Wagner on opera directors, conductors and artists

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday, 15 August 2011 | 6:35:00 am

With Bayeuth's new "season" near completion there has been much discussion about opera productions -especially productions of Wagner's operas. When discussing the productions of agents provocateurs especially, a recurrent theme or phrase heard is, "Yes, but Wagner was an innovator and would have enjoyed and applauded many of these productions." . While there is little argument that Wagner was an innovator - and may well have done things differently in this century - "narrative cohesion" seemed always to remain important to him (there is a strong argument after all that this is central to his work). Also, another part of this discussion is that "audiences get the productions they deserve". With both thoughts in mind, I thought  this discussion of a  recently attended production of "The Magic Flute"  between "R", Cosima and others in 1872 might be of interest:


"In the evening Die Zauberflote - appalling. Not a singer of talent, a stupid conductor and the stamp of vulgarity on everything - here it is the opulent broker who sets the tone. When R talks to people about this they say the audience is such an such. "Don't talk to me about audiences" R replies "That is a world one does not criticise, but accepts just as it is; the fault lies entirely with the artists - they can seize an audience purely for the entertainment and raise it up. An audience does at least show a lively interest in everything; if a few people turn head over heels, it does at any rate laugh, which means it is better than these pygmies of conductors and producers, who don't know that when the Queen of the Night appears, it must be night on the stage - one must put out the lights. Just as in the church - when things are done properly, as they seldom are - a soul finds refuge from the petty pressures of its own miseries, so in the theatre the audience is raised up by the means of its desire to enjoy itself." Sunday December 1 1872