In order for a work of performing art to be maintained in a living condition, it needs to be refreshed in the styles of times. The concerns close to people's heart, the joys and fears of the common man change with the passage of eras. A presentation of a work, no matter how vivid and appropriate within the context of a particular time, tends to fade away in relevance in the face of a new period.
These were the thoughts invoked as I left the theatre after attending the performance of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Bayreuth Festspiele, on 14th August 2009), conducted by Sebastian Weigle and directed by Katharina Wagner.
Katharina Wagner's Meistersinger premiered in July 2007. It was heavily booed. The fact that people boo certain productions is a testimony that opera is taken very seriously. The production of Der Ring der Nibelungen directed by Patrice Chéreau and conducted by Pierre Boulez, for example, was booed on the first night to such an extent that it became a scandal. The perception of the audience can then go through a dramatic transfiguration. In its final staging in 1980, on the night of Götterdämmerung, Chéreau and Boulez's Ring received 101 curtain calls which lasted for 90 minutes.
It remains to be seen how Katharina's production will be finally received. It is certainly a very interesting production. It is, which is important more than anything else, also very courageous. The fact that the great granddaughter of Richard Wagner is bold enough to try this brand new philosophy of staging is reassuring for the future of the Bayreuth festival.
Katharina herself says thus. “Being booed belongs to the job description of a director.” ( New York times, July 31, 2007)
The progress of the human spirit is a very complex and dynamic process. Booings and bravos are the fuels that propel its procession.
Image from Katharina Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, from Wagneropra.net