17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
From my review on Superconductor:
In this production, Ye Olde Nuremberg is reimagined as the arts department at, let's say, Nuremberg Community College. The acts feature a multi-tiered set, with Act I in the library and Act II in the cafeteria. This "Song-school" is run by the Masters and administered by David. Sachs' apprentice (Norbert Ernst) is an academic pedant who spends his time distributing the arcane rules of the Mastersingers in little yellow rule-books. Walther enters this world as the bad-boy artist in leather and shades, painting furiously on musical instruments, the walls, even David himself in his attempts to break out of the old order. He is sung by Klaus Florian Vogt: a pleasing, if smallish tenor that can handle the role's high tetessitura. His good looks recall the late Peter Hofmann.
Hans Sachs (Franz Hawlata) enters as a barefoot, chain-smoking journalist--the rebel within the Mastersinger clique. Mr. Hawlata delivers a solid Sachs, using his skills as a compelling actor to support the two big monologues. In Act II, the cobbler's last is replaced by a typewriter, which Sachs clicks and clacks on during Beckmesser's song, damning the Marker's performance with keystrokes instead of hammer-blows. The hero of Wagner's opera has become Eduard Hanslick, the Vienna music critic who was both Wagner's nemesis and the inspiration for Sixtus Beckmesser. In Act III, Sachs teaches Walther the rules of success, (using the dread yellow book) and the two become conservative, successful, utterly hollow sell-outs in dark suits.
Eva (Michaela Kunde) is a repressed, almost predatory figure. In Act II, she blossoms, re-invented through Walther's use of creative visual art. She gets a makeover and is suddenly "cool." Her scene with Sachs in Act III is heart-rending: the two characters no longer understand each other's aesthetics--and a final attempt at a sexual advance (by Sachs) leads him to tear up his entry in the song contest. After this she goes through a second makeover--as a conservative German frau. The Quintet is staged as a "dream" family portrait, as each couple stands with their ideal 2.5 kinder. Ms. Kaune's big voice has a vibrato and spreads unattractively in "O Sachs, mein Freund!" But she sounds great leading off the Quintet. Lena (Carola Guber) is given even less of a part in this version of the opera, but provides able support in the ensembles.
Things get merry in the "festival meadow" scene. A group of dancers, wearing giant heads that represent great German masters: Mozart, Haydn, Bach and yes, Wagner (in his beret) burst out and tie Sachs to a chair. As the march begins, the "composers" stage a kickline: wearing underwear and, in some cases, giant phalluses. (Yeah, I thought I was dreaming too--so I watched it twice to be sure.) The choristers line the tiers, and the "parade" considts of a series of nightmare rituals. Sachs presides over the murder of the artists who staged the ballet, and becomes a neo-fascist, spreading the "gospel" of Holy German Art to an affluent, tuxedo-wearing audience and a terrified, intimidated Beckmesser. Art has been replaced by politics.
If the Masters are presented as academic ninnies clinging to their yellow rule-books, it is Beckmesser (sung by the superb Michael Volle) who shatters the mold and wins the day. The Marker has a life-changing experience during the Act II riot, turning from stuffed shirt to hipster artist. His entry in the song contest is an attempt to re-invent himself with an avant-garde "happening,": exhuming nude dancers from a mound of earth, who hurl fruit at the chorus. Afterwards, he comes back out, laughing with Sachs to watch Walther's "approved" performance. By presenting Sachs as the neo-conservative and Beckmesser as the free artist, Ms. Wagner has turned the opera on itself, and eliminated the dramatic problems that plague this work.
