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The German stereotypes that turn out to be myths

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday 27 May 2013 | 3:48:00 am

Hard-working, efficient, humourless. There are many dubious stereotypes about Germany and its people. The build-up to this month's celebrations marking the 200th anniversary of Wagner's birth helped Stephen Evans realise how often he got it wrong.

I happened to be chatting to the intendant of the Deutsche Oper the other day, as you do - the director of the Deutsche Oper, one of the world's big opera houses.

And I thought I would have a bit of go, having just seen a production of Wagner's Tristan and Isolde which irritated me.

Tristan and Isolde, you see, is to me - and to Wagner - all about Celtic myth and Cornish kings. But this production was set on an ocean liner with naked drug addicts wandering across the stage.

I can take a bit of radical opera production as much as the next opera buff but this, I felt, was too much - classic German opera production up its own bottom. I scoffed from the cheap seats.

So, given the chance to meet the man at the helm, I spoke my mind.

"Why do you Germans have to have productions which are so outrageous?" I asked him.

This, by the way, was before the recent Tannhauser in Dusseldorf featuring Nazis murdering Jews which got the audience booing within 30 minutes and the production pulled within a week.

So, why, I wanted to know, was Germany so in thrall to radical productions such as the Tristan for which his company was currently responsible.

He paused, put down his delicate coffee cup, looked at me and said: "That production was done by a British director."

I had not noticed, but so it was. Graham Vick, actually.

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