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Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg / Mackerras, McIntyre

Wagner / Mackerras / Mcintyre / Frey / Pringle
Release Date: 11/20/2001 
Label:  Kultur Video   Catalog #: 7  
Composer:  Richard Wagner
Performer:  Donald McIntyrePaul FreyJohn PringleHelena Doese,   ... 
Conductor:  Sir Charles Mackerras
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Australian Opera ChorusElizabethan Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

It was a wonderful night at the Sydney Opera house on October 14,1988, when Opera Australia presented Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg; now, thanks to the Australian Bicentennial Authority and Kultur, we are able to enjoy this delightful production in our homes (and not wait in long lines at intermission).

From beginning to end, this production is outstanding. The sets, the costumes, the singing, the acting, the orchestra, the conducting all work together to create a whole that is every bit the sum of its parts. The cast members are a superb assortment of singing actors; each has created a characterization that is alive and credible. This production is not a stand-there-and-sing-at-you opera, but an engaging piece of
Read more stagecraft that invites the viewer to enter Nürnberg and care about these people. We empathize with Eva's plight that she might not get to marry the man of her choice; we feel sorry for Beckmesser that he won't win the bride he wants; we care for Hans Sachs that he's growing old, and youth and young love are things sadly in the past. Even the chorus is involved in the action. They act and re-act, and are not just a collection of singers hired for the occasion but citizens of Nürnberg.

Michael Hampe has directed with taste, naturalness, and an absence of gimmickry that some directors bring to the stage in an effort to individualize their work. John Gunter's sets do what good scenery should do: provide visual interest but not upstage the cast. The attention to detail is evident throughout, including the props that richly decorate the sets.

The picture and sound are both sharp and clear. The video elements are to be praised for capturing this production so effectively. Throughout, the viewer realizes that this is a stage production and not an MTV wannabe. There are very few in-your-face close ups–warts, moles, and fillings are happily absent. The singers are almost always captured full figure or waist-up, allowing them to be viewed in their surroundings. The camera work never detracts from the production or calls attention to itself.

If you have never been exposed to Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, be warned: It is a long opera. A very long opera. The packaging says 150 minutes. That is clearly wrong. It is 277 minutes, over four-and-a-half hours. In some ways, the opera is almost Monteverdian in structure. Much of it is melodious recitative with a burst of song at the end. Meistersinger is frequently called a comedy, but a warm-hearted romance would be closer to the mark. The Australian Opera has given us a traditional production and delivered every ounce of the warm-heartedness. It is sung in German, and the only subtitles available are in English.

-- David L. Kirk, FANFARE
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Works on This Recording

1. Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Donald McIntyre (Bass), Paul Frey (Tenor), John Pringle (Baritone),
Helena Doese (Soprano), Christopher Doig (Tenor), Donald Shanks (Bass),
Rosemary Gunn (Mezzo Soprano), Robert Allman (Baritone)
Conductor:  Sir Charles Mackerras
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Australian Opera Chorus,  Elizabethan Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1862-1867; Germany 

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