Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, 2018

Haus Wahnfried

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, 2018

Richard Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Bayreuth Festival Germany, Saturday 11th August 2018, directed by Barrie Kosky, conducted by Philippe Jordan,reviewed by TONY COOPER

An innovative, flamboyant and quirky director, Barrie Kosky (artistic director of Komische Oper Berlin) delivered a brilliant and entertaining production of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, first seen at last year’s Bayreuth Festival.

Born in Melbourne in the late 1960s, the grandson of Jewish emigrants from Europe, his name in now indelibly linked to Bayreuth’s glorious history as he is the first Jewish director in its illustrious 142-year-old history. He is also the first person outside of the Wagner family to direct Meistersinger at Bayreuth’s Festspielhaus, built to stage Wagner’s mighty canon of Teutonic works, especially Der Ring des Nibelungen.

That constitutes a significant step by Katharina Wagner – artistic director of the Bayreuth Festival and daughter of Wolfgang Wagner and the great-grand daughter of Richard Wagner – in acknowledging Wagner’s anti-Semitic stance and his family’s later association with Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich. Ditto, the revamped exhibition focusing on the Bayreuth Festival housed in the newly-restored Villa Wahnfried, complete with a new extension, where Wagner lived with his wife Cosima and their children from 1874 to 1882. A museum since 1976 (it reopened to the public just over three years ago) this is the first time that the era of the Third Reich has found a place in the exhibition.

In Kosky’s riveting production of Die Meistersinger – a work that is essentially a hymn to the supremacy of German art – Wahnfried takes centre stage and features prominently in the first act, replacing the traditional setting of St Catherine’s Church. Here we meet Herr Wagner and his wife Cosima entertaining friends in the book-lined drawing-room, engaged in a ‘read-through’ of Meistersinger in which the Jewish conductor, Hermann Levi – who conducted the first performance of Wagner’s Christian-based and final work, Parsifal, in July 1882 – is portrayed (and humiliated) as Sixtus Beckmesser.

The pivotal role of Walther von Stolzing, portrayed as Young Wagner, was sung by a ‘favourite’ of the Green Hill, Klaus Florian Vogt. His entrance into Wahnfried’s elegantly-furnished drawing-room was unorthodox as he came by a precarious route tumbling from a model of Wagner’s Steinway Grand. Waiting for him at the other end was Eva (portrayed as Cosima) eloquently sung by American soprano, Emily Magee.

The Master Singers arrive by the same precarious route with the chains of office denoting their trade dangling from their necks, and robed in traditional processional gowns, inspired, perhaps, by the Nuremberg painter/printmaker Albrecht Dürer.

Rebecca Ringst’s sets captured the correct scale and detail of the opera’s respective scenes. For instance, Wahnfried – created as a doll’s-house box set – was as accurate as one could possibly get. So, too, was room 600 used for the Nuremberg Trials of 1945-46, while costume designer, Klaus Bruns, was just as thoughtful in his ideas and produced a good wardrobe.

Kosky gave a dramatic and stylish ending to act one as Wahnfried slowly retracted to reveal room 600 with a single GI on duty. The same set was cleverly adapted for the second act but the courtroom floor, free of furniture and completely grassed over, found Wagner and Cosima enjoying an al fresco lunch.

One of the highlights of this act was the formidable tête-à-tête between Hans Sachs (Old Wagner) – sung and brilliantly acted by Michael Volle – and Sixtus Beckmesser – sung by Johannes Martin Kränzle, whose performance was imbued with humour, trepidation and uncertainty. The scene was well executed with Sachs as always interrupting proceedings and greatly upsetting Beckmesser in the process by bumbling away with his old cobbler’s song while hammering the soles of Eva’s half-made shoes with Eva (in fact, her maid Magdalena in disguise) looking completely disinterested from the first-floor window. That inspiring Austrian bass, Günter Groissböck, stamped his authority on the role of Veit Pogner, Eva’s wealthy (and dominant) father.

