Castorfopern (37) – Frank Castorf fällt zu BORIS GODUNOW nichts wirklich Neues ein

Frank Castorf (72) has become quiet. From abroad, occasional messages have reached and continue to reach me that he may have worked at theaters in France, Serbia, or Greece; I would have liked to see all of that, but who would have paid for my many trips there? So it was not possible, unfortunately… In the German-speaking region, there were two major events that possibly slowed down his previously omnipresent wildness: the Corona lockdowns and the emancipatory uprising, especially by women, at state and city theaters (keyword: „overbearing“ directors), which led to a reordering of theater ethics to curb the general dominance of usurping potentates at theaters. Castorf certainly does not belong to those who might be accused of „overbearing“ behavior, and although his authoritarian dealings with the people in his circle (keyword: Castorf Family) are almost proverbial and widely known. But now, it seems that different times have arrived regarding MeToo in theaters. Perhaps one of many reasons why it has become so quiet around him.

For days, I have been researching on the internet to find out where and with whom he will be involved in the new season. However, I could only find information about the Heldenplatz scheduled for February 17, 2024, which he is supposed to direct at the Burgtheater Wien. Before the mandatory breaks due to the Corona pandemic, and especially since his scandalous removal as the director of the Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz, driven by the (un)culture senator at that time, he was constantly engaged by renowned German-speaking theaters such as Residenztheater München, Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg, Schauspiel Stuttgart, Schauspiel Köln, Berliner Ensemble, Schauspielhaus Zürich, or the Burg. Gradually, even opera houses wanted him, and his legendary Ring in Bayreuth caught everyone’s attention. This led to engagements in Stuttgart, Munich, and Berlin-Charlottenburg. Hamburg also approached him and wanted him to direct Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov in 2020, but this project did not materialize due to the Corona pandemic. Instead, Georges Delnon and Kent Nagano proposed a series of pieces by „Hamburg composers“ for him to work on, and Castorf quickly agreed. He turned it into a quite remarkable performance titled molto agitato, which ran for some time with very limited audience (due to social distancing measures), but still.


In diesem Spätsommer nun konnte der 2020 inszenatorisch begonnene Boris Godunow endlich fertig gestellt und an der Hamburgischen Staatsoper aufgeführt werden. Premiere war am vergangenen Samstag – ich besichtigte das Resultat in der Zweitvorstellung gestern Abend.

Gleich vorweg:

This is the most unimaginative and inconsequential, and also the most inconsistent directing work I have ever seen from him! He seems to have picked up right where he left off in 2020 with his ideas; however, in 2020 there was no Ukraine war – now it has been raging for a year and a half, and Castorf did not bother to align his current perspective with the typical Tsar or dictator stigma (Tsar or dictator rule without wars against neighboring states? Simply unthinkable!) of traditional Russian imperialism. He certainly doesn’t have to, but if he wanted to, he could have done so. The harshest and most suspicious sign of a certain „parallel“ between earlier and later was the transformation of the historian and manipulator Pimen into Stalin (Vitalij Kowaljow); that, in turn, looked so terribly flat and stupid that one should not even consider it worth mentioning. Scenic references to the current Tsar? None.

What is wrong with Castorf?

At least – and this is the only experience and knowledge gain for me from Kent Nagano’s so-called original Boris, which is scheduled for 2 hours and 10 minutes – there is an exciting reading in the program booklet; Castorf’s long-time dramaturge and collaborator, Patric Seibert, wrote an essay titled „Basic Ingredients of Russian History – An Overview.“ (Why Castorf did not let himself be creatively inspired by this text? I simply do not know.)

* *

Und musikalisch?

The choirs sang and played mostly at the front of the stage; as a result, they could be heard clearly and well-coordinated.

Alexander Tsymbalyuk was cast as the main character and portrayed him convincingly.

Alle andern [Namen s.u.] mit erwartbar akzeptablem Staatsopernniveau.

Das Drehbühnenbild von Aleksandar Denić zitierte unüberraschend russische, sowjetische Symbole; die Coca-Cola-Flasche am Schluss als total bescheuertes Zeichen einer vorübergehend westlich indoktrinierten Geistes- und Konsumhaltung des Russen an sich hat sich ja mittlerweile wieder überholt.

Adriana Braga Peretzki ließ das mitwirkende Personal mit all den abenteuerlichen Fetzen ihrer immer hysterischeren Haute-Couture-Wut einkleiden.

The Philharmonic State Orchestra Hamburg is extremely reliable.

„I cannot reword“

BORIS GODUNOW (Hamburgische Staatsoper, 20.09.2023)
Musikalische Leitung: Kent Nagano
Inszenierung: Frank Castorf
Bühne: Aleksandar Denić
Kostüme: Adriana Braga Peretzki
Licht: Rainer Casper
Video: Andreas Deinert, Severin Renke, Jens Crull und Maryvonne Riedelsheimer
Dramaturgie: Patric Seibert
Chöre: Eberhard Friedrich
Boris Godunow … Alexander Tsymbalyuk
Fjodor … Kady Evanyshyn
Xenia … Olivia Boen
Xenias Amme … Renate Spingler
Fürst Schuiskij … Matthias Klink
Schtschelkalow … Alexey Bogdanchikov
Pimen … Vitalij Kowaljow
Grigorij / Dimitrij … Dovlet Nurgeldiyev
Warlaam … Ryan Speedo Green
Missail … Jürgen Sacher
Schenkwirtin … Marta Świderska
Gottesnarr … Florian Panzieri
Polizeioffizier … Hubert Kowalczyk
Leibbojar … Mateusz Ługowski
Mitjucha … Julian Arsenault
Chor und Extrachor der Hamburgischen Staatsoper
Alsterspatzen – Kinder- und Jugendchor der Hamburgischen Staatsoper
Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Hamburg
The premiere took place on September 16, 2023.
Weitere Termine: 23., 26., 28.09./ 04., 07.10.2023