Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Herheim's Critics

After many years I realized that a typical operagoer is conservative, self-absorbed and very superficial. Most of the critics are like that too, with a major difference that they go public with their opinions that are often unfounded or based on personal misunderstanding of what they could see.

Last night I was able to see the new production of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, directed by Stefan Herheim, and once again I was amazed by his [Stefan's] wittiness, dexterity, and his musicality in presenting any opera he decides to put on stage. If I had more time in the days to come I'll write a few paragraphs about the show.

This morning I just googled to see if the people saw the show and if they saw the masterful quality of the direction of the opera that includes a very awkward and cringeworthy monolog at the end. The first thing popped up on my google list was this review and after having read it I could not force myself to read anything else. It's the stupidity of that review that annoys me the most. In the same text the author --who qualifies this Meistersinger as 'confusing'-- astonished us by confessing that he actually liked Herheim's production of Parsifal - sic! How is that possible?


  1. Reading reviews is sort of like hitting oneself with a hammer because it feels good when you stop. The clue to stop reading this review is in the first paragraph, where reviewer reveals his prejudice:

    "Meistersinger...which should communicate with radiant emotional and intellectual simplicity."


  2. Ah, there are always some who understand the music better:

  3. Sorry, Opera-Cake, but this time I don't agree with you at all - and sorry again, but I'm definitively not a conservative opera-goer (by the way, Herheim is an idol for many conservative opera-goers as well). For me it's Herheim's show that's superficial and conservative - or better: utterly opportunist. You put symbols everywhere on the stage to please the "intellectual" part of the audience, but you make sure you please the "Staubis" (as the German say...) by putting a decorative stage design. Moreover, I didn't find it particularly well realized, with poor acting in particular. And I don't how the staging of the last monologue is supposed to create a distance to the frightful associations we all get at this point. Herheim is restoration, not modernity. It's a coproduction with Nicolas Joel's Paris Opera: that says all.

    1. I question the bit about Herheim's not creating a "distance to the frightful associations." I think what he does is tactful and subtle: by narrowing the light to Sachs himself, the suggestion is that the statement about "heil'ge deutsche Kunst" should be taken similarly narrowly, i.e., as a political and aesthetic statement relevant to the first half of the 19th century in Germany and not in the broader and more "frightful" sense.

      We have productions that interpret that line as something ominous and frightening, e.g., Katharina Wagner's for Bayreuth, and I think most informed operagoers are aware of the associations you mention. So I don't see why every production of Meistersinger must plug away at that one association: there are a variety of interpretations, and Herheim chooses a different, less dark one. I think the point of view he takes is particularly apt given the general concept of the production, i.e., the relationship between dreaming and artistic inspiration.

      As to the overacting, I agree that Herheim's "big" acting doesn't always come across well in video closeups, but in my experience it plays entertainingly and movingly even in a smallish theater.

  4. One of the most moronic reviews I have yet to read - even from the very same person who reviewed Gawain and complained that it wasn't like Donizetti or Abba! (The previous time around, he ranted about hating Birtwistle's music and the allegedly poor quality of the Royal Opera House's bar service.) I managed to see the final performance, on 27th, and thought it every bit up to Herheim's usual standard; I have now penned my thoughts in the usual place...

  5. Mark,

    Regarding the comment in your review, "It is certainly not the only way to perform Die Meistersinger, but the scattered boos Gatti – uniquely and undeservedly – suffered seemed more likely to have emanated from those who thought the work ‘must’ sound like a particular recording or misremembered performance from a ‘golden’ age that never was than from thoroughgoing critique."

    My thoughts exactly when leaving the theater.

  6. Fantastic I managed to see the final performance, on 27th, and thought it every bit up to Herheim's usual standard; I have now penned my thoughts in the usual place...

  7. Hope you are not with this blog as I have enjoyed reading it for a couple of years, and I miss what you say and the topics you say them on - terrible sentence, but I hope you get it. Please come back