Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Watch Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg online for free from Sunday 30 August.
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About the opera
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg stands apart among Wagner’s operas. This wise and warm-hearted comedy rejects the composer’s usual gods and goddesses, magical potions and faraway lands to tell a simpler story about everyday life and people. The result is a work of tremendous humanity and truth – a musical celebration of art itself.
When a young knight arrives in the city of Nuremberg he falls immediately in love with Eva. But her hand has been promised to the winner of a singing competition, and so, with the help of the cobbler-poet Hans Sachs, he sets out to win both the contest and the girl.
Described by the composer himself as ‘a grand comic opera’, Die Meistersinger combines lyrical arias and ensembles with vast choral statements to create a work of scope and intimacy, a piece that celebrates tradition while anticipating change and innovation.
Vladimir Jurowski conducts Glyndebourne’s first ever staging, starring Gerald Finley who makes his role debut as the cobbler-poet Hans Sachs.
To celebrate our #GlyndebourneOpenHouse stream, Gerald Finley has organised a reunion of the cast and creative team – watch now on YouTube.
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg was captured live at Festival 2011. It is available on DVD from our shop.
The London Philharmonic Orchestra
The Glyndebourne Chorus
Walther von Stolzing
Johannes Martin Kränzle
Photos: Alastair Muir
As a closing hymn is sung in St Catherine’s Church, the young newcomer Walther von Stolzing tries to catch the eye of Eva. After the service, Eva tells Walther that she is to be engaged the next day to the winner of a song contest sponsored by the local Mastersingers. Magdalene, Eva’s companion, asks her suitor David, apprentice to the cobbler and poet Hans Sachs, to explain the rules of song composition to Walther, who is astounded by its complexity. David’s fellow apprentices prepare for a preliminary song trial, and the Masters arrive. The group’s secretary, Kothner, is about to call the roll when Walther applies for the contest. This upsets Beckmesser, the town clerk, who is keen to win. The goldsmith Veit Pogner offers his daughter’s hand as prize for the contest. When Sachs suggests that Eva should have a say in the matter, Pogner decides that she is free to reject the winner but must still marry a Mastersinger. Walther introduces himself, describing his more instinctive methods of composition. For his trial song, he sings a spontaneous, free-form tune which breaks all of the Masters’ rules, while Beckmesser noisily tallies his errors. Walther, rejected by the Masters, storms off, and Sachs remains to ponder the strange appeal of Walther’s song.
The same evening, David tells Magdalene how badly Walther fared. Eva then receives the bad news from Magdalene. Eva visits Hans Sachs, confessing that she would be happy if Sachs himself won the contest. But when Sachs feigns disapproval of Walther, Eva’s true feelings become clear. As she leaves, she runs into Walther, who asks her to elope with him. When the Nightwatchman passes, they hide. Sachs lights the street lights, forcing the lovers to remain hidden. Beckmesser arrives by Eva’s window to serenade her, with Magdalene acting as stand-in. But as soon as Beckmesser begins singing, Sachs launches into a hearty cobbling song. Finally, Sachs agrees to drive a nail only when Beckmesser breaks a rule of style. The racket grows when David attacks Beckmesser, who he thinks is courting Magdalene. Awakened neighbours pour onto the street and join the fracas until the Nightwatchman’s horn disperses them. Pogner leads Eva inside, while Sachs hauls Walther and David into his shop. The Nightwatchman announces the hour.
The next day, Sachs forgives David his rowdy behaviour and asks him to recite his St John’s Day verses. Left alone, Sachs ponders the madness of the world. Walther arrives to tell Sachs of a wondrous dream he has had. In it, Sachs recognises a prize-winning song. He notates the words and helps Walther fashion them into a song, fusing the young man’s creativity with craft. After they leave, Beckmesser arrives to snoop around. Sachs catches him pocketing Walther’s poem, and he tells him to keep it. Beckmesser rushes off, now sure of victory. Eva visits Sachs, claiming her shoe is pinching. Just then, Walther returns and encores his prize song for her. Eva is torn between Sachs and Walther, but the wise Sachs turns her toward the younger man. Sachs promotes David from apprentice to journeyman, to Magdalene’s delight. Sachs then asks Eva to approve the new song, and all five friends join in praising it, and then leave for the contest.
Nuremberg’s guilds and citizens gather with great festivity. After joyful dancing, the Masters enter. Sachs receives a moving welcome from the people, which inspires touching words of thanks. The contest begins with Beckmesser ineptly trying to fit Walther’s verses to his own tune. He makes a hash of the words, drawing laughter from the crowd. Beckmesser accuses Sachs of sabotage. After the song is properly performed by Walther, all agree that he should win, but the young man refuses the Masters’ medallion. Sachs comes to the rescue, exalting both tradition and innovation. Walther claims his prize, and the people hail Sachs as Eva crowns him with Walther’s wreath.