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Wagner: Die Meistersinger Von Nurnberg / Hawlata, Vogt, Kaune, Weigle

Wagner / Bayreuth Festival Orch / Sebastian
Release Date: 01/25/2011 
Label:  Opus Arte   Catalog #: 1041  
Composer:  Richard Wagner
Performer:  Friedemann RöhligMichaela KauneAndreas MaccoEdward Randall,   ... 
Conductor:  Sebastian Weigle
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bayreuth Festival OrchestraBayreuth Festival Chorus
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Also available on Blu-ray


WAGNER Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg Sebastian Weigle, cond; Franz Hawlata ( Sachs ); Klaus Florian Vogt ( Walther ); Michael Volle ( Beckmesser ); Artur Korn ( Read more class="ARIAL12i">Pogner ); Norbert Ernst ( David ); Michaela Kaune ( Eva ); Carola Guber ( Magdalene ); Bayreuth Fest O & Ch OPUS ARTE OA BD7078D (Blu-ray) OA 1041D (2 DVDs) (306:00) Live: Bayreuth 2008

& Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg— Making of

Forget what you may have heard about Katharina Wagner savaging her great-grandfather’s operas. To be sure, Frau Wagner’s production of Die Meistersinger , first seen on Green Hill in 2007, does away with much of the local color and feel-good folksiness that have made this work immensely popular with general opera audiences for more than 140 years who go expecting a pleasantly entertaining, if lengthy, evening. This production focuses intently on what has always been recognized as the central theme of Meistersinger, the tension between tradition and progress in Art, with a capital “A.” But Die Meistersinger isn’t without its flaws. Katharina Wagner considers the ambiguities of this work and, specifically, the “problem” of Meistersinger at Bayreuth. It’s something that only a flesh-and-blood Wagner could have done, and the young director/producer has accomplished it brilliantly. It’s provocative, all right, but provocative in the best way. As in thought-provoking.

At first, the principal characters are presented conventionally. Walther von Stolzing is a hotheaded, unschooled upstart, Hans Sachs an open-minded and reasonable man functioning in a tradition-bound society. Beckmesser’s an uptight pendant, Pogner a solid burgher. There is no pretense here of “day jobs,” that Sachs is primarily a shoemaker or Walther a knight: it’s their artistic selves that are front-and-center. So Sachs is a chain-smoking beatnik writer, dressed in black and pecking away at an old-fashioned typewriter. (When he “marks” Beckmesser’s lame wooing song in the second act, he does so with strokes on the machine, not with a hammer.) Not only is his cobbling quite beside the point, Sachs doesn’t even wear shoes for acts I and II. Walther is a cutting-edge visual artist who purposefully splatters paint on much of the set in act I and decorates objects (including Eva’s dress) with slogans. The citizens of Nuremberg are a band of identically dressed and coiffed men and women with glazed, trance-like expressions. But the potential for dangerous, radical thought is there. In the second-act riot, they brandish iconic images of progressive art: Andy Warhol soup cans, Picasso, a Henry Moore sculpture.

It’s in the third act, though, that Katharina Wagner makes her most ambitious statements. First is the fate of Herr Beckmesser who, in most productions, slinks off the stage after his humiliating performance in the meadow, never to be seen again. But what if, just as Walther moves to the right, coming to understand the worth of traditional values, Beckmesser moved to the left? After Sachs and Walther depart the stage to prepare for the contest, the town clerk enters the shoemaker/novelist’s workshop transformed into a hipster—black T-shirt, mod oversized blue eyeglasses, plaid slacks, and white sneakers. In the final scene, he sings his odd song as he executes a piece of conceptual/performance art: a nude male figure emerges from a pile of clay on a rolling table. Walther then presents his Prize Song to a volk impeccably dressed in evening wear as Beckmesser watches, bemused and relaxed, confident in his new identity. It’s overstating things to conclude that the director has made Beckmesser the hero of Die Meistersinger. Rather, we see that he’s made a conscious decision to walk away from a corrosive and corrupt society, just as Parsifal does in Nikolaus Lehnhoff’s production of Wagner’s final opera.

Then Frau Wagner deals with Meistersinger ’s most intractable problem, Sachs’s burst of nationalism at the end of his final speech. (Scholars tell us we probably have Cosima to thank for its inclusion.) How many countless listeners have squirmed in their seats to “honor your German masters,” remembering full well that Meistersinger was the only work performed at Bayreuth in 1944 and 1945? As Sachs harangues his fellow Nurembergers about the sanctity of the nation’s artistic heritage, the stage darkens and the cobbler is transformed into a severe-countenanced demagogue. Beckmesser, and all of us, look on in horror. It’s a chilling moment. Opus Arte lets us hear the boos as the curtain descends, but most of the audience appears to have understood this representation of the dual nature of one of the opera universe’s most beloved characters. Yes, only a Wagner could have brought this off credibly.

