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Bayreuth’s Meistersinger: It’s a Jewish problem

July 26, 2017 by norman lebrecht

66 comments.


The first review is online. It’s by Shirley Apthorp in the FT and it lays Barrie Kosky’s production concept succinctly on the line:


A caricature Jew, with hooked nose and evil grin, swells up to engulf the entire stage. Its hot air ballon head then deflates, until only the star of David skullcap can be seen. The Bayreuth Festival is once again wrestling with the spectre of Wagner’s anti-Semitism, and its own guilty past with Adolf “Uncle Wolf” Hitler.

Barrie Kosky is the first Jewish stage director to work at Wagner’s Bayreuth Festival, and the first non-member of the Wagner family to stage Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. Of course he sees Sixtus Beckmesser as a Jewish parody, the epitome of all that Wagner hated.

Read on here.

 


Comments (66)

  1. John says:

    Rudolf Hartmann directed the first post-WWII production of Meistersinger at Bayreuth in 1951 so it’s not correct to say Mr Kosky is the first non-member of the Wagner family to direct the opera there.

    1. Anon says:

      …and Tietjen (1943, 1933) and Harlacher (1888) before that.

  2. Andrew Powell says:

    An excellent piece by Shirley Apthorp, wie immer.

    1. Martin Atherton says:

      Not really. She permits herself a great deal by calling ‘Meistersinger’ “heavy-handed” and is no more reliable on this as she is on an apparent detail like her assertion that this is Philippe Jordan’s Bayreuth debut – it isn’t.

    2. Martin Atherton says:

      Not really. She permits herself a great deal by calling ‘Meistersinger’ “heavy-handed” and is no more reliable on this than she is on an apparent detail like her assertion that this is Philippe Jordan’s Bayreuth debut – it isn’t.

  3. John Borstlap says:

    The theory that Beckmesser is a parody of a Jew, has already been contested and refuted many decennia ago, so this ‘idea’ is not only outdated and puerile, but cheap kitsch to titilate the people who like their moral highground be stimulated by Regietheater.

    There is much to criticize in the Meistersinger’s plot, but Beckmesser is in the Nurnberger community a highly respected member, otherwise how could he have got at his position of the ‘Merker’? In Beckmesser Wagner criticized the pedantry of academia without roots in musical experience.

    Wagner’s antisemitism – as it originally was, without the layer of Hitler’s application – was a cultural critique, seeing ‘Judaism’ connected with the destructiveness of early industrialization and capital banking (both professions often brilliantly conducted by entirely assimilated Europeans from Jewish descent), seeing the problems of modern society in racist terms, like people who have seen many red-haired communists and thinking it must be the hair colour that is the cause of the creed.

    Also, Wagner attacked traditional Christianity as fiercely as Judaism. The discussion is moot and outdated and merely nostalgic stuff for the people ignorant of the background. And German Regietheater makes use of it in the hope to be seen as ‘modern’.

    1. anon says:

      No, you’re wrong.

      Did you miss the part where Wagner basically argues that no matter how assimilated a Jew is, that person can never truly understand German art? That is an essenalist, racist argument. Period.
      And this is why, no matter how well trained Beckmesser may be, he can’t make music out of Walther/Sach’s Prize Song. “Heil’ge deutsche Kunst” is just not in his blood, as it were.

      But go on thinking Wagner’s anti-Semitism is the same as his Left-Hegelian critique of Christianity.

      1. John Borstlap says:

        Now let’s go into this a bit, to clear the stable. In his abject antisemitic article, by the way: greatly inspired by his own abject negative experiences in the first years of his career with the musical establishment where many people from jewish descent had powerful positions, W says that Jews cannot assimilate in society because of their race. What had happened however, was that at the beginning of the 19th century Jews got civil rights, which meant that they could escape the ghettos where an authoritarian, closed culture reigned. Just like the great flowering of culture in Europe happened when the arts emancipated themselves from the grip of the authoritarian christian church, the Jews in the 19th century finally freely spread through society and could unfold their talents, and their contribution to science and culture cannot be overestimated. But this was not a ‘Jewish renaissance’, but the fruit of assimilation, since the majority of Jews left their orthodox beliefs behind and often completely ignored any ethnic background. But the first generations of Jews, when they got out of the ghettos and began to circulate in society, trying to build-up a life, carried – of course – some burdens of the past, in terms of difficulty in practical assimilation like so many Moslems in our own time have. It took 2 or 3 generations to completely wipe-out speech impediment, inherited anxiety syndromes and/ or inferiority complexes, all results of a closed, claustrophobic environment of a whole people. Wagner thought that recently assimilated Jews could not have completely assimilated a collective culture with a long and deep past, because they entered society as outsiders. That is a common sense observation, but of course it does not follow automatically that Mendelssohn failed to express the collective culture of his time and nation: he was as German as could be – and indeed there is some degree of distance and coolness in Mendelssohn’s work, a classicism which was probably more accessible to him than the emotional romanticism of Schumann, Chopin, Wagner, etc. Whether this emotional distance was the result of being Jewish or merely a temperamental and milieu defined matter, cannot be decided, but the question is moot anyway given the enormous artistic achievement.

