Sacred Cow
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Bayreuth Festival, 2018. Photo © Bayreuther Festspiele/Enrico Nawrath

Robert Veel laments the trend for ‘overture acting’

When was the last time you sat down for a staged performance of opera, either at home or in the theatre, and really listened to the overture? For years now there’s been an international directorial conspiracy underway to deny our ears the pleasure of getting in sync with the musicians and composer before the action begins. Let’s call it overture acting; the director’s insistence that those precious moments of calm and reflection before the curtain goes up be filled with gratuitous stage action. And it’s got to stop.

Consider the overture to Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. It’s 10 minutes of...