Große komische Oper – these words make for unfamiliar reading where Wagnerian genre descriptions are concerned. Aside from 1868's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, the great German composer wrote only one other comic opera: Das Liebesverbot, an early work from the start of his career.
Based on Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, Wagner substantially revised the plot, but its theme nevertheless remains intact: repressed desire and a criticism of false prudery, all presented as a comedy. This collaboration with the Kolozsvár (Cluj-Napoca) Hungarian Opera is directed by Máté Szabó.
Friedrich, the governor of Sicily, has banned frivolous entertainment of all sorts – including love. Claudio violates the statutes, and is therefore condemned to death. However, his sister Isabella, a novice in a convent, begs Friedrich to have mercy on him. The governor is willing to pardon the culprit, but only under one condition: the beautiful Isabella must join him for a secret tryst. The future nun pretends to agree to the deal, but in fact is weaving a plot against Friedrich: instead of going to the assignation herself, she sends Friedrich's wife, Mariana, who has been hidden away in a convent. She also arranges for her to meet him amidst the bustle of the forbidden carnival. The two ladies expose the hypocritical governor. Claudio regains his freedom, and the ban on love comes to an end.