        If Wagner’s own observations would have been followed-through, complete assimilation would automatically happen in the course of time, which indeed it did. Meyerbeer, W’s great rival, showed the problems of first generation of Jews in his works, and M’s success seemed entirely undeserved to Wagner – something that can easily be understood. He mixed-up his personal indignation and jealousy with in themselves correct observations, and this is one of the many examples of how apt observation and real insights are mixed with subjective emotional nonsense in anything Wagner wrote, said, did.

        Along these lines, the British philosopher Bryan Magee argues against and for Wagner’s ideas about ‘Judaism’ in his: Aspects of Wagner’, OUP 1988.

    2. Scotty says:

      Can you remind me of Wagner’s anti-Christian essay that is the equivalent of “Das Judenthum in der Musik”? It has escaped my notice.

      1. John Borstlap says:

        Of course that article is a unique document. But W´s tirades against the Christian religion is sprinkled all over his articles and correspondence, and was the reason that he developed his ideas of a ´Kunstreligion´, a religion of art, which had to rescue the heart of religion from the dead hands of outdated and moribund organized christianity. This is an extension of early philosophical and intellectual discussions of early romanticism in Germany at the beginning of the 19th century, when an upsurge of ´romantic´, religious feeling did not find an appropriate home in the existing church, be it catholic or lutheran. Eventually, W´s idea about Kunstreligion found its most eloquent and confused expression in Parsifal.

        1. Scotty says:

          You are confusing racism, which is what anti-semitism is, with rejection of a religious philosophy, which is what Wagner’s alleged anti-Christian writings represent.

          1. John Borstlap says:

            Wagner’s antisemitism was cultural critique clothed in racist terms. That is why he said himself of his antisemitism, when confronted by the observation that he had many contacts with ‘Jews’, “It is not personal”.

            Imagine a fierce anti-communist who has, by chance, seen quite a lot of red-haired communists, say from some remote corner of Siberia where red hair is quite common. A 19C person, informed of the newest scientific theories of which the idea that the world were devided in different races (result of widespread Western colonialism), could have concluded that there were a link between the hair colour, as a sign of some racist trait, and the communist creed. He could have seen the hair colour as the cause of the despised communist world view. If he wanted to strongly criticize communism, he could think that using physical, or racial, properties as an argument could then not be refuted since physical properties cannot be changed. Of course this is a nonsensical and intellectually dishonest argument, but with uninformed people such arguments could be effectuive. In this sense can we understand W’s antisemitism and something of the mixed elements of personal hatred towards adversaries and the cultural critique on industrialization, scientism, wild capitalism and the increasing materialism which was threatening nature, culture and all intellectual life. In fact, much of Nietzsche’s critique of society is comparable, but he was an academic and understood that physical proterties and race are irrelevant in such debate.

          2. anon says:

            This “Wagner’s anti-Semitism is cultural and not ‘racist'” is mere fantasy Wagner-apologism. That some other Wagner apologists have tried to make this argument in print doesn’t substantiate it in any way.

            But since you like reading books, you can go read Marc Weiner’s book on Wagner and the Anti-Semitic Imagination and get back to us.

          3. John Borstlap says:

            To ANON:

            You did not read properly: W’s antisemitism was a cultural critique clothed in racist terms, so: the racism is not the whole story, it was a misconceived wrapping paper, and of course, it was racist, but only part of the thing. It has nothing to do with ‘excuse’, and it is really tiring to see still music lovers preferring seeing Wagner as a criminal, although he did not kill anybody, did not steal (his ‘loans’ were given out of free will), his love life was irregular but not illegal, etc. etc.

