Die Meistersinger Von Nürnberg
Disclosure: as a Glyndebourne member I helped, in a small way, to sponsor this production. It doesn’t stop me declaring it the finest on video, and one of the best anywhere, a thoughtful character comedy which shows up the emptiness of Bayreuth’s recent farragos.
David McVicar’s staging stokes the glow of Meistersinger’s humane heart, while his timeshift to the Austen-ish 1800s of Wagner’s birth, neatly offloads its hoch-Germanic ‘baggage’. He scatters Vicki Mortimer’s Biedermeier designs with atmospheric detail, from Act II’s Bach statue to the portrait of Sachs’s late wife. He exploits Glyndebourne’s intimacy to make characters and action more human in scale, but brilliantly embraces the difficult Festweise crowds; and above all he reminds us that this is an opera about youth and self-discovery.
Gerald Finley’s pivotal Sachs, relishing this intensely verbal role with a Lieder-singer’s skill and beauty, seems far more natural without snowy whiskers, a brawny 40-something craftsman-scholar, credibly attractive to Eva, tightening Wagner’s web of sexual tensions. You couldn’t misread this Sachs’s final speech as hymning German supremacism. Johannes Martin Kränzle’s richly sung Beckmesser is equally no pantaloon but a self-deluding dandy; like Shakespeare’s Malvolio, his tearful self-destruction evokes more pity than sympathy.
Intimacy also frees Marco Jentzsch’s Walther from exaggerated swashbuckle, and Anna Gabler’s Eva from forcing her lyrical voice. Topi Lehtipuu’s attractive tones suit a stronger than usual David. Alistair Miles is a lightish Pogner, refreshingly unpompous, and his fellow Masters are a likeably convivial bunch.
Vladimir Jurowski completes the ensemble with a beautiful account, unfolding the story with pace and details. Together they make the immense performance the most uplifting I can recall.
Michael Scott Rohan