an opera it is NOT just because of their excellent orchestra and a wonderful lineup of singers, but also because you see the top notch theatrical performance. It's the best of Regie you can find anywhere in Germany -- says me ;)

Their next premiere will be in may Kat'a Kabanova produced by Jossi Wieler and conducted by Michael Schønwandt. I won't be able to go, but if you happen to be near Stuttgart, don't think twice. Go and enjoy!

If we agree to give 10 to the Festspielhaus in Bayreuth because of its best acoustics in the world, then the auditorium of the Stuttgart's Staatsoper must be about 9. It's better than any of the Berlin venues.
If the same production of Parsifal was given even at the Komische I bet it wouldn't be as strong an experience because the acoustics is not nearly as good and the impact the musicians [orchestra AND the singers] would make on you wouldn't be nearly as poignant as in Stuttgart. 

A practical info: To get a ticket you fill out this form and only 1 month before the show they contact you by e-mail to tell you that they charged your credit card.  It's a "first-come first-served" system so you shouldn't wait much before placing your order for some of the big shows (new productions).
I've sent my order in July 2009 for both the Rosenkavalier and Parsifal and for both had wonderful seats.


  1. U just killed me and I'm just waiting for the full report that will only push the knife a bit deeper.

  2. I'm putting Bieito's Parsifal in my list for next year...

    I'm very interested in your impressions regarding this production...

  3. Stuttgart the best in Germany? - you must be kidding ... No offense.

  4. Parsi, don't! You now know what to do to see a good production in Stuttgart. When they release the new season we'll talk.
    Now try not to miss Eugene Onegin next year in Amsterdam and Carmen in Barcelona! ;)

    Mei, I hope it will be on the program next year. They usually leave one year off before rerun. We'll all come to you in Spetember for Carmen by Bieito :)

    Anonymous, don't worry ;) When you put it like that - my reflex would be to say "No it's not the best in Germany." But if you put it the way I did: the acoustics of the theater is a top notch, the orchestra conducted by Honeck is the top level too, the general level of creativity of their productions and their theatrical content [only comparable with the Komische!], then yes, I stand by my statement. If you leave one of the elements I mentioned, you may turn the argument and probably you'd be right ;) OK?

  5. Well worded reply ;). However, you travel to the highlights there occasionally ... I used to live in Stuttgart for a year and now live in Munich and boy do I prefer it opera-wise ;).
    It is because you live in Paris I assume, therefore you get the best singers in Paris already, at least sometimes. In Stuttgart you never get Mattei, Calleja, Kwiecien et al. I am one for production (Regie) (an exciting production is quite something), but I want the singers too sometime! and they are not in Stuttgart, they are in Munich, Frankfurt, Berlin.

  6. Ach so... I get it now :) This Parsifal and the Rosenkavalier then must be exceptions. Still the productions are always "special" which is maybe why I see it my way (such productions very rarely reach Paris)

    Munich is cool in that respect, although there too it's often more about the stars and less about theater [apparently new Don Giovanni is bad (?), Cosi and Palestrina are awful (I know it!), Tannhauser is scary...], but then you have a smashing Salome, superb Wozzeck (!), Ariadne...

    Did you see the new Carmélites by Tcherniakov?