            Maybe this can calm down the neurosis a bit:

            http://johnborstlap.com/was-wagner-a-bad-person/

        2. Heath says:

          John Bortslap, I think we’ve all seen over the months and years who the anti-Semite and racist on this site is at least. You absolutely stink of it. Wagner was one of the great anti-Semites in history. FOR GOD’S SAKE, he calls for the Untergang of the Jewish people. It is clear from your myriad posts, you loathe a certain people… Why not just come clean and stop pretending?

          1. John Borstlap says:

            If it is too difficult to read properly: what sometimes helps, is dipping one’s head into a bucket with cold water. After that, the letters seem to find their right place again & the red colour in the face will have subsided.

          2. Heath says:

            Don’t want to just admit it John Bortslap, hmm? I call for an early retirement of John Bortslap from this site. It is the most important and perhaps the only job he has ever held, house anti-Semite and revisionist. Face a liitle red Johnny Boy?

          3. John Borstlap says:

            I should be an antisemite? Impossible: even my PA has an uncle whose neighbour knows someone who had a Jewish mother. I should be a racist? Impossible: I carefully choose the drivers of the limo to be African blacks. I should never have had jobs? But my life-long job has been, and still is, the enlightenment of the common people in terms of music and writings, which has been made possible through a considerable inheritance and the generous contributions of anonymous donors who had experienced an epiphany on hearing some of my Noble Works, which realization is quite a hard job, I can tell you, and much more difficult than chiding people like you. (In fact, I am also secretly paid for contributing to this site, by [redacted] so that there can sometimes also be something interesting on it to read.) And let me not forget to mention all the seminars here on the estate, students are queueing-up for days sometimes to be able to sit in front. (And they send me flowers and chocolats afterwards, so I can’t complain.) I just think you are a little bit jealous.

  4. John says:

    I do remember reading — in Friedelind’s biography — that Meistersinger was AH’s favorite opera.

    For a counterpoint to Mr. Borstlap’s views, here is Edward Rothstein’s 1993 essay from the New York Times, which gives — I think — a much more nuanced view of Beckmesser’s character vis a vis its value as a negative Jewish stereotype from Wagner’s own perspective.

    http://www.nytimes.com/1993/01/24/arts/classical-view-beckmesser-two-villains-at-a-swipe.html

    1. John says:

      Correction: I meant to cite WINIFRED Wagner in my post.

      1. John Borstlap says:

        The author of this article fails to see the contradiction between Beckmesser as a respected ‘Merker’ and the supposed Jewishness. It’s the same old suspicions all over again….. and seen from a contemporary view point without understanding how things looked at the time when Wagner wrote his operas. We know of the abject article and his antisemitism, but the cultural aspect thereof is always ignored. Also, the tirade of Sachs at the end of Meistersinger is always interpreted with WW II in mind, but we should not forget that that war had not happened as yet and that a cultural debate was going-on in 19C Germany about the worth of national art, as Germany was backward, splintered, confused, and feeling inferior to France and Paris where the cultural and intellectual hub was and where all progress happened and where ‘all those successful musical Jews’ were operating: the birth place of all those revolutions which flopped in Germany and Austria. The perspective was entirely the opposite of ours.

        And I read Rose’s book, which leaves-out all the aspects of the evidence that may contradict his conclusion or may expand it into different directions. In short: it is biassed and one-sided, and reads as if Rose had his conclusion ready before he began to write the text. I think it was Rose who, later-on, reversed his opinion about Wagner’s antisemitism and expressed regret about his book.

        Wagner was a fertile and confused mind and his writings and operas are full of contradictions. He did not have one over-arching vision of the world, but his worries about the anticultural and antihumanistic threats as caused by industrialization, capitalism, materialism and a one-sided scientific world view, were entirely justified and prophetic – we only have to look around. He was not academic enough to avoid silly, stupid and abject opinions, which hinder appreciation of some of his well-informed and clairvoyant cultural critique. To get to some overall, unified conclusion about whatever Wagnerian subject, is therefore impossible and not necessary, you cannot push a confused mass of material into a nice, clear box….. any opera of his is stuffed with ambiguous and contradictory material, hence the work it offers to academics who try to analyse this mass of information. So it is with his antisemitism and with Meistersinger.

