Notes and Editorial Reviews
"This is always spoken of as Wagner's "most human" opera, and this performance is the finest example of that observation I've encountered...If you love Meistersinger, this production, with a sharp picture, fine stereo sound, and subtitles in four languages, will make you very happy.
From The Deutsche Oper Berlin 1995
Running Time : 266 min
Menu languages: English, French, Japanese, Spanish
Subtitle languages: English, Japanese, French
Picture Format: 16:9
Sound Format: PCM Stereo
Region Code: 0
( 2 DVD)
Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg is Richard Wagner's most celebratory opera, and is indeed the epitome of the festival opera. It is
therefore no surprise that it is often performed at the opening and reopening of opera houses. The frequent performance and playing of the radiant prelude at festive occasions is also on account of the character of the music. As an opera it is furthermore the only comedy among the serious and heavily symbolic works of Wagner. Composing Die Meistersinger after Tristan und Isolde must be the greatest contrast in operatic history, proof of the artist's ability to give each of his works a specific tone. Few works of the operatic world are politically so burdened as Wagner's Meistersinger von Nürnberg, which was known to be Hitler's favorite opera. The production by Götz Friedrich for the Deutsche Oper in Berlin (premiered on 1 May 1993) places the action among the post-war ruins of Nuremberg in 1945, treating this difficult aspect of Meistersinger's history of popularity in an impressive fashion.
Review from Classics Today:
This is always spoken of as Wagner's "most human" opera, and this performance is the finest example of that observation I've encountered. Updated to the late-19th century with no particular iconoclastic ax to grind by director Götz Friedrich, this production, premiered at the Deutsche Oper in 1993 (the taping of this performance was in 1995), is remarkable in its warmth, character delineation, and refusal to caricature anyone. The mastersingers are not bad guys--they're just provincial snobs who are afraid of anything too new. What goes on in the background with the townspeople is as important as what's happening to the main players. The people on stage look real; the chorus is made up of individuals.
Beckmesser is not a total fumbling jerk, he's just crazy about Eva and self-deluded; Sachs is a thoughtful man in middle-age, somewhat downhearted but mostly able to see himself and what's around him with affability; Walther is not a firebrand out to either cause trouble or upset the norm, he's just a guy with some new ideas about singing, which, it turns out, are just as good as the old ideas around him; Pogner is a very serious, wealthy man, whose old-fashioned notions include a sense that he knows what's best for his daughter. No one is despicable; everyone is recognizable. They move and act like people we know.
Wolfgang Brendel is a youngish-looking, thoughtful, very observant, thoroughly natural Sachs who seems as if he's learning things about himself in real time. His fine voice never tires and he never barks or pushes, singing the role as lyrically as a spring night. The Walther of Gosta Winbergh is ardent in an almost Italianate way; in his Act 2 exchange with Eva he's really angry and upset. In fact, throughout, Winbergh is more vocally extroverted than any Walther I've ever seen--he's more manly than boyish--and his voice rings brightly and true.
Eva in the person of Eva Johansson is lovely, and she and Sachs sparkle in their almost-romantic second-act exchange; if Walther hadn't come along, perhaps they might have made a good couple. Johansson makes less of the quintet than I'd like, but otherwise she's close to ideal. Eike Wilm Schulte sings every note of Beckmesser's music, and he exasperates his fellow Meistersingers as much as he does our hero and heroine--and us. It's a colorful, non-vulgar portrayal. Victor Von Halem's Pogner is suitably solemn, and he physically towers over the other characters just as his opinions put the plot in motion. The David and Magdalene of Uwe Peper and Ute Walther are vivid and well sung, and the other mastersingers, chorus, and orchestra are ideal. Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos keeps the action moving, with the second-act melée nice and clear, and he elicits beautifully thoughtful playing from the Deutsche Oper orchestra in the opera's many tender moments.
Peter Sykora's sets are good-looking, useful, and frill-free, and the first act features, to one side, a colorful banner of a Star of David, with the Biblical David and his lyre superimposed: the universality of music watches over even a city with the troubled past of Nuremberg. There is less overt wacky humor in this production than there is affection and open-heartedness, and no one can argue with that. If you love Meistersinger, this production, with a sharp picture, fine stereo sound, and subtitles in four languages, will make you very happy.
Works on This Recording
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg by Richard Wagner
Wolfgang Brendel (Baritone),
Eva Johansson (Soprano),
Gösta Winbergh (Tenor)
Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos
Berlin Deutsche Oper Chorus,
Berlin Deutsche Oper Orchestra
Written: 1862-1867; Germany
Date of Recording: 1995
Venue: Deutsche Oper, Berlin
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