This is the first film of the opera to not fall into the trap of presenting Meistersinger as an historic pageant in a 19th-century "museum" version of what Wagner thought the 15th century might have looked like. The whole performance is ably conducted by Sebastian Weigle, with an emphasis on the baroque textures and complexities of Wagner's score. Despite some of the bizarre imagery, Ms. Wagner has assembled an interesting, innovative approach to this problematic opera. Her Meistersinger offers something that her father's three previous productions didn't: fresh ideas about this brilliant opera.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
William L. Elkins
- Published on Amazon.com
Please do not be influenced by the negative reviews of this staging of Meistersinger. The predominant operatic proclivity today ( reinforced by the major opera companies, such as the Met, Vienna State Opera, etc.,) tends to favor traditional stagings in deference to the zeitgiest of the composer favored by the traditionally inclined patrons. Alas, many opera lovers tend to live in the past and seem to be inexorably stuck there. I saw a wonderful avant garde staging of the Ring Cycle at the LA Opera last year that really redefined this masterwork for me. I also love the traditionally staged Ring Cycle but found the LA Opera production to add a new dimension to it from a visual, and intellectual standpoint. Well, Ms. Wagner has accomplished a similar outcome with this latest version of "Meistersinger" at Bayreuth. While I would love this opera in any form, and have several traditionally staged recordings, this particular staging is superb in all aspects and the sound and video capture outstanding. I could provide a discursive esoteric analysis and reveal what I consider to be its virtues but I won't. Simply maintain an open mind and enjoy it for how it resonates with you personally from a musical and asthetic standpoint. A must for any Wagnerian!
- Published on Amazon.com
I bought this after reading the rave review from "Mostly Opera." The critic writes of Katharina Wagner's staging: " I remember having seen negative comments related to this staging from people who had not even seen it at the time." After seeing this I have to agree with the critic that Katharina was politically judged (rather than artistically judged) because of who she is. To truly enjoy this staging you will probably need to accept/agree that this opera is an allegory of changes in society; about how society reacts to change and how much change it can accept."
(This is an all too apt assessment and says much about American Opera fans).
"In Act 1 we are in a 19th century brotherhood of sorts: Traditionally clad "meistersingers" sit around the table, reading small yellow books of German classics. At that time, Sachs, barefoot, is a slightly controversial outsider. But not nearly as controversial as the modern-dress Walther, who sprays paint on everything and everybody. Not a singer, but a painter, the point is driven through, by him assembling a puzzle of Nürnberg all in disorder compared to Beckmessers perfectly assembled Nürnberg puzzle.
In Act 2, the sullen Eva hangs around what looks like an East-German Canteen in the 1950's, where Sachs sits with his typewriter in the corner. In the only hint at shoemaking, sneakers seem to be dropping from the sky and all ends in an orgy of paint-throwing.
The real stuff begins in Act 3: Now Beckmesser is suddenly the outcast with his T-shirt "Beck in Town" and finds himself in Sach's fancy apartment, where the heads of the old German masters (Brahms etc.) dancing in the background. Sachs, with his elegant suit, is now constructing a neat idealised family-concept literally within the frames of a doll-house for Walther and Eva to be filmed in. How come this sudden change? Then, in the choral scene preceding the "wach auf", Sachs is captured and tied to a chair by these heads while they, often clad in underwear, perform a weird dance and Eva blindfolded walks amidst them. What is going on here, seriously? Next however, Katharina Wagners master-stroke begin in earnest with an eerie scene in which Sachs's helpers capture a stage director and conductor, putting them in a coffin, starting the fire to burn them exactly at the "wach auf" in a scene reminiscent of the Nazi epoque. Very strong theater, indeed. Et voila, what comes out of the coffin? A golden calf it seems. When a model of the auditorium emerges from under stage, we the audience are double spectators to Walther bringing home a check of 10.000 from the Nürnberg Bank, while Beckmesser now is an outcast.
The staging requires a familiarity with German culture, both ancient and present, that I perhaps do not have and there are myriads of details to discover here, as the pace is furious, especially in the third act.
To summarize, Sachs and Walther essentially submit to conformism while Beckmesser moves in the other direction.
No, Katharina Wagner does not have all the answers and admittedly the staging of the first act seems a bit heavy-handed. But then again, the first act is really long and not for the first time do I wish Wagner would have lived to revise (read: shorten) it, though I have no idea if he ever thought about that and anyway, if he had lived any longer his next project (after Parsifal) would probably have been a revision of Tannhäuser (needed as well).
More singers stand out on the DVD than I remember from the live performance, especially Franz Hawlata, underpowered in the theater but not here, taking fully advantage of the close-ups for us to see his detailed and impressive acting.