    2. Gonout Backson says:

      Apparently, Hitler’s favorite opera was Die lustige Witwe.
      Anyone knows which of Jules Verne’s books was Hitler’s favorite?

  5. Shirley Moyer says:

    Cant read review unless subscriber.

  6. gary freedman says:

    I’m sure certain elements of the audience just loved this. Sarcasm.

  7. Screenname says:

    Kosky speaks here NYT

    Wagner did not put Jews onstage,” said Mr. Kosky, the first Jewish director to work at Bayreuth in the festival’s 141-year history. “Beckmesser is not a Jew. Wagner’s too clever for that.” But along with Mime and Alberich, hated figures from Wagner’s “Ring” cycle, Beckmesser is, Mr. Kosky added, a figure who is “marinated in the juices of 19th-century anti-Semitism, and consciously and unconsciously Wagner and his audience knew that
    .”

    1. Anon says:

      In fact (I know, that word is charged these days), the 19th century was the century which saw the liberation of the Jews from the ghetto and their – in many aspects successful – assimilation as equals among equals. So when one calls on the haunting ghosts of “the 19th century anti-semitism” is must be put into that context, a disturbance in a generally positive development at its time. Century old resentments (on both sides) didn’t disappear within a few decades, as Wagner himself made evident.

  8. Wiener says:

    Oh Gott, wann ist endlich die Zeit dieser Nazi vorbei.

  9. Anon says:

    “Sometimes a Beckmesser is just a Beckmesser.”
    Sigmund Freud

    1. Mike Schachter says:

      I always thought it highly unlikely that Beckmesser could be Jewish, how could a Jew be a leading member of a 16th century Nurnberg guild? Was a Jew ever a member of a guild anywhere in what is now called early modern Europe?

  10. Anon says:

    Mr. Lebrecht, you didn’t realize the joke Kosky was pulling on you, your misconception, by using that HOT AIR balloon which then deflates…

  11. Helene Kamioner says:

    the Yiddish word for celebration is “simcha”….I personally would like to take this opportunity to thank Katharina Wagner for creating this celebration of a great work of music and bringing a, as Goldmann of the NYTimes put it, “gay, Jewish kangaroo” to the Gruener Huegill. The lady is doing an A+ job, and most of the critics, at least the German ones are loving it….at least Manuel Brug from Die Welt, Bernd Feuchtner, Bernahrd Neuhoff, usw. usw….. any Jewish critics?

    1. Anon says:

      This is a thread about Meistersinger, not about Tristan. And why are you constantly enforcing segregation, driving a divide between Jewish and non-Jewish opera critics even? Strange mindset.

      1. Helene Kamioner says:

        Anon, I wonder why you remind me that the thread is about Meistersinger, not Tristan? I suppose I ask about Jewish opera critics because there was time when there were many before 1933 and wonder if there is a resurgence in the field, particularly in Germany, as the country is so immersed in opera making. I apologize if this offends or bores you. As I’m a press agent of Polish, German and Jewish heritage, and there was such a brouhaha about Barrie Kosky’s religious affiliations as a Jewish director in Bayreuth, by the press in general, I wonder about Jewish opera critics too…Thanks for your patience.

        1. Anon says:

          Most opera critics in Germany, I know quite a few of them, have no strong religious affiliations anyway. So why should a Jewish religious affiliation matter much? It’s almost hundred years later since that time you evoke. Some progress has been made in regard toward freedom of religious affiliation for professions with high public visibility such as critics.
          Also, does Kosky have any major religious affiliations? I don’t think so.

          1. Yehuda says:

            He is a Seventh Day Adventist, surely.
            Anyway, Kosky’s sexuality is probably more to the point than any ‘religious affiliation’.

          2. Anon says:

            You mean, his sexuality is a strong reason the above named critics are in his favor, and the real question should be “any heterosexual critics?” Could be.

          3. Anon says:

            But in due fairness, Manuel Brug is not ‘loving it’ as Helene Kamioner above, with her zionistically tainted sunglasses, implies. Reading his review, he sees a lot of shade and little sun. He ends with the summary: “It could have been worse.” A respectful assessment of a substantial body of work, but not a declaration of love at all.

          4. Gonout Backson says:

            When an “anti-zionist” fights antisemitism : always the funniest show in town.