When David, sung by Daniel Behle, sees Beckmesser – who in Kosky’s thinking is an epitome of everything that Wagner hated – serenading his girlfriend Magdalena (Wiebke Lehmkuhl) all hell breaks loose.

And with Kosky portraying Levi as Beckmesser, a disturbing scene brought act two to an unsettling close as Beckmesser became the target of a pogrom-style attack. The townsfolk flared up in arms egging on the forces of evil and the Bayreuth stage  was dominated by an inflatable caricature of a Jew, reminiscent of Julius Streicher’s Der Stürmer. Only the lone figure of The Nightwatchman (Tobias Kehrer), calling out the hour, restored peace and tranquillity to the neighbourhood.

The Morgentraum Quintet, arguably the composer’s greatest ensemble piece, celebrates the radiance of love and art. It was beautifully sung by the opera’s five main characters in the confines of the empty Nuremberg courtroom with the flags of the four occupying nations – the Soviet Union, Great Britain, the USA and France – unfurled and lining the back of the court.

Another great moment in the opera’s scenario was Hans Sachs’ ‘Wahn Monologue’ – a tribute to Holy German Art – also sung on a bare stage with no pageantry and colour whatsoever. It would have been different, of course, in Wagner’s day but, nonetheless, it seemed appropriate within Kosky’s staging.

Later in the same act, Sachs, in the guise of his mentor and creator, Richard Wagner, finds himself in the witness-box of courtroom 600 facing the music. Mr Kosky sprang a huge surprise here that had the audience mesmerised when an entire symphony orchestra (and chorus) – an ending of Wagnerite proportions – arrived on a slowly-moving platform to the front of the stage. The ‘musicians’ were acted but it was hard to define and became a talking-point. However, as they came into view, the walls of the courtroom slowly vanished out of sight reminiscent of the retraction of Wahnfried in the first act with room 600 slowly coming into view.

Mr Kosky has produced a Meistersinger to be proud of, which puts Richard Wagner – who considered Jews as enemies not only of German culture but of humanity – firmly in his place. But whatever brickbats you throw at him, he left a great musical legacy.

The man in charge of the pit, Swiss-born Philippe Jordan, who takes over as music director of the Vienna State Opera in 2020, made his Bayreuth début with this production last year. He kept the right balance between the pit and the stage. In the famous C major overture he let rip but in the rich and tender opening bars of act three he reigned in the orchestra enough to capture the essence, richness and beauty of Wagner’s wonderful score.

The chorus director, Eberhard Friedrich, came up trumps, too. His choral forces enjoyed their own curtain-call. The audience roared their approval for several minutes and then carried on for another 25 minutes in true Bayreuth style for the main curtain-call.

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Tony Cooper is QR’s Opera Critic

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How the Left Stole Liberalism and Betrayed the West

Ludwig von Mises

How the Left Stole Liberalism and Betrayed the West

by Ilana Mercer

Liberals have taken to promoting socialism, which is the state-sanctioned appropriation of private property. Or, communism. In communism’s parlance, this theft of a man’s life, labor and land is referred to as state-ownership of the means of production.

Liberals are less known for misappropriating intellectual concepts. But they do that, too. Take the term “liberal.” It once belonged to the good guys. But socialists, communists and Fabians stole it from us.

Having originally denoted the classical liberalism of the 18thand early 19th century, “liberal” used to be a beautiful word. However, to be a liberal now is to be a social democrat, a leftist, a BLM, antifa and MeToo movementarian; it’s to be Chris and Andrew Cuomo.

A French classical liberal, Benjamin Constant (1767-1830), explained what liberalism stood for:

Individuals must enjoy a boundless freedom in the use of their property and the exercise of their labor, as long as in disposing of their property or exercising their labor they do not harm others who have the same rights.

This is the opposite of communism aka socialism.

By harm, likewise, classical liberals mean aggression, as in damage to person or property. But to contemporary liberals, “harm” encompasses anything from Donald Trump’s delicious tweets to the economic competition posed by a kiddie lemonade stand.