Walther really is a super role for Klaus Florian Vogt, probably his best role together with Lohengrin and Michael Volle also leaves nothing to be desired. As for the rest nobody was exceptional, one way or the other, though admittedly Michaela Kaune was vastly better than the Amanda Mace I saw the year before.
Katharina Wagner presents with the only production on DVD truly departing from medieval Nürnberg and trying to wrestle with this issues. For this alone, this is a must-see."
The NY Times, Gramophone Magazine, International Record Review, Opera Canada, ion arts, Wagner Opera net, gave this production accolades and praised Katharina for pulling off the most difficult of Wagner operas to update. After watching this several times, I have to conclude that the Mostly Opera review is spot on. Unfortunately, I also have to conclude, from reading some of the negativity here that American Opera fans have to be among the most uptight group of people in the entire world. They are even more tightly wound than Marvel Comic fans. They have turned opera into a suburbanized, historically elitist religion and, consequently, transforming it into a religion, are turning it off to new generations. One can easily see the reason for Pierre Boulez's early, dismissive remarks regarding America Opera "fans." These opera fundamentalists bellow, hiss, throw out predictable, and by now quite boring insulting phrases like "eurotrash, beat their chests and throw hostile tantrums. Why? Because they want to keep opera solely in the past. They want it edified and sacred. They reject this potentially greatest of all art forms as a vibrantly timeless art.
It is because of these puritans that American opera companies, catering to the ultra conservatives (who feel they own the art form) are forced to stage a La Boheme every single season, simply to keep themselves out of the red.
Meanwhile, Europe, which has long staged opera in contemporary settings, has a thriving opera scene.
Do the math.
The supposed American opera fans have killed the art form they claim to love. They have killed it by putting that art form on a pedestal, dehumanizing it, and keeping it stale. At the sign of even a single 21st century dress on a singer, these fans will be as sounding brass, wailing blasphemy behind the curtain.
It is no wonder opera is in its death throes here in the states. What potential music lover, under the age of thirty, would want to even explore an art form held captive by such a constipated lot?
5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Just how awful a "conceptual" production can be is amply demonstrated by this travesty of Meistersinger by Katharina Wagner. It is consistent in visual terms. But it bears no relation whatsoever to the work at hand. Indeed it is ridiculous to follow the libretto and attempt the vaguest correlation with what it is being shown on screen. And what we are seeing is ugly and tasteless and pointless. So, Mme. Wagner, off with your head.
Musically, the performance fares better, without being outstanding. But the music is ably sung and it is so beautiful that one can listen with one's eyes closed.
There is some comfort in the knowledge that for once we are given a real live Bayreuth performance even if we are given little of the little ados and fanfares before the performance begins. More could have gone into attempting to create that one is really on the green hill ready to enter the holy of holies. I would have appreciated more Bayreuth flavor. And courtain calls with the loud boos for Mme. Wagner. Disgraceful.
The sound and picture on the dvd are exemplary.
4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Pogner offers his daughter Eva as the prize in a singing competition,with three suitors, Beckmesser, young Von Stolzing,and the aging Sachs. Naturally, Von Stolzing wins and rejects the prize. Wagner created a wise Sachs, he himself often was not and was a walking contradiction.He would have disapproved of Hitler. His wife Cosima,a French born woman,who was more German then them,became more rigid after Richards death. Winifried a English lady, wife of Siegfried, who was a mums boy, fanced Hitler and from 1923 onwards sometimes visited Wahnfried.The children Friedland, who should have taken over the festival, but did not. Wieland, Wolfgang, and Verena, have provided the heirs.Wieland, who became the director and set the tone for advanced staging, produced Iris,Daphne,Wolf Siegfried,who directed operas in his own right. Nike, the intellectual, who could also direct. Wolfgang the Administrator,married to a ballet dancer Ellen, produced,Eva and Gottfried. The person who was the driving force behind Wieland was Gertrud. After Wielands death, Gertrud and her children were shut out. Wolfgang divorced Ellen and married Gudrun. Katharina was born in 1978. Gudrun died in the late 1990's. However, before Wolfgangs death, Katharina an only child became director of the festival, along with Eva, now the administrator.Verena has a son called Wieland, who now is heavily involved with the Saltzburg festival. So if Eva and Katharina were hit by a No 9 bus, there are many Wagners who could take over. Many families have fights and hatreds,the Wagner family had a composer and a Hitler. Just look at your own family and see if they are perfect.