      2. Helene Kamioner says:

        With all due respect to Barrie Kosky, my instinct tells me he enjoys and takes pride in his jewishness. More to the point of Jewish critics however, may I suggest you have a look at
        Potter, P., 1998. Most German of the Arts: Musicology and Society from the Weimar Republic to the end of Hitler’s Reich, New Haven: Yale University Press. Michael Steinberg also gives a good edited version of the content.

        1. John Borstlap says:

          The irony is that all those German musicologists of Jewish descent – I don’t want to describe them as ‘Jewish musicologists’ because they were German, period – who celebrated the Germanness of the classical classics, were driven-out of Germany because of the ethnic paranoia. When in the USA, they preferred discussion and research and anaysis of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms to Copland and Ives, thus giving modern musicology some sort of canon of repertoire at the centre of the academic profession, with the result – radiating from academia – that German classical music was better music than the rest. A residu of their innate nationalism.

          http://orelfoundation.org/journal/journalArticle/german-speaking_musicologists_in_exile

          Later musicologists sometimes took the opposite chauvinist position like Leon Botstein who wrote disparagingly about Stefan Zweig who had dare to underplay ‘being Jewish’ in relation to European culture, and explained the Jewish contribution to 19C and early 20C musical culture as desperate attempts to make people forget that they ‘were Jewish, actually’. I think that was a more complex issue, the point being exclusion, not being Jewish as such.

          http://subterraneanreview.blogspot.nl/2017/06/culture-as-refuge.html

        2. John Borstlap says:

          I have read that Potter book, very interesting. The discourse about German classical music had some really crazy aspects, not ony in the 20th century but also in the 19th: ‘absolute music’ = the best and that happens to be music written by German composers. Where absolute music was, on the surface, supposed to be universalist (in the wake of Beethoven), it was gradually annexed as a nationalist achievement and asset. In reality, the universalist nature of absolute music leaves the soil from which it had grown behind, and then, those handful composers were not typical people of their ‘tribe’, in contrary. It is easy to see how Wagner did (not) fit within the discourse because he claimed to be ultra-German but in fact, his works cannot be pinned-down to teutonism in spite of all the tubas and trombones. Where the best of classical music reaches universal heights, national background becomes irrelevant.

          1. Anon says:

            For much of Wagner’s lifetime, there was not even a unified German national state. I’m not sure where that puts your argument.
            Also, could you name one single classical composer, in who’s case national background can be desribed as irrelevant for his creations? Only one please.

          2. Gonout Backson says:

            “Could you name one single classical composer, in who’s case national background can be desribed as irrelevant for his creations? Only one please.”

            It depends usually on what you want to prove : that Lully was Italian, or that he was French. That Chopin was Polish, or that he was French. That Handel was German, no, no – Italian, of course not – English (British?).

          3. John Borstlap says:

            To ANON:

            Germany as a spiritual, ideal entity populated by literature, poetry, philosophy and music, was a common concern of the artistic elites from the late 18th century onwards as a compensation for the backward, splintered territory that was Germany. That is why at the end of Meistersinger Sachs says that if Germany would sink in dust, it would still exist as a musical world – all rather defensive and arguing from a subordinated position in the nationalist climate of the day.

            And a national culture can be a source of inspiration but should not be a chauvinistic label. Good art is universal and transcends such notions:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pH9qpGFlp74

  12. Michael Endres says:

    @ John Borstalp
    Thank you John Borstlap for your detailed and well informed articles, the best concise summary of this topic I have read in a while. Great to see this debate taking place on SD, reaching so many readers !
    Now lets add to this a superb ( the best IMHO ) version of the Vorspiel and be reminded of the glorious music this opera is made of.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JUqTtzovbw

    1. Michael Endres says:

      sorry misspelled: John Borstlap

    2. John Borstlap says:

      Thank you….. wonderful performance.

