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Reviews

Richard Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
11 Oct 2009

Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

Videos from the Bayreuth Festspiele typically feature the highest quality audio and video of any live performance documents.

Richard Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

Peter Seiffert, Jose van Dam, Petra-Maria Schnitzer, Orchester & Chor des Opernhauses Zürich, Franz Welser-Möst.

EMI 997369 [2DVDs]

$21.97  Click to buy

And well they should - most of the productions get filmed in the house but without any audience, allowing for immaculate recording. This 1999 Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg couldn’t be more precise in its camerawork or detailed in its sound picture. On the audio side, that means that the excellent performance Daniel Barenboim elicits from the Bayreuth forces can be wholly appreciated — all the joyfulness, nobility, and good spirits of Wagner’s miraculous score come through.

The cast gathered for these performances does not shine with starry names. Often that does not mean at all that the performance lacks for either first-class singing or charismatic portrayals. However, in this case, it rather does. Robert Holl’s Sachs seems much more a part of his community, to the extent of blending in with the others. In the sharpest portrayals, the wisdom and intelligence of this character make him more distinct. Holl’s instrument manages all the music without really engaging the emotional core of the role. Andreas Schmidt as Beckmesser comes across as entirely petty and unpleasant, which makes the end inevitable - and in an opera that takes over four hours to reach its end, that drains a lot of fun from the proceedings. Peter Seiffert, standing taller (and a bit wider) than his lower-voiced comrades, sings a very fine Walther. His voice is handsome more than beautiful, but in 1999 it still had a pleasing freshness. He does come off as more than a bit pompous, however. Emily Magee is an attractive Eva, but without much charm, and the voice tightens unpleasantly at the top. A young and cute Endrik Wottrich has ample opportunity to steal his scenes as David.

Wolfgang Wagner designed the stage and directed. As director he goes in a bit too much for choreographed movements that don’t feel natural at all, such as Schmidt’s many bits of business in act three as he snoops around Sachs’s workshop. The sets are handsome, traditional, but almost like a Disneyland version of Nürnberg - rather too pretty and neat. However, the last scene, done in shades of green from the lighting to the projected backdrop, has an eerie beauty.

Despite the fine work from Barenboim, the better option for anyone wanting a Bayreuth Meistersinger on DVD would be the earlier release with a capable Horst Stein conducting a fine cast led by Bernd Weikl and Hermann Prey.

Chris Mullins

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