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Reviewed by:
  • Angst vor der Zerstörung: Der Meister Künste zwischen Archiv und Erneuerung
  • Áine Sheil (bio)
Robert Sollich, Clemens Risi, Sebastian Reus, and Stephan Jöris, eds.: Angst vor der Zerstörung: Der Meister Künste zwischen Archiv und ErneuerungBerlin: Theater der Zeit, 2008 293 pages, €14

This volume is based on a symposium held in 2007 to mark the new production of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at that year's Bayreuth Festival. In addition to an introductory essay, an interview with director Katharina Wagner, and color production photographs, the volume contains seventeen contributions that explore and in some cases range far beyond questions of destruction, conservation, and renewal in Die Meistersinger, Wagner, and opera practice. A quick glance at the contributors confirms that opera scholarship is an interdisciplinary matter: represented here are literature, theater, art history, media, and philosophy specialists, musicologists, a political scientist, and practitioners (Bayreuth Festival staff). And just as Die Meistersinger explores questions about art, music, and singing—the very material of which it is made—so too does this book enact conservation and renewal within scholarship, executing its own "performative turn" with a table of contents that moves from traditional, text-based approaches to newer types of scholarship that emphasize the performative event.

Within this broad progression, elements from many schools of criticism put in an appearance: hermeneutical exegesis in Dieter Borchmeyer's "Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg oder die Geburt der Kunst aus dem Geiste des Chaos"; historical musicology combined with performance theory in Gundula Kreuzer's "Authentizität, Visualisierung, Bewahrung: Das reisende 'Wagner-Theater' und die Konservierbarkeit von Inszenierungen"; structuralism in Dieter Thomä's "'. . . Will ohne Meister selig sein!': Die inneren Spannungen des Gesamtkunstwerks bei Richard Wagner und Sergej Eisenstein"; reception theory in Stephan Mösch's "Störung, Verstörung, Zerstörung: Regietheater als Rezeptionsproblem"; sociopolitics in Udo Bermbach's "Zeitströmungen und Ästhetische Produktion: Bemerkungen zum Zusammenhang von Politik, Gesellschaft und Inszenierungskonzepten"; psychoanalysis in Michael P. Steinberg's "Die Unfähigkeit zu Träumen"; and self-referential performative writing in Lydia Goehr's "Heil Wem? Katharina: Wasted Art or the Art of Waste" (the only essay in English in the volume, and the only essay without endnotes).

Robert Sollich, coeditor of the volume and dramaturg to the new Bayreuth Meistersinger, has contributed a metacomment on all these in "Hier gilt's der Kunst—aber welcher? Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg als Katalysator künstlerischer Selbstreflexion im Wandel ihrer Geschichte." Sollich presents one [End Page 139] form of Wagner scholarship after another, refusing to settle on any one and nimbly avoiding the idea that Die Meistersinger offers any sort of fixed meaning. His seeming determination to occupy a position outside "Wagner-Forschung" is, however, unrealistic: in the end, this postmodern approach is yet another wave in the Wagner engagement of successive generations of scholars.

As a document of a live event (the symposium and, to a secondary extent, the production of Die Meistersinger), the book seems oddly polite and contained. The essays sit quietly beside each other, despite some significant disparities in the respective positions. Take for example, Borchmeyer's suggestion that Wagner's music in Die Meistersinger conveys sympathy for Beckmesser, or his argument that the historic context to Hans Sachs's final speech means that this speech is better than it sounds to our contemporary ears: these are contentious positions, not least because they seek to excuse aspects of Die Meistersinger that have attracted significant criticism, but also because they privilege authorial intention and thus minimize the relevance of Die Meistersinger's reception and production history. Within a symposium gathering of such disparate authors as are represented here, one might expect these comments to be challenged quickly. In written form, however, the challenge is more gradual. By the end of the volume, it is clear that the editors belong at the recent, poststructurally inflected end of the scholarship spectrum, but this is not emphasized in the introductory essay. If there are any disagreements on methodology among the contributors, these do not manifest themselves directly: it is, rather, the cumulative effect of so many different perspectives that creates an overall postmodern tone.

The volume bears traces of...


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