ALBUM TITLE: Wagner
WORKS: Der Meistersinger von Nurnberg
PERFORMER: Jose van Dam, Peter Seiffert, Petra Marias Schnitzer, Michael Volle, Matti Salminen, Christoph Strehl, Zurich Opera Chorus & Orchestra, Franz Welser Most
CATALOGUE NO: 599 8119
Nikolaus Lehnhoff’s Zürich staging has more ideas than the conventional Met Meistersinger reviewed last month. Its setting progressively moves the action from 15th-century Nuremberg (Act I) to the present (Act III), but with plenty of Wieland Wagnerish abstraction on the way. On the one hand this emphasises the opera’s theme that blind tradition in art needs to be rebelled against (the final scene sees the Masters in 19th-century top hats and frock coats before a chorus in modern dress), yet on the other, the final tableau, with the whole cast facing an idyllic, Arcadian backdrop after the infamous ‘honour your German masters’ (for once threateningly presented), appears to reaffirm the roots of European art in Greek ideals (very Bayreuth!).
Lehnhoff’s detailed characterisation is aided by singers who can really act – particularly the unusually young-looking and totally uncaricatured Beckmesser of Michael Volle and the sympathetically melancholy Sachs of José van Dam. Peter Seiffert is a stalwart Walther, but Petra-Maria Schnitzer’s Eva is sour; Christoph Strehl makes an agile, engaging David and Matti Salminen is an authoritative Pogner. If the Met performance is the more sumptuous – Franz Welser-Möst seems a little prosaic at times compared with Levine – the Zürich production is worth experiencing.
But this DVD doesn’t do it justice: while the sound is well-projected, the whole enterprise is fatally wounded by inept camerawork – crass angles, clumsy panning, poorly framed close-ups. And EMI’s packaging is devoid of anything more than cast and track lists, let alone on-screen extras. Matthew Rye