Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Festival Première on 29th June 2004 at the Nationaltheater
Eva Walch. Richard Wagner "Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg"
"Munich, Royal Court and National Theatre. Sunday, the 21st of June, 1868, non-subscription performance. For the first time: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg". These were the opening words on the program 136 years ago, and since then this opera has come down through the ages as the same smash hit it was way back then, and not just in Munich, even if many of the new productions the work has experienced habe not been met with cheers of jubilation. So much is different today.
We take our cue from Wagner's injunction: "Children! Do something new! New! and once again new!" when we approach his operas with new scenic and musical ideas and interpretations. For all of this we don't really need this justification from the creator, because Wagner's master(singer)work itself veritably cries out for an interpretation that takes the present day into account while referring back to its own time and pointing the way to the future, rethinking it and translating it into the scenic language of our own time.
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg is an opera about now. Nürnberg was and is Germany, or better yet: a community that concerns us all. Hans Sachs was and is the artist with ties to the bourgeoisie, or better yet: a bourgeois individual who acts with intelligence, imagination and a sense of social responsibility. This art Nürnberg (also in the sense of artificial) is in a crisis, it is stagnating, the men at the top have moved away from the people, they are unloved. The good rules and regulations they gave themselves a long time ago prevent forward motion, stimulation and renewal. Art, the art of government, has become the prerogative of a small, influential élite, the masters. One of them, Pogner, makes a generous proposal, to win new appreciation for art. The proposal of another man, Sachs, to let the people have a voice in the decision-making process, is rejected. And so there would be no renewal - despite the magnanimous prize, Eva - were it not for the arrival of yet another person, a stranger. And this stranger, Stolzing, will only be able to establish this something new, this new art in the face of huge opposition, the only way to integrate it is with struggle and uproar - and with love - and with the cunning of the great mediator Sachs - and with the consent of the people. At the decisive moment, swept along or overrun by events and emotions, the influential men at the top suspend their rules and regulations and accept the new art as an impetus to reform their imperfect democracy.
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg is an opera about now. It is a trade-mark opera, frequently understood and performed as a national and festival opera, and - time and again - as an opera to open opera houses. After initially describing it as a Comic Opera and a Grand Comic Opera, Wagner finally decided to drop all the subtitles and thus gave us all the more freedom while imposing all the more responsibility in the interpretation of his masterwork, the only one he himself provided with that description.
English translation by Donald Arthur
© Bavarian State Opera