Notes and Editorial Reviews
Also available on Blu-ray
“A fresh, charming and perceptive production, magical and irresistible!” (New York Times) “All narrative and poetry is nothing but the key to true dreams” (Hans Sachs). Spontaneously emerging from just such a truthful dream by the cobbler-poet on Midsummer Night, this new staging of Richard Wagner’s “Meistersinger” burst upon the Salzburg Festival like a thunderclap. Stefan Herheim’s idea of staging a midsummer night’s dream as a fairytale narrative is enchanting and with this admirably matched ensemble of excellent singer-players, all of whom bring sharp contours to their roles, and the brilliant details of characterization, they make
each scene an experience to cherish.
DIE MEISTERSINGER VON NÜRNBERG
Hans Sachs - Michael Volle
Walther von Stolzing - Roberto Saccà
Eva - Anna Gabler
David - Peter Sonn
Veit Pogner - Georg Zeppenfeld
Magdalene - Monika Bohinec
Sixtus Beckmesser - Markus Werba
Vienna State Opera Chorus
(chorus master: Ernst Raffelsberger)
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Daniele Gatti, conductor
Stefan Herheim, stage director
Heike Scheele, set designer
Gesine Völlm, costume designer
Olaf Freese, lighting designer
Recorded live at the Salzburg Festival, August 2013
- Making of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Picture format: NTSC 16:9
Sound format: PCM Stereo / Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: English, German, French, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Chinese
Booklet notes: English, German, French
Running time: 270 mins (opera) + 15 mins (bonus) No. of DVDs: 2 (DVD 9)
R E V I E W:
Despite Stefan Herheim’s concept and staging for this 2013 Salzburg Festival Die Meistersinger, which is sometimes confounding and in many ways too fantastical, viewers/listeners won’t be bored for a moment.
It begins with a music-free introductory pantomime depicting Sachs, in nightshirt and cap, stumbling about his study, restless, cranky, unable to sleep. In one corner are a Punch and Judy playhouse, blocks and toys his children used to play with, and there’s also a portrait of his young wife. There are books and shelving all over; a bust of Beethoven. (Obviously, Herheim has updated the opera from the Renaissance to Wagner’s time.)
Sachs goes to his elegant Biedermayer writing desk that has dozens of small compartments and a fine inlaid decoration. He is suddenly inspired: he begins writing songs madly. We are reminded that the real Sachs wrote thousands of songs and was a grand storyteller. The overture begins. Near its close, Sachs draws a curtain upon which a video of the same room appears; the camera zooms in until all we see is a close-up of the giant desk. The curtain draws back revealing the church, which in fact is the desk ballooned to building-size proportions, with the inlaid decoration becoming the organ pipes. Worshippers come out of the envelope slots and drawers, and the writing area is the opera’s playing area. The conceit is this: Sachs and the creative process, dreams, and fantasy will be the opera’s focus; nationalism isn’t even in the picture.
Books are enormous, bigger than the characters. David opens one for the apprentices to reveal the title page of Des Knaben Wunderhorn, clearly meant as homage to Mendelssohn, Loewe, Weber, and others, and announcing that respect must be paid to the Romantic imagination and folklore. These include, it turns out, the Brothers Grimm: in Act 2 we are in different parts of Sach’s study, also blown up to giant proportions, with a street sign that reads Grimms Kinder Märchen (Grimm’s Children-Fairy Tales). And sure enough, during the melée caused by Beckmesser’s serenade (while Eva and Walter hide behind an enormous version of the Punch and Judy stage), out come Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the Big Bad Wolf, Red Riding Hood, and a host of others. The shoe that Sachs is fixing is almost as big as he is. Imagination is taking over.
