Bayreuth (dpa) – If an opera production improves and grows in importance as it lasts, this means above all one thing: that the director recognized and grasped a development very early on, that reality has caught up with scenic reality.
For few productions, this is as true as for “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg” by Barrie Kosky at the Bayreuth Festival. Much has happened in Germany since Kosky, the first Jewish director in festival history, with his performance in 2017 asking uncomfortable questions for the first time about Richard Wagner’s anti-Semitic feelings and the history of the festival. festival, probably that of Adolf Hitler. favorite musical event.
A right-wing extremist attempted to storm the Halle synagogue and killed two people in the process. Anti-Semitic incidents occurred in Germany during the violent conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip in May this year. Hatred and acts of violence against Jews have become frightening regularities – and former President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Charlotte Knobloch, recently pointed out that young Jews in particular are increasingly thinking of leaving the country. country.
And so, on Monday evening at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, the feeling sets in, the great clock that dominates the landscape of the Kosky production, moving back and forth and finally stopping at a quarter to midnight – it seems to be spinning more and more. faster. Back in full swing to a dark past. In one of the key scenes, the singers on stage shout out to the audience, “Wake up!” Hurry up.
Kosky stages Wagner’s only comic opera as a harsh tale of bullying, in which the victim is the only Jewish character in the play. With Kosky, Wagner is identical to his alter ego Hans Sachs (Michael Volle) from the “Meistersänger”. It also reunites Jewish conductor Hermann Levi and the opera’s Beckmesser into one figure – much like lead female character Eva (Camilla Nylund) and Richard Wagner’s wife, Cosima.
The setting begins cozy in the Wahnfried house, where Wagner celebrates his little whims (enthusiasm for dogs, penchant for perfumes with questionable smells and consumption of all kinds) and takes up Levi the Jew with just as much tenderness – and ends in the Nuremberg war crimes trial hall.
There, the Jew Levi becomes Beckmesser, the juror of the singing competition. For Kosky, he is the central figure of opera. When Beckmesser is finally attacked and beaten by a mob after countless taunts from Sachs (lyrics almost always follow deeds), Kosky gives him the mask of a Jewish cartoon – and blows him up again. Kosky also asks the audience the uncomfortable question: How do you deal with this contrast? And how – especially at times like these – to deal with the work of an anti-Semite?
There is applause for minutes after the performance – especially for Volle as Thing and Klaus Florian Vogt as Stolzing – and lonely and expected boos for Kosky and a few unexpected ones for conductor Philippe Jordan. Traditionally, the conductors of Bayreuth have had a much easier time with the public than the directors.
Much of the applause goes to a man who wasn’t actually scheduled for the performance: Danish opera singer Bo Skovhus, who literally saved the opera night at the last second. Because Beckmesser actor Johannes Martin Kränzle couldn’t sing in poor health, Skovhus helped in the short term. He sang from the edge of the stage while Kränzle played in silence. Skovhus had only arrived immediately before his performance, the festival wondering if it would arrive on time.
He also received a grateful applause – not only from the audience, but from the entire team around director Kosky, who will be sorely absent from Bayreuth’s repertoire for years to come.