Wagner's Meistersinger

Wagner's Meistersinger: Performance, History, Representation

Edited by Nicholas Vazsonyi
Copyright Date: 2002
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 256
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt14brt2d
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  • Book Info
    Wagner's Meistersinger
    Book Description:

    Richard Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg has been one of the most performed operas ever since its premiere in 1868. It was adopted as Germany's national opera ("Nationaloper"), not least because of its historical coincidence with the unification of Germany under Bismarck in 1871. The first section of this volume, "Performing Meistersinger," contains three commissioned articles from internationally respected artists - a conductor (Peter Schneider), a stage director (Harry Kupfer) and a singer (Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau), all experienced in the performance of this unusually demanding 5-hour work. The second section, "Meistersinger and History," examines both the representation of German history in the opera and the way the opera has functioned in history through political appropriation and staging practice. The third section, "Representations," is the most eclectic, exploring in the first place the problematic question of genre from the perspective of a theatrical historian. The chronic issue of Wagner's chief opponent, Eduard Hanslick, and his musical and dramatic representation in the opera as Beckmesser, is then addressed, as are gender issues, and Wagner's own utterances concerning the opera. Contributors: Nicholas Vazsonyi, Peter Schneider, Harry Kupfer, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Hans Rudolf Vaget, Lutz Koepnick, David B. Dennis, Klaus Van Den Berg, Thomas S. Grey, Lydia Goehr, Eva Rieger, Peter Höyng. Nicholas Vazsonyi is Associate Professor of German and Comparative Literature, University of South Carolina.

    eISBN: 978-1-58046-616-5
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Introduction. Die Meistersinger: Performance, History, Representation
    (pp. 1-20)
    Nicholas Vazsonyi

    Few personalities in cultural memory provide such ideal ground for interdisciplinary, or at least multidisciplinary, consideration as Richard Wagner, arguably the most significant composer this side of Beethoven. There is Wagner the musical innovator with a genius for evocative and sensuous sounds, Wagner the avant-garde dramatist with conservative tastes, Wagner the anti-Semite with Jewish friends, the nationalist political pamphleteer who associated with Marx and Bakhunin, the transcendent romanticist with a keen eye for business, the womanizing egotist, chased by creditors but with a king in the palm of his hands, worshipped and loathed by Nietzsche, Wagner the founder of the...

  5. I. Performing (in) Die Meistersinger

    • 1 “Climbing Mount Everest”: On Conducting Die Meistersinger
      (pp. 23-38)
      Peter Schneider

      Following this advice from Act III ofDie Meistersinger von Nürnberg,I would like to propose the following “rule”: to portray as uncomplicatedly and clearly as possible the thoughts, feelings, observations, and experiences of a conductor in his work with Wagner’sMeistersingerbefore and during a performance of the work. The feelings that dominate one right before the performance can, in my opinion, be no better described and compared than with those of a mountain climber who, standing at the foot of one of the Himalayan peaks, sets out on his climb. A great deal of preparation is necessary to...

    • 2 “We Must Finally Stop Apologizing for Die Meistersinger!”: A Conversation with Harry Kupfer
      (pp. 39-50)
      Harry Kupfer, Manfred Haedler and Walter Rösler

      Mr. Kupfer, you have staged Wagner’s works fromDer fliegende HolländertoParsifal.Where do you thinkDie Meistersingerfits into Wagner’s oeuvre?

      The great political and philosophical dimension, which theRingopens up, is portrayed on a very individual level inTristan.The destruction of people by people themselves takes shape inTristanthrough lies, untruths, and social convention. By contrast, in the miraculous work ofDie Meistersingerone finds these problems overcome. This is especially the case in the wonderful figure of Hans Sachs who is truly a democratic personality. After an intense internal struggle he comes to...

    • 3 Richard Wagner’s Cobbler Poet
      (pp. 51-55)
      Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau

      Hans Sachs inDie Meistersinger von Nürnbergmay well be considered the most demanding and extensive among the roles Richard Wagner assigns the singer-actor—and not only those for baritones. According to international stage convention, the cobbler poet from Nürnberg belongs to the same voice type as Wotan, in other words that of theHeldenbariton.But when the two roles are compared with regard to vocal requirements, an essential difference soon becomes apparent.

      Some singers might ascribe little significance to the slight difference in voice type that Wagner identifies in thedramatis personae,where Wotan is classified as “High Bass”...

    • 4 The Dangers of Satisfaction: On Songs, Rehearsals, and Repetition in Die Meistersinger
      (pp. 56-70)
      Lydia Goehr

      Topsy Turvyis a recent British film about the operetta composers Gilbert and Sullivan, a marvelous portrayal of nineteenth-century English musical theater. In one scene we are shown a rehearsal for the singers, an early stage in the production of theMikadowhen they are still learning their parts. We are shown a scene rehearsed several times. In a sense the rehearsals do not go right: the singers fail to capture the “Japanese manner.” But by the time of the first performance they more or less succeed. What is interesting about the scene is that no exaggeration is given to...

