Die Meistersinger Von Nurnberg I have always considered one of my favourite Wagner operas, alongside Tristan Und Isolde. It is one of his longest, but also one of his most charming and fun, with typically magnificent music from one of his best overtures(I only just prefer Tannhauser and Die Fliegende Hollander), the Prize Song, one of the finest monologues of any Wagner work in Wahn Wahn Uberall Wahn(I also have a soft spot for Dutchman's Die Frist Ist Um from Hollander) to the sublime Quintet between Sachs, Eva, Walther, David and Magdalene.
This production is more than worthy. It is not perhaps my favourite Meistersinger on DVD, I do prefer just the 1984 Weikl and Prey, 2001 Morris, Heppner and Mattila and 1988 Mackeras-conducted performances. It does tie with the 1995 Wolfgang Brendel production as a very good production of an operatic masterpiece, and is miles above the 2008 Katharina Wagner-directed production with Franz Hawlata, which tried to have smart ideas but ended up irritating instead.
Visually, it impresses. The sets are sometimes spare but often elegant, while the costumes are rich in design and make you feel as though they are from 16th century Germany. The lighting is crisp, while the staging is conservative in approach with some of riots not as effective as other versions but works. The video quality is excellent as is the camera work with Eva and Walther's eyes locking in Sachs' workshop in the final act perfectly captured in time to the soaring music at this point, while the sound is atmospheric and the stereo option especially does a good job characterising the voices and the instruments.
Musically, I can't fault this Meistersinger. The score is a masterpiece anyway but I loved the noble, stirring quality of the orchestral playing(with the Quintet still having the sublimity in orchestration and harmony it should) and Daniel Barenboim's conducting big-hearted and commanding, yet also careful and attentive. The chorus are wonderful, never static and always well-balanced.
Performances are uniformly great, with nobody really I'd consider bad. Starting first and foremost with the character that ties the opera together, Hans Sachs. Robert Holl is not one of my favourites in the role(Bernd Weikl is my favourite on DVD, Freiderich Schorr of all time), but he still makes his mark. While the lower register loses power sometimes, the voice is still pleasant, and I loved the lyrical sensitivity of Wahn Wahn Uberall Wahn. He is also very straightforward and contemplative dramatically, which immediately made him appealing.
My favourite performance though(despite his costume) was that of Peter Seiffert, whose Walther is passionate and reasonably ardent. His rendition of the Prize Song is very winning. Beckmesser is a potentially problematic role, but Andreas Schmidt's haughtiness and insecurity really shines. Matthias Holle is vocally resonant and honourable as Polgar. That is not to dispute either Emily Magee as Eva, she is not exactly youthful in the role but her firmly textured soprano voice makes it not matter so much.
Endrik Wottich is a raffish yet still likable David, playing the character with more edge than others. And Birgitta Svendon is a loyal confidant-figure in Magdalene. Overall, this Meistersinger is more than worthy. It is not my favourite version, but I do recommend it. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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