      But also very ponderous and downbeat. There is a problem with the tempo of this prelude, resulting in a performance tradition which exaggerates the monumentality on the expense of liveliness. It is known that Wagner himself in conducting his own works, preferred lively and rather quick tempi, and was always irritated when other conductors took the tempi too slow. I can no longer produce the source, but I read that Wagner expressed regret about his tempo indication above the Meistersinger Prelude – I think it was in Cosima’s diaries – but since it has been in print already for so long it appeared to be impossible to change it. In the score it says: ‘Sehr mässig bewegt’, which is: in a very moderate tempo, which says nothing and inspires for slowness. He should have written: ‘Allegro moderato maestoso’ then he would have had both the monumentality and the lively tempo, as Fritz Reiner understood very well:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCvrbQrC2sM

      1. Michael Endres says:

        Interesting…
        Reiner’s version is indeed quite fast, but still full of downbeats and some pretty harsh playing ( all that chord separating in the beginning, the non legato playing, sounds like a military march, which this Vorspiel certainly is not ).
        I don’t feel a “Schwung” ( a sort of vibrant ryhthmic bounce ), but more being aboard an Express train.

        Whereas Karajan, though much slower in his Dresden recording, employs much more coherent phrasing, an overall softer, legato attack and following lines rather than downbeats, creating these endless long lines which are so crucial in Wagner. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OUarKeg0cjc

        And there is ( the very slow ) Glenn Gould, who seems to catch the spirit of this Vorspiel perfectly and pinpoints at its polyphony.
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjIX9mwcyPE

        I like Tennstedt because of its raw, searing tension and the honesty of his music making ( there is no feeling of pounderousness in his conducting ever ), and I don’t hear too many downbeats, just the right amount.

        1. John Borstlap says:

          I referred to the Reiner in particular because of the tempo, the flaws as catalogued above seem to me true as well. Good music holds more aspects than can be expressed in one single performance, hence the different possibilities of interpretation. Too slow tempo bogs down the music, in my opinion, and makes it seem more teutonic than classicist, which was the composer’s intention, by writing an opera in a sort of neo-baroque style.

      2. Sixtus says:

        The source is Wagner’s extensive discussion on tempo modifications in the Meistersinger Overture contained in his Über das Dirigieren (On Conducting), a must-read for any would-be Wagner conductor. There he says that in the “old scheme” (i.e. tempo indications in Italian) ‘Sehr mässig bewegt’ would have been ‘Allegro maestoso.’ He then goes on an extended rant, as we would say today, on how this basic tempo is nuanced by changing the number of beats per bar gestured by the conductor in response to the melodic and textural content of the music.

        It has been decades since I did my research in this area but I seem to recall somewhere in Wagner’s vast literary output or correspondence he mentions that the Meistersinger Overture should take around 9 minutes. VERY few performances nowadays are that quick.

        On second thought, the 9-minute timing may be from one of Felix Weingartner’s books, such as his On Conducting or his somewhat notorious pamphlet on Bayreuth.

        1. Sixtus says:

          Addendum: in the fascinating 1895 “Metronomie Experimentale” by Alvin & Prieur (available now at Google Books), they give timings for the Meistersinger Overture (up to the entrance of the chorus) measured at two performances by Felix Mottl, a crucial member of the Cosima’s favorite Wagner conductors. At Bayreuth on 14 August 1892 it took 610 seconds (10 minutes, 10 seconds) while in Munich on 21 September 1893 it took 540 seconds (nine minutes exactly). That works out, they calculate, to a quarter note = 87 vs a quarter note = 98.

          1. John Borstlap says:

            All very interesting. The ca. 9 minutes are what Fritz Reiner does in his recording as mentioned above.

  13. Edgar says:

    Shirley Apthorp’s review, which I read moments ago (circumventing FT’s pay threshold by googling “Financial Times Bayreuth review”), is remarkable for its lack of depth and sophistication. Any high school student attending Meistersinger could have written such a piece, or even a better one, after consulting the essays in the program book (in German, English, and French) in addition to attentively attend the performance. I did not attend, but listened to the live broadcast online at home in New England, including to the intermission interviews with several of the singers as well as members of the production team, and a post-performance gathering of three critics. I spent time yesterday reading several reviews online in German: Der Spiegel, die Zeit, Tagesspiegel Berlin, Frankfurter Allgemeine, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Neue Zuercher Zeitung, etc. Much more substance than the poor FT piece, which barely scratches the surface of Kosky’s multi-layered approach. Maybe Frau Apthorp was writing from England, listening to the radio transmission like me? Never mind. I am intrigued enough to contact Bayreuth and ask them whether I can purchase the program book. Obviously, this new Meistersinger has ignited a lively, thorough critical discussion – except in the Financial Times.