In the UK, those in-the-know still use the word liberal in the right way. The august Economist—essential reading, because unlike American news outlets, it covers The News—has recently lamented that democracies are drifting towards “xenophobic nationalism,” and away from liberal ideas.

At the same time, the magazine allows that “liberalism is a broad church.” It mentions the “Austrians” as being among liberalism’s “forerunners”—a mention that gave me, a devotee of economist Ludwig von Mises, the opening that I needed.

So, let me ask the following. Have the Economist’s left-liberal editorializers (excellent writers all) read what liberal extraordinaire von Mises had to say about nationalism vis-à-vis immigration?

Mises was a Jewish classical liberal in the best of traditions—a political economist second to none. He escaped the Nazis only to be treated shoddily in the American academy, by the Fabian “forerunners” of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Another formidable, younger classical liberal thinker and friend is David Conway. Dr. Conway has argued most convincingly and methodically—he’s incapable of arguing any other way—that nationalism is in fact a condition for the emergence of liberalism.

To that end, Conway invokes Mises. In  “Liberalism: In the Classical Tradition,” published in 1927, Mises warned that,

In the absence of any migration barriers whatsoever, vast hordes of immigrants … would … inundate Australia and America. They would come in such great numbers that it would no longer be possible to count on their assimilation. If in the past immigrants to America soon adopted the English language and American ways and customs, this was in part due to the fact that they did not come over all at once in such great numbers. … This … would now change, and there is real danger that the ascendancy—or more correctly, the exclusive dominion—of the Anglo-Saxons in the United States would be destroyed.

Mises was not only a true liberal, but a master of the art of argument. Still, he didn’t imagine he needed to explain why the West had to stay Western to be free.

And in “Omnipotent Government: The Rise of the Total State and Total War,” published in 1944, Mises could not have been more emphatic:

Under present conditions the adoption of a policy of outright laissez faireand laissez passeron the part of the civilized nations of the West would be equivalent to an unconditional surrender to the totalitarian nations. Take, for instance, the case of migration barriers. Unrestrictedly opening the doors of the Americas, of Australia, and of Western Europe to immigrants would today be equivalent to opening the doors to the vanguards of the armies of Germany, Italy, and Japan.

As Conway surmises, “Mises feared a massive immigration into the liberal democracies of peoples of vastly different ethnicity, culture and outlooks. Without strict immigration controls, Mises thought, host populations would rapidly become national minorities in their own lands. As such, the hosts would become vulnerable to forms of oppression and persecution at the hands of new arrivals.”

Way back in 1927, when the seminal “Liberalism in the Classical Tradition” was published, Mises, a gentleman from Old World Vienna, understood the following: once illiberal, unassimilable people gain “numeric superiority,” they will turn their population advantage into a political advantage, using the host population’s liberalism against it.

Ilana Mercer has been writing a weekly, paleolibertarian column since 1999. She is the author of “Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America From Post-Apartheid South Africa” (2011) & “The Trump Revolution: The Donald’s Creative Destruction Deconstructed” (June, 2016). She’s on Twitter, FacebookGab & YouTube

The Quarterly Review is a free online journal. We have no source of income other than readers’ donations. If you enjoy reading QR, please consider making a one-off contribution today. This will help us continue to pay website costs and expenses to contributors.

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Parsifal, Munich Opera Festival

Parsifal, by Rogelio de Egusquiza

Parsifal, Munich Opera Festival

Richard Wagner’s Parsifal, Bayerischen Staatsoper, München, Germany, directed by Pierre Audi, sets by Georg Baselitz; Bayerischen Staatsorchester conducted by Kirill Petrenko, Tuesday, 31 July, 2018; reviewed by TONY COOPER

In Pierre Audi’s strange but compelling production of Parsifal, the Great Hall of Montsalvat Castle – the home of the Knights of the Holy Grail – has drifted away from its original setting. It is now a strongly-built, wooden-constructed building located in the Holy Forest of the Knights of the Grail, with members of the Brotherhood attired in dark monastic robes as opposed to the tough leather or chain-mail shirt and embroidered tunic favoured by medieval knights. Parsifal closed the Munich Opera Festival on a high note and was conducted by Kirill Petrenko, artistic director of Bayerischen Staatsoper and the new chief conductor of the Berlin Phiharmoniker.

