Introducing… Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Everything you need to know about Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, which is available to watch online for free as part of Glyndebourne Open House on Sunday 30 August
In this instalment of our Introducing series we explore David McVicar’s production.
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg is part of Glyndebourne Open House – a weekly series of free operas, available on YouTube.
A brief introduction:
The composer’s only mature comedy, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg is often seen as ‘an anomaly’ among Wagner’s operas: the only original plot Wagner devised and the only one rooted in a real place and time, rejecting gods and goddesses to tell a simple story about familiar, everyday people. The result is a work of tremendous warmth and truth – a musical celebration of art, artists and humanity.
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.
Although composed in broadly the same style of sweeping, continuous music as Tristan und Isolde or the Ring cycle, Die Meistersinger breaks many of the rules Wagner himself set-out for opera, incorporating conventions like verse and chorus structures, arias, ensembles and a ballet. These more old-fashioned elements – the four-square rhythms and glowing, affirmative harmonies established in the radiant C major Prelude – reflect the traditional, rule-bound society of Renaissance Nuremberg that he paints in a score gleaming with civic and national pride, gilded with melody and mighty choral statements.
Why not to miss it:
Glyndebourne’s first ever staging of Die Meistersinger is also the largest production in the Festival’s history. It’s the fulfilment of the dearest ambition of our founder John Christie, who dreamed of staging Wagner and arranged a concert performance of an excerpt for the opera in the Organ Room in 1928.
Festival favourite David McVicar directs a production that updates the action to Wagner’s own age. With the help of designer Vicki Mortimer’s ‘ingenious’ set, he creates a handsome, naturalistic vision of small-town Germany, playing the drama ‘as Wagner intended’ as ‘a rich, humane comedy with serious overtones’. The result is ‘a great show’ full of ‘style, intelligence and insight’.
A great moment to look out for:
One of the greatest excitements of hearing Die Meistersinger from Glyndebourne’s intimate auditorium is the overwhelming power and intensity of the composer’s choruses and chorales, thrillingly sung by the young Glyndebourne Chorus – bigger than ever for this production. Based on lines written by the historical Hans Sachs to greet Luther and the Reformation, Act III chorus ‘Wach auf!’ (Awake! Now the dawn of day is seen) is a glorious musical and spiritual affirmation – a statement of faith in a new world.
While it opens with a huge choral shout – a great musical outstretching of the arms – ‘Wach auf!’ is all the more powerful for its restraint and warmth, an intimate, fragile song shared by a community changed by Sachs’ wisdom that grows in strength to an overwhelming climax, a real outpouring of collective emotion and belief.
Cast and creative team:
Vladimir Jurowski (‘a Wagnerian of considerable stature’) conducts an ‘exhilarating’ London Philharmonic Orchestra and the largest ever Glyndebourne Chorus in ‘an account to treasure’ of Wagner’s rich score that ‘nicely judges the work’s ebb and flow’.
The cast is led by the ‘supremely elegant singing’ of an ‘extraordinary’ Gerald Finley – a mesmerising mixture of ‘sadness, anger, nobility, passion and resignation’ as cobbler Hans Sachs. He’s matched by Johannes Martin Kranzle – ‘very much Finley’s equal in subtlety’ – making his Glyndebourne debut as Beckmesser. His thwarted poet is ‘a wonderful comic creation’, ‘vocally strong, and all the more touching for keeping the right side of caricature’.
Marco Jentzsch is a passionate Walther and Anna Gabler a gentle Eva, with Topi Lehtipuu as Sachs’ high-spirited apprentice David and Alastair Miles as ‘wonderfully lugubrious’ Pogner.
Image credits: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Festival 2011 | photos by Alastair Muir