  6. II. History in/of Die Meistersinger

    • 5 Stereoscopic Vision: Sight and Community in Die Meistersinger
      (pp. 73-97)
      Lutz Koepnick

      It has become a commonplace among Wagner scholars to consider Sachs’s interpretation of Walther’s song—“It sounded so old / and yet it was so new”²—as the key to both the musical style and the political program ofDie Meistersinger von Nürnberg.According to scholars like Carl Dahlhaus and Theodor W. Adorno, Wagner’sDie Meistersingerrelies on modern compositional practices in order to conjure the impression of older musical idioms. Following Wagner’s own aesthetic precisely, the music ofDie Meistersingerdisguises reflection and technique as nature and spontaneity. In order to become art and interlock the archaic and the...

    • 6 “The Most German of all German Operas”: Die Meistersinger through the Lens of the Third Reich
      (pp. 98-119)
      David B. Dennis

      In college classrooms across the United States, a common feature of many courses covering modern German history is a screening of Leni Riefenstahl’s propaganda film promoting the 1934 Nazi Party rally at Nürnberg. UsuallyTriumph des Willens(Triumph of the Will), which includes no narration, is presented with commentary by instructors or explanatory notes. These explications often include assertions that the music accompanying Riefenstahl’s opening imagery comes from Richard Wagner’sDie Meistersinger von Nürnberg: “For 68 seconds the screen remains dark. From this cinematic ‘void’ there gradually emerges the solemn, swelling sound of the overture from Wagner’sMastersingers of Nuremberg,”...

    • 7 http://worldwidewagner.richard.de: An Interview with the Composer Concerning History, Nation, and Die Meistersinger
      (pp. 120-142)
      Peter Höyng

      You might have been as surprised as I when it turned out that I would be interviewing Richard Wagner. You might also imagine my excitement, sense of anticipation, even anxiety. Would I come across like a Sixtus Beckmesser, the pedantic fool mixing up his lines in an attempt to woo not Eva this time but the author and composer himself? Or would I seem as critical, even sarcastic, as Friedrich Nietzsche in his polemicDer Fall Wagner? Only when I recalled how this most unlikely circumstance came about did I grow calmer, a story I would like to share with...

  7. III. Representation and/in Die Meistersinger

    • 8 Die Meistersinger as Comedy: The Performative and Social Signification of Genre
      (pp. 145-164)
      Klaus van den Berg

      The chapter titled “Meistersinger-Staat” in Joachim Köhler’s controversial bookWagner’s Hitlerexamines how Nazi ideologues appropriated and enlarged upon the utopian potential embedded in Wagner’s comic operaDie Meistersinger von Nürnbergby exploiting its material to turn public occasions such as party rallies into cultural performances.¹ Notwithstanding the grand sweep ofDer Ring des Nibelungen,the revolutionary musical power ofTristan and Isolde,and the mysticism ofParsifal,Köhler insists that it was the utopian vision ofMeistersingeras comedy that most inspired Hitler and the Nazis to make it the centerpiece of their social and cultural thinking.² This appropriation...

    • 9 Masters and their Critics: Wagner, Hanslick, Beckmesser, and Die Meistersinger
      (pp. 165-189)
      Thomas S. Grey

      New Year’s Day, 1869. In the very first entry of her voluminous diaries, Cosima Wagner reported on the progress of Richard’s current projects, as she would continue to do faithfully for another fourteen years. Interspersed with prefatory remarks about her own great undertaking (the diaries) and a record of domestic details, we read that Richard is working on his fair copy of the now completed second act ofSiegfriedand “completing his essay on the Jews.” “Before lunch (at one o’clock) my beloved read me what he had written. At table, he told me more of the range of his...

    • 10 “Du warst mein Feind von je”: The Beckmesser Controversy Revisited
      (pp. 190-208)
      Hans Rudolf Vaget

      No opera takes us to the dark heart of the matter that we associate with German history more directly than doesDie Meistersinger von Nürnberg.Of the many questions posed by that history, the thorniest may well be the role played by high culture, and specifically by music, in the rise of National Socialism. In the immediate aftermath of World War II and long thereafter, most commentators on the “German problem” tended to argue that Adolf Hitler and Nazism marked a complete break with the great cultural achievements of Germany’s past. In the last two decades, notably since 1986, when...

    • 11 “I Married Eva”: Gender Construction and Die Meistersinger
      (pp. 209-225)
      Eva Rieger

      The German press recently reported on a study that examined whether or not equal rights had made it into the home. Although wives claimed that their husbands did half the housework, statistics revealed that, on the weekends, women took on these chores as a matter of course irrespective of any additional work they may have had. Thus women had a greater burden without even being aware of it. The fact that women have always been responsible for the household has effectively blurred their vision. Embedded traditions and ideologies also affect the objectivity of scholarly investigations and result in flawed studies....

  8. Works Cited
    (pp. 226-238)
  9. Contributors
    (pp. 239-241)
  10. Index
    (pp. 242-247)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 248-248)