At the opera’s première at Bayreuth in 1882, the set was conservative, based on a traditional German wooden-beamed roof supported by four heavy-duty stone columns. But with Audi, the incoming general director of the Aix-en-Provence Festival, you can expect to be challenged – and he duly obliged. Continue reading

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Talking Pictures

Still from Rebecca

Talking Pictures

by Bill Hartley

Anyone in search of tedious game shows, threadbare repeats and sales of junk jewellery is well catered for on British television. The sheer number of channels is bewildering and difficult to navigate. More means worse but persistence can pay off and for those willing to work their way through the wilderness of multiple channels there is one gem to be found.

‘The past is another country they do things differently there’: the quotation might well have been written for the Talking Pictures channel (Freeview 81), which has been in operation for three years. Welcome to a world close in time yet which shows how enormously life in this country (and indeed in the United States) has changed. Everyday life, manners, opinions and prejudices are perfectly preserved on film. In an era of on demand television and encouragement to binge on box sets, this channel takes us back to an era when cinema dominated and television was the new upstart. Continue reading

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ENDNOTES, August 2018

Sir Granville Bantock

ENDNOTES, August 2018

In this edition: a flourish, from Sir Granville Bantock on the Somm label; piano sonatas by Beethoven, and Elgar’s Second Symphony, from Chandos Records, reviewed by STUART MILLSON

Sir Granville Bantock (1868-1946) was a noted composer, conductor and teacher in his day. He established an orchestra at the once-fashionable resort of New Brighton on the North-West coast of England, and presided over a new musical curriculum at the Midland Institute and at Birmingham University. He made many atmospheric arrangements of Tudor and old English tunes; wrote a Tchaikovsky-like Russian suite, alive with colour and local flavour; and penned Pagan and Hebridean symphonies. New from Somm Records comes a CD devoted to Bantock’s equally vivid piano music: Saul, Twelve Pieces– and best of all (and in the outdoor spirit of the Hebridean Symphony), Two Scottish Pieces. Played by the ever-sensitive and rare-repertoire enthusiast, Maria Marchant, the north-of-the-border scenes are delightful pieces of tone-painting, yet infused and animated by an authentic sense of Caledonian traditional music: TheHills of Glenorchy– a quickstep, that nevertheless conveys a sense of longing; and The Brobers of Brechin– a reel (possibly dedicated to whisky and good cheer), with a magnificent, mountain-torrent of an ending, resoundingly performed by Marchant. With a fine portrait of Bantock on the CD cover and a graceful, detailed recording quality, this is one edition which enthusiasts of rare British music will take to their hearts. Continue reading

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Fair is Foul and Foul is Fair


Fair is Foul and Foul is Fair

by Ilana Mercer

Once upon a time there were two politicians. One had the power to give media and political elites goosebumps. Still does. The other causes the same dogs to raise their hackles. The first is Barack Hussein Obama; the second Vladimir Putin.

The same gilded elites who choose our villains and victims for us have decided that the Russian is the worst person in the world. BHO, the media consider one of the greatest men in the world.

