Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Bayreuther Festspiele, July 2009Posted on 28 July 2009
At the end of this opera, Hans Sachs sings a wonderful soliloquy on the importance of preserving German art against alien threats and invasions. How ironic then that this production is entirely alien to Wagner’s great opera, and only by keeping ones eyes closed and ignoring the indescribable nonsense on stage can one preserve the great art of Wagner’s music. Who could do such a thing to so wonderful an opera? And do it at Wagner’s own festival, in the opera house he founded? Surely the Wagner family, guardians of the great man’s legacy, would not allow one of his works to serve as a background on which a confused person can hang a lot of grossly impertinent and even grotesque staging. Who on earth was able to get away with this?
The answer is, I’m afraid, a member of the Wagner family, one who obviously lacks the self-discipline necessary for true creativity. This is someone whose narcissism seeks attention by shocking the audience, and by extension the world outside Bayreuth. But surely the administrators of the Festival will do away with such stuff? No chance, because the producer has put this on before, and has now become co-administrator. If anyone thought that might have tempered her wish to outrage the audience and shriek out her own inadequacy, they were mistaken, because this year’s production of Meistersinger was apparently even more ludicrous than last year’s.
It is useless to try listing the follies and contradictions that make this production so incoherent, and the only interest can be in the singers and conductor. It is clear that Bayreuth no longer attracts the calibre of singers it used to, so they were very lucky to have a superb Walther in the person of Klaus Florian Vogt, who sang like a god. Adrian Eröd was a very strong Beckmesser, as was Norbert Ernst as David, and Alan Titus a pleasingly solid Hans Sachs. Pogner was Artur Korn, with Michaela Kaune as his daughter Eva and Carola Guber as her nurse Magdalena, but they could not rise above the production. Conducting was by Sebastian Weigle, who did a good job with the invisible orchestra, but missed some highlights, though it is difficult to blame him when he has to watch the appalling nonsense on stage. At the end there was enthusiastic applause for some of the singers, particularly Klaus Florian Vogt, and hearty boos for the producer, Katharina Wagner.
This appalling nonsense was worse by far than yesterday’s dour production of Tristan, which is really saying something.