With the help of a reminder from AC Douglas, I'm listening to Wagner's Meistersinger live from Bayreuth. When I tuned in, Sven Friedrich, director of the Richard Wagner Archive, was delivering an extended intermission talk titled "'I Will Be Happy Without Masterhood': Art in Die Meistersinger Between Anarchy, Self-Realization, and Bourgeois Identity." There's plenty of information at the Bavarian Radio site, whether you speak German or not. The images from Katharina Wagner's debut production don't look particularly scandalous, despite the fact that the Meister's great-granddaughter and possible heir has been called "the 'Bayreuth Barbie' and 'Bayreuth Hilton' by some tabloids," as George Jahn writes in the LA Times. There are also pictures of Angela Merkel arriving for the gala opening. I photo-blogged Bayreuth back in 2004.
Post mortem: To judge from what I heard of Acts II and III, this was not a Meistersinger for the ages. The intermittent sound of a typewriter in Act II — is Sachs a shoemaker turned stenographer? — proved acutely annoying. Klaus Florian Vogt sang superbly as Walther — light and Italianate, as ACD says, but strongly projected, as far as I could tell. The chorus made a mighty sound, as it always does. Other than that, I didn't get too much out of the performance. Amanda Mace, the soprano, went flat in Act III, resulting in a queasy quintet. A mixture of boos and applause erupted at the end, although I believe Bavarian Radio faded out before the production team made their bows.
According to reports by George Jahn, Agence France-Presse, and Kate Connolly, the production featured Meistersingers parading with "outsized penises," topsy-turvy scenes of Walther as conformist and Beckmesser as rebel, Richard Wagner dancing in his underwear, blah blah blah. It was apparently such a mess that even Christoph Schlingensief criticized it. German speakers can read a detailed critique by Die Welt's Manuel Brug. Let's hope Bayreuth comes to its senses and picks Eva Wagner-Pasquier as the next leader of the festival.