Obama leveled Libya and lynched its leader. Our overlords were unconcerned. They knew with certainty that Obama was destroying lives irreparably out of the goodness of his heart. Continue reading

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Practising Grant’s Philosophy

George Parkin Grant

Practising Grant’s Philosophy

by Mark Wegierski

2018 marks the centenary of the birth of George Parkin Grant. Thirty years since his passing, he remains Canada’s most prominent traditionalist philosopher. But is there still a place for Grantian-type traditionalism in current-day Canada? First of all, it should be remembered that Grant’s conception of conservatism is very remote from what is its more common definition today, as a predominantly tax- and budget-cutting ideology [Editorial note, see ‘In Memoriam, George Parkin Grant, 1918-1988’, QR, July 9, 2018]. Despite his impassioned writing, Grant did not offer much hope for someone wishing to be active in the social, political, and cultural arena. Perhaps a quietistic self-cultivation is the only path available for a traditionalist today. However, this is surely problematic for a philosophy that emphasizes public engagement and civic-mindedness. Continue reading

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White Men, Republicans and Other Scum

Ilana Mercer

White Men, Republicans and Other Scum

by Ilana Mercer

According to psychologists and psephologists, women are “abandoning the Republican Party” and voting for progressive policies because “they care about reproductive rights.”

Get it?  Women “care.” What do they care about? “Rights.”

The implication, at least, is that “the gender gap in American politics” is related to something women possess in greater abundance than men: virtue.

Put bluntly, women believe they have a right to have their uteruses suctioned at society’s expense. For this, they are portrayed favorably by those citing these proclivities.

Whereas women are depicted as voting from a place of virtue, men are described by the same cognoscenti as “sticking with the Republicans” for reasons less righteous. Continue reading

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Poetry and Politics in ‘Catherland’

Willa Cather, 1912

Poetry and Politics in ‘Catherland’

by Darrell Sutton

Although the middle States of America are not a hidden province, they are less familiar to people whose travels to the USA are restricted, more often than not, to sightseer visits to coastal cities. What follows offers a peephole into a rural world, districts in the vicinity of Red Cloud, in which the celebrated writer Willa Cather (1873-1947) spent some time during her youth.

Miss Cather is well known for her writings about frontier life. The 1913 novel O Pioneers is hailed a classic. Her story was made into a movie of the same name in 1992, starring Jessica Lange. It was only the first of her trilogy of books on the Great Plains. The Song of the Lark (1915) and My Ántonia (1918) soon followed. Her poems receive less attention today than they should because fewer literary critics in the academy understand the rural sites of which she wrote.

Of other genres of writing, like poetry, Cather engaged in it only sporadically. She did not need to compose verse: she had secured her fame on other literary grounds. But her poem Prairie Spring is deserving of notice. Not many poems capture in non-rhythmic verse the crop growing atmosphere of rural American in general, or South-central Nebraska and North-Central Kansas in particular. It educes, as few other poems can, responses that crave a rustic milieu for their expression. Here is a sampling: Continue reading

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Seven Deadly Spins

D’après Maurice Quentin de La Tour, Portrait de Voltaire

Seven Deadly Spins

Seven Types of Atheism, John Gray, Allen Lane, 2018, hb, £17.99, reviewed by STODDARD MARTIN

The well-known English philosopher and academic John Gray offers a tour d’horizon of the idea of atheism. For those who have trod this territory before, his book is an engaging review. For those who have not, it may provide a useful primer. Taking his title from William Empson’s famous Seven Types of Ambiguity, Gray tilts his first lance at what he dubs ‘the tedious re-run of a Victorian squabble between science and religion’ which he sees at the core of ‘the God debate’ of recent decades. His adversaries presumably include such celebrated opponents of religion as Richard Dawkins, Anthony Grayling and Christopher Hitchens, though none is named. Gray himself is no proponent of Judaeo-Christian tradition.

He locates a ‘19th century orthodoxy of humanism’ in the work of Comte, Saint-Simon and John Stuart Mill and traces its descent to our times via Bertrand Russell. This doctrine he depicts as a substitute for a God who failed. For those whose faith in it is based on the nostrums of science, he points out: ‘science can only be a tool the human animal has invented to deal with a world it cannot fully understand.’ For those whose faith owes more to Platonic ideals, he reproves: ‘The human mind is programmed for survival, not truth.’ For those who, like Hegel and Marx, find in history a meliorative dynamic, he argues that in fact human progress constitutes no more than a cyclical or haphazard sequence of moral ups and downs.  

Continue reading

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