Wagner's Mastersinger, Hitler's Siegfried

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Wagner's Mastersinger, Hitler's Siegfried

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2nd March 2009




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Wagner's Mastersinger, Hitler's Siegfried

The life and times of Max Lorenz


A Film by Eric Schulz and Claus Wischmann


Interviewees: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Klaus Geitel (writer);Walter Herrmann (Lorenz's biographer);Waldemar Kmentt, René Kollo, Lieselott Tietjen, Michael Wessolowski (expert on Max Lorenz); Hilde Zadek (soprano)


Siegfried: Act 1

Max Lorenz (Siegfried), Erich Witte (Mime), Herbert Janssen (Wanderer) & Emmanuel List (Fafner)

Orquesta Estable del Teatro Colon, Erich Kleiber

Siegfried (excerpts)

Act 2

Max Lorenz (Siegfried), Erich Witte (Mime), Herbert Janssen (Wanderer) & Emmanuel List (Fafner)

Orquesta Estable del Teatro Colon, Erich Kleiber

DVD Video


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Max Lorenz was the leading Wagner tenor of his day. As Siegfried, he was the principal protagonist on the stage of the Bayreuth Festival throughout the years of Hitler's association with the Festival. But his marriage to a Jewish singer and his homosexuality were a thorn in the flesh to many Nazis, and it was only his exceptional qualities as a singer that ensured that whenever the going got tough he was protected by the powers that be: when he was indicted for homosexual actions, Hitler ordered the case to be dropped, while Hermann Göring came to the support of Lorenz and his wife when members of the SS turned up at their house with a warrant for their deportation. The story of Max Lorenz is closely bound up with that of Bayreuth's Villa Wahnfried from the time of the Weimar Republic to the early years of the Federal Republic. No attempt to retrace the singer's steps can avoid taking in the wider picture and seeing this fascinating artist against the background of his age.The present television documentary examines the heroic ideal and the way in which Wagner's characters were portrayed onstage during this period, while also seeking answers to questions about Max Lorenz's career under the Third Reich and exploring the complications to which he was exposed. Central to our portrait is Max Lorenz as a singer. Our film depicts him in archival recordings from four decades. Comments are provided by numerous colleagues and contemporaries, including Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, who admired Lorenz from an early date before finally appearing onstage with his idol; René Kollo, who regards his predecessor as "arguably the most important Wagner tenor of all"; the soprano Hilde Zadek; and the tenor Waldemar Kmentt.All of them knew Lorenz as a colleague over a period of many years.Another eyewitness is the dancer Lieselott Tietjen, the widow of the most powerful theatrical figure under the National Socialists, Heinz Tietjen.These and other interviewees are present whenever Max Lorenz sings: in the film, they are seen listening to him singing, allowing the camera to register their individual reactions and comments. In this way the art of Max Lorenz - in itself testimony to a bygone age in operatic history - becomes a fascinating part of the present day.

This gripping, well - researched documentary boasts original footage of Max Lorenz, Haus Wahnfried and Hitler's visits to Bayreuth (e.g. the first coloured picture of Hitler)

“just about the greatest thing that thrives in the way of tenors…He has the figure, the presence, the stature of a Wagnerian hero. He has an abundance of Bayreuth training." The New York Times (1937)

BBC Music Magazine

May 2009


“Max Lorenz, as this hour-long German TV documentary reminds us… was tall, personable and with a marvellously open-throated, lyrical voice, lighter-toned than Melchior's but more fluent and nuanced. …it is interesting to hear the admiring memories of singers like Waldemar Kmentt and Hilde Zadek, not to mention René Kollo and the great Fischer-Dieskau himself, and see Lorenz, still impressive in 1960s television footage.”

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