|Baumgarten (photo Nordbayerischer Kurier)|
OK, I don't know much about Baumgarten, except that he was one of the young promising directors who after receiving the prestigious Götz Friedrich prize, for his production of Tosca in Kassel, did not really live up to expectations in terms of the volume of of opera productions he created since. That of course may mean nothing: didn't Stanley Kubrick made a tiny number of movies compared to his contemporaries, and is firmly standing as one of the very GOAT among filmmakers?!
After that big award he [Baumgarten] produced Werther for the Deutsche Oper in Berlin -- by portraying Charlotte as an unhappy housewife spending days fantasizing next to her washing machine... Ah yes, in the end Werther drowned in the swimming pool.
I am mentioning that just to give you an idea that he is not someone who will be happy narrating the Wagner's libretto of Tannhäuser, add a little choreography, and collect compliments from the traditionalists. I believe his show will be more audacious than the Neuenfels' Lohengrin a year ago. BTW, his intention to include 50 spectators in the stage action is already controversial on at least two levels (read this).
He then produced Oreste by Handel for the Komische Oper in Berlin (2006)*, very much "Dogma" in style, with the content focused on xenophobia: Iphigenie [Maria hot Bengtsson] even had an axe to express her strong feelings.
It is a kind of contemporary theater that makes a much bigger impact on you when you're in auditorium, but even on TV it's cool. If you're interested, a YT user uploaded it [start from this link and then you will find your way to see the rest of it] If you start watching it don't stop after a couple of short videos. It takes 3-4 to get into the swing and then you might find the show a very passionate drama, with some great acting and cool singing.
Here is a scene with Iphigenie visiting prison:
Obviously, something even remotely similar in style in this year's Tannhäuser would guarantee Baumgarten a record amount of boos at the Festspielhaus, but at least we would have had a good non-trivially projected story [other highly non-trivial Tannhäuser will be revived in Paris next fall (one of the two shows worth seeing at the Paris Opera next season), and I will blog tomorrow about the Konwitschny's provocative but not disturbing Tannhäuser in Dresden.]
A couple of years ago, also at the Komische, Baumgarten was in charge of staging the Mozart's Requiem.
Finally, he will direct a new production of Carmen for the same, our beloved, Komische in November this year.
One more of his critically acclaimed productions was Peter Grimes for the Semperoper in Dresden:
Ah yes, concerning Die Banditen from the beginning of this blog-entry, that show looked like this.
* Thomas Hengelbrock and Sebastian Baumgarten were a team for Oreste and they will also be on a same team in Bayreuth for Tannhäuser.