The Wagner Journal

Flagging Unity: Mark Berry is unimpressed by recent revivals of ‘Meistersinger’ and ‘Rienzi’ in Berlin

Flagging Unity: Mark Berry is unimpressed by recent revivals of ‘Meistersinger’ and ‘Rienzi’ in Berlin

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Reviews of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, directed Moses, conducted Barenboim, Berlin Staatsoper, 2019; Rienzi, directed Stölzl, conducted Rogister, Deutsche Oper Berlin, 2019.

July 2019, Volume 13, Number 2, 72–7.

‘Die Zeit, die ist ein sonderbar Ding,’ sings Strauss’s Marschallin: a truth that seems to grow truer with every year. More prosaically, and more specifically, we might also say that openings and reopenings, constructions and reconstructions, creations and recreations, unifications and reunifications are strange things: rarely what they seem, and rarely what the fashionable, the non-critical presume them to be. Such ideas lie at the heart of Die Meistersinger: at its core, concerned with the ongoing creation and performance of a song, within a society that has both placed such endeavour at its heart and also done its utmost to thwart the same. Perhaps all societies, at least all bourgeois societies – what could be more bürgerlich than this early modernity created and recreated by the 19th century? – are like that. As Schiller and Marx, Wagner insisted that left to his own devices, man – woman too? – would create as an artist; as all three lamented, that ‘natural’ state of affairs rarely, if ever, pertained. At best, a higher, mediated state of unity might be achieved; but how?

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