Do not despise the masters…

“Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg” in Bayreuth

Bühnentechnische Rundschau

„Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg“ is Richard Wagner’s thorniest work. For the new production at Bayreuth, the festival directors invited Barrie Kosky, artistic director of Berlin’s Komische Oper, to the Green Hill. It was an inspired move – the Australian director with a knack for light entertainment and a reputation for cheeky, musical-loving theatre, cleverly updated the piece. Brilliantly assisted by stage designer Rebecca Ringst and costume designer Klaus Bruns, he set the action in Richard Wagner’s day.

“Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg” was the new production for this year’s Bayreuth Festival. Ingeniously staged by Barrie Kosky, the opera about a medieval singers’ contest – under musical director Philippe Jordan – intertwined Wagner’s day with the Middle Ages and the Nuremberg Trials. This historically complex version set the action in Wagner’s grand home, Villa Wahnfried, with his wife Cosima, her father Franz Liszt and other historical figures appearing in a kind of play within the play. The singers’ contest is held in a reconstruction of the hall where the Nuremberg Trials took place, alluding to the close connection between the Wagner family and Germany’s 20th century Fascist leaders. An inflatable head, representing a caricature of a Jew, refers to Wagner’s anti-Semitism. Humour and provocation, then, are intimate bedfellows in this extraordinary production.

The second part of our report describes the construction of the set and especially the gigantic inflatable head. The stage set by Rebecca Ringst, designed for “Die Meistersinger” 2017 in Bayreuth, starts in the salon of Villa Wahnfried, Richard Wagner’s home. This room can be accessed from the back and from below-stage and is set into a larger cabinet which the audience barely notices at first. Later, the room – 10.5 m wide, 6.65 m high and 7.23 m deep – with a total weight of distinctly more than ten tons, is drawn back across the stage to reveal the ‘cabinet’, a reconstruction of the courtroom at Nuremberg. The giant head appears from below-stage and is silently inflated. Care was taken to ensure that it could be inflated on stage within a minute, and that the material did not rustle too loudly when unfolding. The cross-section of the air supply was made as large as possible to ensure a lot of volume at a low flow speed. An inflatable sack was also constructed and inserted into the head; the two pieces then rise together when inflated. 

BTR Ausgabe 5 2017
Rubrik: English texts, Seite 118
von Irmgard Berner

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