American music critics writing on opera are thought by most European critics to be distressingly parochial. The attitude of fidelity to the composer’s wishes, scenically and dramatically as well as musically, is considered by continental critics as quaint, certainly passé, and not a little naïve—adjectives which have been regularly applied to Americans by those from older and wiser civilizations.

At a time when European ideas of opera production are being seen more often on American stages and—more the point—European ideas are being widely disseminated through television (e.g., the Jean-Pierre Ponnelle stagings of Monteverdi operas, or the Chéreau staging of Wagner’s Ring) and movies (the Hans Jürgen Syberberg Parsifal), it seemed to me that it might be productive to journey to Germany to see such productions in situ. Thus,...


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