The considerable musical attributes of this Meistersinger should not be slighted. Sebastian Weigle leads an invigorating prelude to act I and savors the melting harmonies of the brass chorale in act III’s (as a former orchestral horn player should.) Klaus Florian Vogt, a Bayreuth favorite, may possess a tenor that’s a little light for Walther, but there’s no denying his prodigious lyrical gifts. The Prize Song, in all its iterations, is magnificent—soaring, stirring, and assured. As Sachs, Franz Hawlata crafts a strong and expressive performance. He manages well the third act’s lengthy trajectory, beginning with a searing “Wahn! Wahn! Überall Wahn!” Michael Volle is an experienced Beckmesser—I admired his performance for Franz-Welser Möst on an EMI DVD in Fanfare 29:1—and he’s equally effective here. Volle clearly embraces Katharina Wagner’s revisionist conception of his role and the singer makes the premise work. As Eva, Michaela Kaune sensibly decides not to attempt to act or sound like an innocent young thing. Norbert Ernst is an excellent David, portrayed here as a stiff midlevel functionary in Nuremberg’s stultifying environment. The Master’s ensemble work is superb.

The sonics deserve special note. Especially with the high-resolution multichannel option on the Blu-ray disc, the listener with a properly calibrated system will experience the closest approximation yet of the unique Festspielhaus acoustic. The orchestra is palpably present, with voices embedded into the orchestral fabric, a presentation of exceptional clarity, impact, and involving beauty. The opera has been expertly filmed and edited; subtitle options include English, German, French, and Spanish. If anything disappoints, it’s the “making of” extra, which shows plenty of Hawlata, Volle, and Vogt horsing around during rehearsals but misses the opportunity to have Katharina Wagner elaborate on her ideas about Meistersinger.

Mention should be made of the Giant Heads. At a number of junctures in the opera, large library-style busts of German creative luminaries—Beethoven, Schiller, Dürer, etc.—come to life. In dreamlike sequences, they make an appearance at the close of act II and, in lieu of dancing apprentices, cavort on St. John’s Day in the meadow. The last to leave the stage is Richard Wagner. A crew with brooms cleans up the mess they’ve made and deposits the junk in a large metal container for incineration. Sachs himself presides over the conflagration. Is Katharina Wagner vaporizing her great-grandfather’s legacy? I don’t think so. Rather, she’s providing a clear path to the essence of this great and complex work. Die Meistersinger has never seemed fresher and more vital.

FANFARE: Andrew Quint

Hans Sachs – Franz Hawlata
Veit Pogner – Artur Korn
Kunz Vogelgesang – Charles Reid
Konrad Nachtigall – Rainer Zaun
Sixtus Beckmesser – Michael Volle
Fritz Kothner – Markus Eiche
Balthasar Zorn – Edward Randall
Ulrich Eisslinger – Hans-Jürgen Lazar
Augustin Moser – Stefan Heibach
Hermann Ortel – Martin Snell
Hans Schwarz – Andreas Macco
Hans Foltz – Diógenes Randes
Walther von Stolzing – Klaus Florian Vogt
David – Norbert Ernst
Eva – Michaela Kaune
Magdalene – Carola Guber
Ein Nachtwächter – Friedemann Röhlig

Bayreuth Festival Chorus and Orchestra
(chorus master: Eberhard Friedrich)
Sebastian Weigle, conductor

Katharina Wagner, stage director
Tilo Steffens, stage and costume designer
Michaela Barth, costume designer
Andreas Grüter, lighting designer

Recorded live at the Bayreuth Festival, 2008

- Cast gallery
- The Making of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

Picture format: NTSC 16:9 anamorphic
Sound format: LPCM Stereo / DTS 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish
Running time: 4 hours 45 mins
No. of DVDs: 2
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Works on This Recording

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Friedemann Röhlig (Bass), Michaela Kaune (Soprano), Andreas Macco (Bass),
Edward Randall (Tenor), Michael Volle (Baritone), Rainer Zaun (Bass),
Charles Reid (Tenor), Franz Hawlata (Bass), Artur Korn (Bass),
Markus Eiche (Baritone), Hans-Jürgen Lazar (Tenor), Klaus Florian Vogt (Tenor),
Martin Snell (Bass), Stefan Heibach (Tenor), Diogenes Randes (Bass),
Norbert Ernst (Tenor), Carola Guber (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Sebastian Weigle
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bayreuth Festival Orchestra,  Bayreuth Festival Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1862-1867; Germany 
Date of Recording: 2008 
Venue:  Bayreuth Festival 

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