Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Allan Atlas


Bruce MacIntyre

Committee Members

Nicholas Vazsonyi

Norman Carey

Subject Categories

Musicology | United States History


Richard Wagner, Die Meistersinger, Metropolitan Opera, New York City, Third Reich, Nazi


In 1945, after a five-year hiatus, the Metropolitan Opera returned Richard Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg to its stage. It had been the only one of Wagner’s operas that had been banned during World War II, ostensibly because of its German nationalism and association with the Third Reich. But was it the German nationalism or Wagner’s own anti-Semitism that caused the unease? What resounded with the audiences? World War II stands at an historic cross roads in the reception of Die Meistersinger in America. This is where the present day “problem” with this work begins. The Metropolitan Opera’s decision created a space that allowed others to follow suit. In effect, the Met’s cancellation tacitly upheld and affirmed all that is perceived—both in the literature and by audiences—as negative in the opera.

This study examines the interior politics of Die Meistersinger and the environment at the Metropolitan Opera in order to determine why the work was performed to acclaim in New York from 1886 until World War I, but subsequently banned during both wars. Cultural and political factors at work in New York in the 1940s will also be considered in order to understand the response of audiences to what some perceived as a very “German” opera within the larger context of American Wagnerism and, indeed, Wagnerism today. In the end, this study represents a “political history” of Die Meistersinger viewed through the prism of New York during two World Wars.