Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg / Barenboim

Release Date: 2/26/2008
Label: Euroarts
Catalog Number: 2072358
Composer: Richard Wagner
Conductor: Daniel Barenboim
Number of Discs: 2

Physical Format:

Notes and Editorial Reviews

WAGNER Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg Daniel Barenboim, cond; Robert Holl ( Hans Sachs ); Peter Seiffert ( Walther von Stolzing ); Andreas Schmidt ( Sixtus Beckmesser ); Emily Magee ( Eva ); Endrik Wottrich ( David ); Birgitta Svendén ( Magdalene ); Matthias Hölle ( Veit Pogner ); Bayreuth Festival O & Ch EUROARTS 2072358 (2 DVDs: 274:00) Live: Bayreuth 6/21–30/1999

This Bayreuth Die Meistersinger, staged and directed by Wolfgang Wagner, was first seen in 1996 and filmed from June 21 to 30 of 1999. An earlier Meistersinger production of Wolfgang’s, unexceptionally conducted by Horst Stein and issued on a Deutsche Grammophon DVD set in 2006, was reviewed in Fanfare 30:2. For me, a failing of that version was its revisionist view of Sixtus Beckmesser, a representation that attempted to portray him in a sympathetic light, expunging unpleasant racial associations with the role that may have lingered from an earlier Bayreuth era. The performance under consideration here finds a more effective way to minimize any persisting nationalistic residua by presenting the work “in a way,” as Marion Vera Forster writes in her booklet note, “that implies that it has no history apart from its own.” The crisply lit set is spare, but the costumes are richly designed and fully evocative of 16th-century Germany (even if Walther’s get-up for the final scene looks to have come from the pimp department of the Big & Tall Men’s Store). There’s plenty to look at. Though we’ve all seen more effectively choreographed act II riots, the scene in the meadow has the requisite pageantry, as the guilds and masters enter and the local populace performs their holiday dance.

The cast has no significant weaknesses. Despite resembling an NFL interior lineman, Peter Seiffert’s got the vocal goods for Walther von Stolzing. The song he offers at the disastrous first act trial (“Am stillen Herd”), while unschooled, impresses with its passion—and Seiffert manages to keep it pretty much audible all the way to the end, even as chaos erupts. Emily Magee’s nicely focused and textured soprano makes for an appealing Eva. Endrik Wottrich portrays a raffish David, likable but with more of a worldly edge than is usually the case; Birgitta Svendén’s Magdalene is clearly more Eva’s keeper than her confidant.

Andreas Schmidt is a middle-of-the-road, standard-issue Beckmesser who satisfactorily displays a puffed-up haughtiness coexisting with pathetic insecurity. Robert Holl’s Sachs is instantly appealing—straightforward, contemplative, decent. His instrument isn’t the plushest bass-baritone on the Wagner circuit and he loses some power at the bottom of his range. But Holl delivers the cobbler’s big pieces—“Was duftet doch der Flieder” from act II or “Wahn! Wahn! Überall Wahn!”—with the sensitivity of a Lieder singer. Matthias Hölle is a regal yet honorable Pogner.

Daniel Barenboim lavishes careful attention on every note of a score he obviously knows extremely well. The overture possesses a stirring nobility, and there are many moments when the orchestra soars, as when Eva and Walther’s eyes lock in Sachs’s workshop in the final act. The chorus, typically for Bayreuth, has been magnificently prepared.

Video quality is excellent. I spent a good deal of time switching among the three audio options, PCM Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1, and DTS 5.1 and conclude that, while the stereo program, as usual, characterizes voices and instruments more faithfully, the surround versions add enough atmosphere (and a hint of the magical Festspielhaus acoustic) to justify their use. Subtitles are available in German, English, French, and Italian. James Levine’s DG Meistersinger DVD is still numero uno , but—especially for Barenboim’s big-hearted leadership—this version would be a worthy shelf-mate for the Heppner/Morris/Allen/Mattila performance, if you’re having more than one.

FANFARE: Andrew Quint

Hans Sachs – Robert Holl
Veit Pogner – Matthias Hölle
Kunz Vogelgesang - Bernhard Schneider
Konrad Nachtigall – Roman Trekel
Sixtus Beckmesser – Andreas Schmidt
Fritz Kothner – Hans-Joachim Ketelsen
Balthasar Zorn – Torsten Kerl
Ulrich Eisslinger – Peter Maus
Augustin Moser – Helmut Pampuch
Hermann Ortel – Sándor Sólyom-Nagy
Hans Schwartz – Alfred Reiter
Hans Foltz – Jyrki Korhonen
Walther von Stolzing – Peter Seiffert
David – Endrik Wottrich
Eva – Emily Magee
Magdalene – Birgitta Svendén
Ein Nachctwächter – Kwangchul Youn

Wolfgang Wagner, stage director, set design
Jorge Jara, costume design
Iván Markó, choreographer

Picture format: NTSC 16:9
Sound format: PCM Stereo / Dolby Digital 5.0 / DTS 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: English, German, French, Spanish
Booklet notes: English, German, French
Running time: 274 mins
Works on This Recording
1. Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg by Richard Wagner
Conductor: Daniel Barenboim
Period: Romantic
Written: 1862-1867 ; Germany
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