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Wagner: Die Meistersinger Von Nurnberg / Hawlata, Vogt, Kaune, Weigle [Blu-ray]

Wagner / Bayreuth Festival Orch / Sebastian
Release Date: 01/25/2011 
Label:  Opus Arte   Catalog #: 7078  
Composer:  Richard Wagner
Performer:  Friedemann RöhligMichaela KauneKlaus Florian VogtAndreas Macco,   ... 
Conductor:  Sebastian Weigle
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bayreuth Festival OrchestraBayreuth Festival Chorus
Number of Discs: 1 
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Blu-ray Video:  $39.99
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Note: This Blu-ray Disc is only playable on Blu-ray Disc players and not compatible with standard DVD players.

Also available on standard DVD

Richard Wagner
(Blu-ray Disc Version)

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
Read more – 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: 1080i High Definition
Sound format: LPCM Stereo / DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish
Running time: 4 hours 45 mins
No. of Discs: 1 (BD 50)

Total Playing Time: 04:45:00

R E V I E W:

This is one of those opera performances that draw notice more for the production than for the musical goods. Not that the singing and orchestral playing are substandard — indeed, all in all, the performances from the singers, conductor, chorus and orchestra are reasonably good. It’s just that the happenings on stage are, shall I say, a bit radical, especially for Wagner. This 2008 Bayreuth Festival production was a repeat, with a slightly different cast, of the previous year’s effort that created a good measure of controversy, prompting many to question the intentions of the production director Katharina Wagner, great-granddaughter of the composer and now co-director of the festival.

To give you a capsule view of the production, let’s start with the characters. First, you have the cocky, rebellious pop artist, Walter von Stolzing, who by the opera’s end becomes a conformist. He dabbles at playing the piano and paints almost everything during the first half of the opera, including Eva’s dress. But when you see him enter in the Fourth Scene of Act III, you see a Wagnerian Babbitt, albeit a dashing one. Then there is the main character Hans Sachs, a cobbler who wears no shoes, smokes heavily and often sits at a typewriter hitting away at the keys, sometimes quite annoyingly. He will transform, too: he becomes a fascist symbol near the end, his new nature underscored by the appearance of Third Reich statues flanking him on stage. Beckmesser is a nerd whose pants are too short and whose comical manner works well. In accordance with the pattern here, he evolves into a hip, garishly dressed character in the final act. Because of the downward evolution of the other two, he becomes, by default, the hero. Eva and Magdalene may be the most conventionally portrayed characters: they are sort of pawns, not used to make any major statement but then not going against the grain either.

As for the treatment of Wagner’s story, there is so much symbolism employed throughout, it’s hard to catch it all. Much, however, can’t be overlooked because it isn’t particularly subtle: if the meanings behind the big cheque awarded to Walther near the end and the golden calf placed on stage immediately afterward don’t hit you over the head with their obviousness, then maybe the huge Warhol-esque Campbell’s soup cans that spew paint in the riot scene will. Historic German characters, presented as statue-like figures - Wagner himself is one of them - are used in the riot scene and elsewhere in the opera, and their presence is a rather too convenient way to make social or political commentary. By the way, there is one rather ribald scene near the end of the opera, when the historic figures parade on stage with a topless dancer and with phallic prostheses on view. And there is another scene later on with full frontal nudity.

By the end of the opera everybody, including the hip Beckmesser, seems robotic, taken over, controlled. Suffice to say, the overarching message here appears to be that radicalism on one end might produce reactionary radicalism on the other. Not exactly a new or profound idea, not exactly Wagner’s intentions either. Yet, the production, for all its warts, is quite intriguing at times, if a bit juvenile. And, personally, I think that if anyone can take an opera by Wagner — let’s face it, one of the most anti-Semitic artists ever — and allude to anti-Nazi, anti-Fascist sentiments, then one must acknowledge such an attempt as noble. In a sense, it’s a rather fitting irony, as Wagner’s art is turned against him. I will say this, however: if I were a composer who wrote an opera with some specific moral or political message, I don’t think I would feel comfortable if Katharina Wagner were in charge of the production.

Klaus Forian Vogt is excellent in the role of Walther and probably the strongest singer in this production. He has an attractive voice and sufficient power to stand out in heavily scored passages. His Morgenlich leuchtend in rosigem Schein is beautifully sung and he rarely disappoints elsewhere in the opera. Michaela Kaune as Eva is also fine, as is Carola Guber’s Magdalene. The David of Norbert Ernst is especially compelling, too, and Michael Volle as Beckmesser is also excellent: not only are his voice and diction outstanding, but his dramatic skills are fully convincing, both as nerd and hipster.

What of Hans Sachs? Franz Hawlata’s voice is attractive and powerful, and if he becomes a bit tired and a tad hoarse by the end of this 4-hour-plus opera, then we can understand, because the size of his role is gargantuan, and who gets through it unscathed? Anyway, he makes a good Hans Sachs overall.

Conductor Sebastian Weigle draws fine playing from the orchestra and splendid singing from the chorus. The sound is admirable and the camera-work imaginative. Sets and costuming are far less radical in their generally modest look than most everything else in the production. Also included is a half-hour documentary track about the making of the opera. There are some excellent Die Meistersingers available on DVD, and mostly more traditional ones, including the splendid Bayreuth production on Unitel led by Barenboim, with Robert Holl as Sachs, and the Vienna State Opera production also on Unitel (Medici Arts), led by Christian Thielemann, with Falk Struckmann as Sachs. You might want to stick with recordings like these, if the more radically modern approach of Katharina Wagner might turn you off. Otherwise, this production is probably worth your while.

-- Robert Cummings, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

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

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