lunes, 18 de diciembre de 2017

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg by Richard Wagner - Bayreuther Festspiele

Photo: Bayreuther Festival / Enrico Nawrath

Oxana Arkaeva

The new Bayreuth Festival production of the “Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg” was greatly anticipated. Parallel to live performances, the vast Wagnerian community around the world had a unique opportunity to experience the live transmission of the opening night in the cinemas. The result cannot be a positive one and proved the theses that a theatre performance should be experienced live only and in no other way. Even more, the enormous impact of Barrie Kosky staging and Wagner´s music cannot be fully appreciated in zoomed in and out pictures and by digitally amplified sound.

Australian-born stage director makes the audience laugh after only 20 seconds. The intendant of the Comic Opera House (Komische Oper) in Berlin, Kosky is perfectly aware of Wagner's musical, political and personal impact and confronts us with four different sides of Wagner´s complex personality: A composer, theatre maker, revolutionary and an individual. As a composer, Wagner is “praised for his breathtakingly gorgeous music […] and authentic expression of life, joy and happiness.” As obsessed theatre maker, he is not only a composer, but an author and a stage director and his revolutionary activities forced him to spend 11 years in the exile in Switzerland. From the personal side, for Barrie Kosky, this production is an individual confrontation with Richard Wagner. The first ever Jewish-born stage director in the history of Bayreuth. Without displaying of Nazi symbols or directly talking about the Third Reich, he places gives a subtle interpretation of Wagner´s chauvinistic ideas and resentments, effectively implemented by leaders of national socialism, and presenters him in front of the generation´s trial.

The story revolves around love-triangle between Stolzing, Eva and Hans Sachs. The first one is in love with Eva and wants to marry her. To realise it, he must win the Meistersinger´s annual song contest, since her father promises Eva as a trophy. Being an absolute newcomer, Stolzing it taught by Hans Sachs´s apprentice David how to compose and write the text. Refusing all the rules Stolzing sings his song in front of the testosterone and beer empowered and a strictly male organised crowd of hectic and joyful Meistersinger. Being judged by picky Sixtus Beckmesser, who itself wishes Eva for a wife, Stolzing fails dramatically. Hans Sachs, as the only one, is nevertheless impressed with Stolzing´s talent and offers him his help. Together they composed a winning song which Beckmesser later steals and performs as his own. Unable to correctly reproduce the text and the melody Beckmesser is mobbed by cheerful listeners and banished from the city. Stolzing wins the contest and is united with Eva, refusing the title of the Meistersinger. Disappointed Hans Sachs pledges not to forget the real value of German masters and is completely ignored by the young couple.

In the first act, one is impressed with Klosky’s ability to immediately implement Wagner´s obsession with the acting by staging a theatre within theatre as home performance, where everyone must play a role. Here we encounter Ferenc Liszt, who later will become Pogner and conductor Hermann Levi, who is constrained to undertake a role of Beckmesser. Wagner’s wife, Cosima is Eva and Wagner himself undertakes the roles of Hans Sachs, Stolzing and David. The developments in this production are not logical but are subject to the time-shifts which keeps listeners alert and attentive. Here we are invited to peek in the detail-true version of Wagner´s living room in dollhouse-like Villa Wahnfried (Rebecca Ringst) abruptly terminated by unexpected transforming to the strict courtroom of Nurnberg trial guarded by US GIs.

The second act shows a sunny St. John´s Day-Idyll with a picnic on the covered with the grass courtroom floor. Maybe a subtle indication of the wish to cover up the history? It doesn´t last long till this idyll results in a pogrom-like scene, where Beckmesser is beaten up and expelled caring a cardboard Jewish mask his. At the end of the act, the huge balloon head of an evil-looking Jewish face resembling the one from the Nazi magazine "Der Stürmer" (The Striker) dominates the stage. It then gradually shrinks and transforms into the one full of pain living an oversized Kippa with shaking Beckmesser underneath. Sudden knowledge strikes like a lightning: all the Nazi air anti-Jewish propaganda was built on nothing but the air! A frightening realisation, considering its human cost!

In the third act, we are once more relocated to the courtroom N. 600 of the Nuremberg Court of Justice again with mute GIs and a harp player in a BND uniform reminiscent of a stenographer. Gradually filled with the choir dressed in renaissance costumes (Klaus Bruns) and flags waving, the courtroom turns into a festivity place resembling the paintings of the old Flemish masters. The tribune in the middle is now a contest´s stage and we experience Olympic singing games à la Wagner. In the end, the disappointed Hans Sachs remains alone on stages pleading to do not forget true German masters and conducts the finale à la Beethoven in front of an actors´- orchestra and professional choir.

What makes this production special, is a precise characteristic painting of every single role pointing out Johannes Martin Kränzle as Sixtus Beckmesser and Michael Volle as Hans Sachs. Apart from their awesome performing, they both seemed to greatly enjoy each other’s company like in Beckmesser´s serenade scene in the act two splendidly funny and without being ridiculous.

Michael Volle as Hans Sachs dominates the production vocally and artistically giving incredibly human Hans Sachs. Noble in the sound and excellent in diction, he is also fully in charge of timing and the dramatic pauses. His touchingly sung “Do not despise the masters” monologued at the end marked a musical culmination of the evening. Johannes Martin Kränzle perfectly fits the role of Beckmesser. Well, he is the Beckmesser. With very individual sound and excellent acting skills, Kränzle created already from the very beginning a memorable and touching character.

Klaus Florian Vogt as Stolzing seemed to step out of 1930th. His diction is implacable and his voice, however small and of very individual timbre projects well. Making more agreeable impression live than on the screen, he sometimes had difficulties to overcome loud and dramatic passages. Anne Schwanewilms as Eva sang with beautiful, lyrical voice, gorgeously hovering in the quintet, often singing with overcovered sound thus scarifying the text. Bass Günther Groissböck as Pogner sung with a noble sounding voice and clear pronunciation. Daniel Behle as David has the most beautiful tenor, with excellent diction and impressive acting skills. Wiebke Lehmkuhl as Magdalene built vocally with her warm mezzo and her energetic acting a perfect companion for Behle. The rest of the cast including all Meistersingers confirmed the high singer's standards in Bayreuth. The festivals choir (Eberhard Friedrich) is another star of the evening singing and acting with expected greatness in sound and dedication in play.


Under the button of Phillip Jordan, the festival orchestra presented youthful - energetic and fresh sound, though sometimes covering singers and being reduced to accompaniment. In the prelude to act three Jordan finally elicited from the orchestra the thoughtful and profound Wagner sound, that we so much adore and love.

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