Reviews of Katharina Wagner's "Meistersinger" at Bayreuth

Since John has brought up the latest directorial excesses from Bayreuth I thought I’d provide some links for those who want to read more. See John’s take on the situation, and his list of operas that shouldn’t be messed with.

Jeers, Cheers as Bayreuth `Meistersinger’ Mixes Hitler, Nudity
By Shirley Apthorp
July 26 (Bloomberg)

Hitler is briefly back in Bayreuth as Katharina’s confused staging reaches its apotheosis. Her Hans Sachs sets out as the bare-footed, chain-smoking rebel of the singers’ guild, yet he becomes increasingly conservative as the evening proceeds. He warms his hands on the flames as conductor and stage-director doubles are burned. By the end, in time for his speech on “holy German art,” he is Adolf himself, flanked by statues in the style of Nazi sculptor Arno Breker.

At Beyreuth, ‘Die Meistersinger,’ unsettles a Wagner legacy
George Loomis
July 31 (International Herald Tribune)

Picking up on an idea advanced by scholars that the gibberish of Beckmesser’s contest song anticipates Dadaism and hence is actually forward-looking, she has him undergo an epiphany after the street riot. A strong minority of the populace applauds Beckmesser’s song, and he departs, disgusted, only when Sachs starts talking about German art.

Fascinating though the ideas of Wagner and her collaborator Robert Sollich may be, the result is more a critique of “Meistersinger” - and a negative one - than a production. Nor did she achieve the kind of absorbing interaction between characters typical of the best concept-oriented directors. Of the opera’s warmly expansive spirit there was little trace. You left thinking you hadn’t really seen the opera.

Tradition, revolution and reaction in Bayreuth
Marianne Zelger-Vogt
July 30 (sightandsound)

This article originally appeared in German.

Stolzing has become part of the mainstream, and is led around by an historically dressed opera singer. He receives a golden stag as a prize and poses, surrounded by the “leading team,” with the check of an imaginary sponsor bank. But between these two applause scenes there is also the appearance of Beckmesser: the turbulent happening of a reactionary who has discovered his creative potential in the fight scene and now outs himself as a performance artist.

Sachs resigns, Stolzing conforms, Beckmesser becomes an action artist giving a new twist to the art scene - a commentary on todays opera in general and the Bayreuth Festival in particular? Perhaps. Yet it all remains too intellectual, on the one hand filled to overflowing with ideas and props, on the other hand a void - the entire history of the ideological reception of the “Mastersingers” as “Nazi opera” is blended out, for example, while Katharina Wagner remains focussed on the performance aesthetic.

Ms Wagner jeered as great-grandad’s opera flops at Bayreuth
Kate Connolly
July 27, 2007 (The Guardian)

It was the most eagerly anticipated event in this year’s German cultural calendar, set to make or break a young woman’s career.But following a cascade of boos and the comparison of her production of Die Meistersinger to a “top-heavy pizza with a thick topping on a thin base”, things were not looking too rosy yesterday for Katharina Wagner.

Her interpretation, which turned the original plot on its head - Richard Wagner danced in his underpants and topless dancers took to the stage - proved too much for the traditionalists, who made up the bulk of the audience, at the same time as irritating the iconoclasts.