Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

COMPOSERS: Wagner
LABELS: DG
ALBUM TITLE: Wagner
WORKS: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
PERFORMER: Die Meistersinger von NürnbergDernd Weikl, Manfred Schenk, András Molnár, Martin Egel, Hermann Prey, Jef Vermeersch, Siegfried Jerusalem, Graham Clark, Mari Anne Häggander, Marga Schml; Bayreuth Festival Chorus & Orchestra/Horst Stein; dir. Wolfgang
CATALOGUE NO: DG 073 4160
The best Meistersinger on video so far reaches DVD at last. Wagner’s most humane masterwork comes up fresh and shining, despite a rather hard echo in the DTS soundtrack – the original stereo is fine.

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Stein isn’t the most individual interpreter, but his immense Bayreuth experience and craft illuminate the score with deceptive naturalness, its glowing textures brought out by the marvellous orchestra and chorus. Soloists fit their roles no less naturally.

Wolfgang Wagner deliberately set out to create a feel-good production – unnecessarily so, since despite Nazis and contemporary dissectors, Meistersinger read as his grandfather intended has nothing to apologise for. Consequently, the action seems a little neutered and PC. Designs are ‘timeless’, traditional 16th-century to quasi-Victorian. Jerusalem’s Walther, instead of an aristocratic puppy transfigured by love and art, becomes limply sensitive from the start; Weikl’s resonantly baritonal Sachs becomes merely middle-aged, making his dilemma over Eva less poignant, wisdom less hard-won; and Prey’s Beckmesser becomes mellifluous yet somewhat bland. The performances remain splendid, nevertheless, well matched by Häggander’s delightful Eva and Graham Clark’s characterful David, clear-voiced and athletic; Schenk’s rather lightweight Pogner heads a Mastersinger line-up and supporting cast without weak links.

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Wolfgang Wagner’s intervention to establish the happy ending is kitschy, but hard to resist. Michael Scott Rohan