Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

Synopsis

Discover the story of Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

Act I

At a church service…

Walther becomes smitten with Eva, who tells him 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 David, her sweetheart and Hans Sachs’ apprentice, to explain the rules of song composition to Walther, who is astounded by its complexity.

Mastersong trial

The Mastersingers arrive for a preliminary song trial, and Walther applies for the contest, upsetting Beckmesser, who is keen to win.

When the goldsmith Veit Pogner offers his daughter Eva’s hand as the prize, Sachs suggests she should have a say in the matter.

Pogner decides Eva is free to reject the winner but must still marry a Mastersinger.

Photo: Tristram Kenton

A break from tradition

Walther introduces himself, describing his more instinctive methods of composition.

For his trial song he sings a spontaneous, free-form tune that breaks all the Mastersingers’ rules. Beckmesser noisily tallies his errors.

Walther, rejected by the Mastersingers, storms off, and Sachs remains to ponder the strange appeal of Walther’s song.

Act II

Photo: Tristram Kenton

True feelings

The same evening David tells Magdalene how badly Walther fared, and Magdalene brings Eva the bad news.

Eva visits Hans Sachs, confessing she would be happy if Sachs himself won the contest.

But when Sachs feigns disapproval of Walther, Eva’s true feelings become clear.

An unwelcome serenade

As she leaves, Eva runs into Walther, who asks her to elope with him. The Watchman passes and they hide. Sachs lights the street lights, forcing the lovers to remain hidden.

Beckmesser arrives by Eva’s window to serenade her, but Magdalene appears there as stand-in. When Beckmesser begins singing, Sachs launches into a hearty cobbling song. Sachs then agrees to drive a nail only when Beckmesser breaks a rule of style.

A riot breaks out

The racket grows when David attacks Beckmesser, who he thinks is courting Magdalene. Awakened neighbours pour on to the street and join the fracas until the Watchman’s horn disperses them.

Pogner leads Eva inside, while Sachs hauls Walther and David into his shop. The Watchman announces the hour.

Act III

Madness and mastersong

The next day Sachs forgives David for his rowdy behaviour. Left alone, Sachs ponders the madness of the world.

Walther arrives to tell Sachs of a dream he had, in which Sachs recognised a prize-winning song. Sachs notates the words and helps Walther fashion them into a song.

After they leave, Beckmesser arrives to snoop around. Sachs catches him pocketing Walther’s poem and tells him to keep it. Beckmesser rushes off, now sure of victory.

A prize song

Eva visits Sachs, and Walther returns and sings his prize song for her.

Eva is torn between Sachs and Walther, but the wise Sachs turns her towards the younger man.

Sachs asks Eva to approve the new song, and they join with David and Magdalene in praising it.

Photo: Tristram Kenton

The day of the contest arrives

Nuremberg’s guilds and citizens gather with great festivity. After joyful dancing the Mastersingers enter.

Sachs receives a moving welcome from the people and offers touching words of thanks.

Mastersinger!

The contest begins as Beckmesser struggles to fit Walther’s verses to his own tune. His bumbling performance draws laughter and Beckmesser accuses Sachs of sabotage.

Walther performs the song properly and all agree he should win, but the young man refuses the Mastersingers’ 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.

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