Back in reality, during the third-act prelude–late at night in Sachs’ house, the cobbler/poet wanders about, gazes at his children’s toys and the portrait of his long-gone wife, and weeps. This is not mere melodrama; it sets us up for the “Wahn” monologue. A bust of Wagner is unveiled by Sachs at the close of the quintet, and later we wonder if Sachs and Wagner (and Beckmesser) are not meant to be the same person. The last scene of the third act starts and ends realistically, but is interrupted suddenly by a big toy train and the inclusion of people in life-size doll outfits and heads–dozens of them–who dance with the Apprentices. The whimsy can get a bit heavy at times and it isn’t for everyone, but as I suggested above, you can’t take your eyes off it. And the humanity of Sachs–clearly overwhelmed by the attention the crowd gives him–is always front and center. Needless to say, like it all or not, Heike Scheele’s sets and Gesine Völlm’s costumes are remarkable, even staggering.
Herheim’s whimsy also has the Meistersingers fall off their stools when Walther sings “Fanget an!”. He literally blows them away. He also, most importantly, paints Sachs as somewhat impatient, desperate to pass on his love of learning and creativity to the upcoming youth as well as to his fellow Meistersingers, who are stuck in their own fuddiness. One might also add some philosophy to the whole about the power of dreams and some of Bruno Bettelheim’s readings of fairy tales (some of the characters are practically copulating), but there’s too much more to describe.
Michael Volle’s Sachs is magnificent, the voice full and rich, the characterization never missing a beat. Benevolent yet strict, quick to anger and quicker to forgive and assist, sentimental and warm but realistic, this is a great portrayal. Herheim darkens the stage and puts him in a spotlight for the “Deutsches Kunst” monologue, and he delivers it with something akin to fury–not nationalism, but love of art and tradition is to be upheld.
Beckmesser, in the minds of Herheim and baritone Markus Werba, might have been a nerd in our time; he’s younger than usual and sings superbly, without squeaks and exaggerations. But he’s awkward and stubborn and we feel sympathetic toward him; he’s frightened by imagination and it attacks and confounds him wherever he goes. Georg Zeppenfeld, despite a silly haircut and a too-straight-laced suit, is a fine, dark-toned Pogner, who really loves his daughter. Tenor Peter Sonn’s David is bright of tone and authoritative with the apprentices–a good future awaits him (both tenor and character!). Close-ups show a lack of spontaneity. Magdalene, mezzo Monika Bohinek, is not very good.
And sad to say, neither are our Walther or Eva. Roberto Sacca starts out wearing a constricting toy soldier outfit in which he looks uncomfortable; later, in different clothes, he still does. He’s stiff. He does what he can with a role that is too big for him, but he strains and sings with a one-color voice. Oddly, he’s stronger in his final scene, singing without the wobble that creeps in elsewhere. It’s not a bad performance by any means–his zeal and uprightness are great attributes. Anna Gabler, dressed like a doll and with hideous curls, is uptight throughout and sings poorly. She sings much of the quintet with wayward pitch and lacks anything like a trill. She radiates discomfort.
Daniele Gatti leads the Vienna forces with no apparent overview; he slows down at strange moments. He could have helped his singers in the quintet, and his lingering over thoughtful moments–Sachs’ ruminations–threatens to bring the show to a stop. He keeps the great Act 2 free-for-all intact, but it’s no fun whatsoever, musically. It makes for an odd stop-and-start performance.
The competition leads to the Met’s very traditional production, with Ben Heppner and Karita Mattila as the only vocally viable pair of lovers on DVD, or the Barenboim/Bayreuth show, with Emily Magee and Peter Seiffert. Glyndebourne’s recent production is a delight, with a young Sachs in the person of Gerald Finley and fantastic leadership by Vladimir Jurowski, but the Walther is bad. Up to you. Mediocre Walther and Eva aside, this entire production is worth seeing and arguing about. It’s all about imagination, and if you don’t have it, Herheim tells us, it’s your loss. Not a “first and only” Meistersinger, but quite a piece of work.
-- Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg by Richard Wagner
Michael Volle (Baritone),
Georg Zeppenfeld (Bass),
Roberto Saccà (Tenor),
Anna Gabler (Soprano),
Peter Sonn (Tenor),
Monika Bohinec (Voice),
Markus Werba (Baritone)
Vienna State Opera Chorus,
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 1862-1867; Germany
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