    1. Martin Atherton says:

      I couldn’t agree more. My appreciation of the FT for regularly sending a reviewer to events like this is virtually wiped out by Ms Apthorp’s regularly third-rate output. I have never known her write anything interesting or unpredictable after a performance at a major festival like Bayreuth or Salzburg and I wonder why she bothers to go if they so routinely disappoint. Or perhaps, on reflection, I can figure that out after all.

  14. Helene Kamioner says:

    Ah to be a fly one the wall at a Bayreuther Press Conference, but will have to content my self with youtube

    Barrie Koskys “Meistersinger” in Bayreuth – YouTube
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXy9C-37D6o
    Eigentlich wollte der jüdische Opernregisseur Barrie Kosky Wagner nicht mehr inszenieren. Doch als die Festspiele ihm ausgerechnet die “Meistersinger .

  15. Gonout Backson says:

    “Eigentlich wollte der jüdische Opernregisseur Barrie Kosky Wagner nicht mehr inszenieren….” and so he didn’t, but got paid for it as if he had.

    Several weeks ago Mr Tcherniakov declared that he didn’t want to stage Carmen, because he hates the bloody thing, so he rewrote it from top to bottom, called it “Bizet : Carmen” and got paid as if it actually was.

    Last year Mr. Warlikowski declared that Haendel’s Il Trionfo del Tempo is no better than some stalinist propaganda, then he displayed his contempt for it on stage, called it “Handel : Il Trionfo del Tempo”, and then got paid as if it was.

    The list of these poor, poor people, staging all these pieces of crap and suffering hell while doing it, could go on forever.

    Unless someone, finally, puts an end to their ordeal.

    1. John Borstlap says:

      They should all be arrested, locked-up and be forced to listen 10,000 times to John Cage’s 4’33”.

      1. Gonout Backson says:

        I bet it’s their favorite music anyway.

      2. Anon says:

        They would give even silence a bad name.

  16. Patrick Gillot says:

    well another pedantic music ignorant little guy from nowhere having no idea about what to do for the staging comes with a marvelous idea: as Wagner was anti-semitic lets bring Adolf and the Jews in his Meistersinger. Most of the newspaper ignorant will celebrate the fantastic power of this idea. Unfortunately we already saw that crap in Stephan Herrheim crappy Parsifal a few seasons ago at Bayreuth. So nothing new just a bit of Goebbels-Jdanov type of propaganda. When are these morons stopping to bore us?

    1. Martin Atherton says:

      Really? You think Herheim’s ‘Parsifal’ was “crappy”? One of the most interesting stagings of anything in recent years? Penetrating and pertinent ideas brilliantly realised and sustained? Oh dear. Your description of Barrie Kosky doesn’t exactly ring true either.

      1. Gonout Backson says:

        Herheim’s Parsifal’s – very intelligent, sometimes beautiful. There’s only one problem : Parsifal is a story – which Herheim chose not to tell, preferring his own “notes and comments”.

        Just check : when, for the last time, have you seen an opera production where the story was told as it had been written. Directly, “naively” so to speak. These people would rather die than to be caught doing this, and then Mrs Shirley Apthorp would condemn such a production as “anecdotic”.

    2. Gonout Backson says:

      Only as long as theatres and festivals (i.e. their directions) shall keep inviting them and buying this kind of sham. Four years ago there was an infamous Tannhäuser in Düsseldorf where the director (a certain Kosminski) went much, much farther than Kosky and Herheim. The directors of the Deutsche Oper am Rhein have seen his crap before the opening night, accepted it – and then dropped it after two or three performances because of the scandal (the rest of the planned performances have been given in concert form). The Generalintendant who spent the “taxpayer’s money” for this, who didn’t have the courage to fire Kosminski in the first place, and then to stand by his artistic choices, this is still running the theatre. Of course, he’s not a musician.

  17. Helene Kamioner says:

    Kosky won the award for Best Director at the 2014 International Opera Awards.[10]

    Commenting on the leading positions held by Jews in the Berlin cultural institutions, Kosky, who depicts himself as a “gay Jewish kangaroo”, said : “the more Jews the better in Berlin — bring it on! If you look at Berlin before the war, all the theatres were owned by Jews, it was like Broadway. They say that half the orchestras were full of Jewish musicians, all the major theatre directors were Jews.”

    1. Helene Kamioner says:

      As Mr.LeBrecht says, it is a Jewish Problem, afterall……


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