"In the desert of their troubles, bitter aspirations and regrets, the Masters formed an image, a model so to speak, in order that a sacred memory, clear and firm, might remain of their youth and youthful love in which spring, even long faded, could still be recognized."
- Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Act III, scene 2
Nuremberg, Summer 1835: in a tavern, a heated debate between Richard Wagner and a carpenter-singer degenerates into a brawl. To all intents and purposes, the stage for “Die Meistersinger” is set. Marienbad, Summer 1845: drawing on the History of the Poetic Literature of the German-speaking Peoples as well as the biography of poet and shoemaker Hans Sachs (1494-1576), the composer sketches out the canvas for a satirical counterpart to Tannhäuser. Venice, Autumn 1861: visiting the Accademia with the Wesendoncks, Wagner is spellbound by Titian’s Assumption and decides to begin writing “Die Meistersinger” – an opera he would not complete until six years later. With a sense of self-derision with which he is not usually associated, Wagner brings together an exercise in style and an aesthetic manifesto in praise of the “noble and holy German art!”.
Going beyond a nationalism which Thomas Mann would later qualify as “spiritualized”, Wagner's only comedy of his later years combines a desire for change with the ever-essential persistence of the very traditions upon which it is built and sketches a dual self-portrait of the artist, both wise and audacious, in the characters of Sachs and Walther von Stoltzing. Following an outstanding Parsifal at the Bayreuth Festival in 2012, Philippe Jordan joins director Stefan Herheim for the first production of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at the Paris Opera for more than a quarter of a century.