Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg - Further information
World Première on 21st June 1868 at the Königliches Hof- und Nationaltheater, Munich
The Munich Opera Festival would be unthinkable without Richard Wagner’s Die
Meistersinger von Nürnberg. For years, our Festival has traditionally ended with Wagner’s comedy and, in 2004, it will also open with a new production of this great work. Last season we completed our new production of Wagner’s Ring des Nibelungen. So it is appropriate that we now turn to another of Wagner’s works that has its roots in this city and which was created for our company during the same period as the Ring.
The idea of writing a “satyr play” as a companion piece to Tannhäuser dated back to 1845, but Wagner did not begin sustained work on the project until 1866/67. The tense relationship with his patron and Ring enthusiast King Ludwig II as well as unpleasant pressure from the Munich public meant that Wagner had to leave Munich. He interrupted work on the Ring, and, instead, finished composing Meistersinger in his Swiss refuge, Triebschen, near Lucerne. The premiere on June 21st, 1868, at the Royal Court Theatre in Munich, for which Christian Wank who later drew up plans for Neuschwanstein and Linderhof was engaged as set designer at the express wish of the composer, was a sensational comeback and Wagner’s greatest artistic success during his lifetime.
Die Meistersinger is Wagner at his most atypical. The central issue is the question of artistic ethics and the moral relationship between conservatism and progress in both art and life. On the one hand there is the guild of the Mastersingers who rigidly adhere to their rules, and, on the other, the headstrong aristocrat Walther von Stolzing. Stolzing, who falls in love with Eva Pogner, is seen as the intrusive and supercilious outsider. Veit Pogner, however, has promised his daughter to the man who most successfully observes the rules of the guild in their singing competition. While the unlucky contender Sixtus Beckmesser is laughed out of court by the Nurembergers and forced to back down, Stolzing wins their admiration even though his passionate prize song contravenes the guild’s pedantic rules. In keeping with this theme Wagner tried, while composing this work, to employ a musical language that ironically quotes antique musical styles while at the same time freely absorbing contrapunctal choral form into his composition.
One of the leading Wagner interpreters of our time, Zubin Mehta, our music director, will conduct this festival premiere, which will take place on June 29th, 2004, in the Nationaltheater. The cast will be led by Jan-Hendrik Rootering as Hans Sachs, Eike Wilm Schulte as Sixtus Beckmesser and Kurt Moll as Veit Pogner. Michaela Kaune will play Eva Pogner, and Robert Dean Smith Walther von Stolzing. The director, Thomas Langhoff, made his highly acclaimed opera debut in our theatre with Berlioz’s La damnation de Faust in October 1993 (the first premiere of my era as Staatsintendant) and that production has now been taken over by the San Francisco Opera to international praise. Langhoff has also directed Weber’s Freischütz and Smetana’s Bartered Bride for the Bavarian State Opera. Gottfried Pilz will design the sets and costumes; following his success here with Prinz Friedrich von Homburg, Schlachthof 5 and Falstaff.
Sir Peter Jonas