Monday, September 5, 2011

Katrina Wagner's disturbing Meistersinger Bayreuth 2008

Yesterday, a rather dreary cold Sunday, I spent five of the most productive hours watching Katrina Wagner's innovative production of her great grandfather's comical masterpiece, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.

Much has already been written about this production which I shall not repeat as you can read it here but here are my own thoughts. I must say immediately that only a woman could have had the guts to present this interpretation in Bayreuth the home of Wagner. It must have taken an enormous amount of courage to show the traditional Wagner audience  the underlying message that proved so dangerous to humanity in the past. Only a Wagner family member could have got away with this controversial version in the temple of Wagner

To begin I knew nothing of the nature of this take on the old comic masterpiece so beloved of Hitler and his Third Reich which was played continuously as propaganda piece throughout the Second World War. One glance of the totalitarian elderly apprentices, drilled to an inch of their life and clothed like 1950 school children immediately told me I was in for a surprise. Walter von Stolzing, who looked like a Jamie Oliver graffiti artist reinforced this impression.

This is the only production, and I have seen many, where the villain Beckmesser, sees the light and turns out in the end to be the hero.  Where Walter gives up his revolutionary principles to gain his prize  and then regrets it. Where Hans Sachs conforms and reiterates to the stayed tyrannical social traditions  and where the audience booed so loudly at the end that it must have rivaled the famous the Rite of Spring debacle in 1913. I was amazed at that this hostile reception from what was supposed to be an educated audience.

The ending was extremely powerful. Hans Sachs last triumphant oration already backed by enormous figures of Schiller and Goethe, became a parody of a Hitler rally or today a Papal Rally, and only needed a Third Reich symbol to renforce this. This alone brought Wagner's unfortunate message into sharp focus and must have given the audience one of Peter Brook's moments of discomfort.

Well done Katrina Wagner. Your famous relation would have been proud of you....... perhaps. I wish I could  have done that.

They are burning the director!

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