Wolfgang knew he was not much of a stage designer,like his brother. He brought in Chereau Ring which also attracted adverse publicity, now much beloved. Kupfers dark minimalist modern Ring, and so forth. Katharina grew up in this atmosphere. She also learnt her craft from Barenboim and other opera houses.This is one opera that Bayreuth has been frightened to change. Wieland attempted to, but the audiences at Bayreuth shunned it. Now Katherina has taken the bull by the horns and in a subtle and unsubtle way, told the audience where to shove their conservatism. Because this opera is about rules and the changing of them.The new always comes up against the old guard. She has made some observations about the art establishment and society in general.I also think that includes her family subconsciously. Sachs the free thinker, able to be so, because he is a poet,has barefeet, becomes a businessman wearing a suit and shoes. Von Stolzing the fiery artist, who incorporates everyone into his vision of art. Who never changes his style, thus not growing, takes the easy way out and becomes a mainstream artist, because it gives him the promise of wealth.That is why he ends up wearing a suit.Beckmesser,the bureaucrat, changes the most,shuns mass taste, and becomes the most modern artist of all.At the end Beckmesser looks at Sachs as he is glorifying German art, shacks his head in disbelief and walks away. There are little touches, like the riot, where one of the crowd waves around a cast of Picasso's painting of his lady friend. The crowd on the balcony waving Warhol Campbell soup cans. References to the new. The march where we have oversized heads of Schuller, Goethe,Beethoven Wagner, Lizst, and Mozart, doing a can can, in front of a tied up Sachs. Then some ladies with equally big heads dance and the former attempt to have sex with them. Those who created this farce come on stage, bow to the audience,are thrown into a dust bin , with bits and pieces and burnt. In otherwords, out with the jolly old staging. Here Katherina is mocking herself. She has deliberately been provocative and almost childish for a reason. Call it unsubtle, but it is clever. Other touches like the huge soprano,making gestures at a knight, is a dig at the past, while Von Stolzing sings his Mastersong. It is very funny. The crowd sits in rows in the dark, while Sachs is singing about pure Germany art, as if to say, this is our recent past. Watch out. I cracked up with laughter. She has an odd ball sense of humour. I cannot wait for her Tristan und Isolde 2015. I compared this to my Levine Nurnberg. The singing and costumes were great, but Levine conducting was slow. I also found it tame compared to this version. It has youthful vitality and you can see the singers were having a ball. Of course the audience did not like her production, they are too stuffy and as we say in Australia, up themselves. Being an only child like Kat is, I know exactly where she is coming from. She is a strong willed person, with ideas of her own. Is is about time some of the opera going public woke up to itself. I believe kat, is trying to build bridges with Gottfried. He was treated very badly by Wolfgang.
Now for the singers. The conductor of the Bayreuth Festival and Chorus Seb Weigle tempi are fast and right for this opera. Forget the complaints about him,he is good. What Katherine needs is a conductor who is permanent. She is thinking of Thielmann, but I think a woman like Simone Young, who has conducted the Ring in Hamburg, would be right for her. The Sachs Franz Hawlata is fine, better then Morris in the Levine Nurnburg piece. Von Stolzing has a high tenor voice, which is unusual, but right for this part and brings it alive, as does Hawlata. Eva Michaela Kaune,has a distinctive voice with an emotional catch to it. Veit Pogner, is a distinctive Bass. All the parts are well taken and sung. Take no notice of the criticism, not even on Wagneropera.net. They must realize that Katharina was getting at them. I wonder what old Wolfgang thought of it all. He was at the performance and artistic director. He died a while later. If I had been at that performance and the oafs around me were booing, I would have used foul language, as only a racing cyclist and ex ultra distance runner can. This is good, if you dont like modern staging, keep away from it and keep your comments to yourself