Thursday, July 26, 2007

Swing...and a miss.

A.C. Douglas collects the audience and critical response to Katharina Wagner's Meistersinger.

Alex Ross has some other stuff, with links to pictures of the production.

From my glancing understanding of this production, I have only this to say: Withdraw. The. Production. Now.

I lied: I have more to say. It isn't even Regietheater. It's just a confused, muddleheaded mess that is masquerading as a flop. Bayreuth has seen some real flops, and this would have to get better to be a dramatic flop. Is it true that Greek comedy often involved manually controlled, oversized phalloi? (No pun intended.) Yes. Is Die Meistersinger der Nürnberg a Greek comedy? What a profoundly stupid question: of course not. If Wieland Wagner's 1956 production was die Meistersinger without the benefit of "being" in Nürnberg, then this is a Meistersinger without the benefit of being remotely intelligent.

If Richard Wagner had wanted Sixtus Beckmesser to be the hero, and not Walther von Stolzing supported by the wise Hans Sachs, he would have written Die Meistersinger that way. Beckmesser, while not unsympathetic for various reasons, is the villain. Anyone with a libretto or familiar with the story knows why. Wagner made the point that true art is true art, whether or not it follows the "rules" as some might interpret them. That is, though, not entirely his final point and people tend to get hung up on Sachs' (and the townsfolk's final words)* What Richard Wagner didn't want, I know this because he was very specific about what he did want, is for his great-granddaughter to go turn everything upside down, introduce foolish staging and acting, and then produce it on the Green Hill.

This production, to my eyes, makes Harry Kupfer's conclusion to Götterdämmerung look brilliant, sane, and utterly consonant with the text and spirit of the work. Forget this: I'm going to listen to Rituel in memoriam Bruno Maderna again. I'm only headed for apoplexy with this line of thought, and Boulez might calm me down.

On the plus side, I dare warrant that - after ten or fifteen years of Fraulein Wagner's direction - I might be able to get tickets to the Festspiele. Assuming the Freistaat Bayern hasn't stepped in to correct the situation.

*Though, you might want to read them. What he says is this: polities come and go, but art lasts. Furthermore, if you want to avoid bad government, then you might want to follow the Masters' lead. To wit, and apologies for the size, but you can find this text elsewhere:

Habt Acht! Uns dräuen üble Streich': / zerfällt erst deutsches Volk und Reich, / in falscher wälscher Majestät / kein Fürst bald mehr sein Volk versteht, / und wälschen Dunst mit wälschem Tand / sie pflanzen uns in deutsches Land; / was deutsch und echt, wüsst' keiner mehr, / lebt's nicht in deutscher Meister Ehr'. / Drum sag' ich euch: / ehrt eure deutschen Meister! / Dann bannt ihr gute Geister; / und gebt ihr ihrem Wirken Gunst, / zerging' in Dunst / das heil'ge röm'sche Reich, / uns bliebe gleich / die heil'ge deutsche Kunst!


At 11:14 PM, Blogger Henry Holland said...

I'm only headed for apoplexy with this line of thought, and Boulez might calm me down

Hahahahaha, that might be the only time in the history of the universe that a sentence like *that* is written.


At 11:21 AM, Blogger Patrick J. Smith said...

I'm always happy to turn an interesting or felicitous phrase.

At 5:38 PM, Blogger Daland said...

First of all: I am not at all a fan of Regietheater, because I firmly believe that it is 1% ignorance and 99% exibitionism.

But the case of Kathi is slightly different: perhaps her mix is 30% smartness and 70% exhibitionism (and this was perhaps also the ratio applause/boos after her debut).

First let me summarize my personal “vision” of the drama. To me:
- Walther is apparently a revolutionary (he just wants Eva); to have Eva, he is forced to do something he doesn’t know: he does it with a foolish-naïve (pseudo-revolutionary) approach and fails, but catches the interest of the progressive part of the establishment (Sachs, while Beckmesser represents initially the thick-headed part of that same establishment);
- Sachs sees in Walther a mean to revive the Meister art, to get it closer to the people; he understands (“Fliederbaum monologue”) that pure natural love is at the core of Stolzing’s behaviour and helps him, teaching him how to exploit the rules to get his target;
- Walther compromises with the establishment and the rules, so he gets what he wants (Eva and, almost unwillingly, good-life and reputation);
- Beckmesser understands that knowing the rules does not make you an artist, so he tries to express himself artistically, going beyond the rules, and so fails;
- Sachs is the final winner: he is crowned as chief of the Meister, having at the same time rescued a moribund art.

Now, in an interview, Katharina has explained her konzept (i.e. her understanding of the drama) and I found it quite close to the above description: therefore I tend to largely agree with her ideas.

Unfortunately, the 70% of exhibitionism that still makes up the large part of Kathi’s personality has taken the lead. Conclusion? She talks the talk, but doesn’t walk the walk!

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