Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Wagner
LABELS: Royal Opera House Heritage Series
ALBUM TITLE: Wagner
WORKS: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
PERFORMER: Gösta Winbergh, Nancy Gustafson, John Tomlinson, Thomas Allen, Catherine Wyn-Rogers, Herbert Lippert; Royal Opera House Chorus & Orchestra/Bernard Haitink

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The last performances in 1997 before the Royal Opera House closed for rebuilding were of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and although there are some flaws, this emerges in my opinion as the best recording of the work for the last 40 years. Haitink is at his best here, and the Prelude to Act III is played with heartbreaking inwardness, though the Prelude to Act I is less convincingly festive than it might be. John Tomlinson is a slightly rough Hans Sachs, but he hardly tires and his heart is in every note. Gösta Winbergh was the finest Walther to be heard there for many decades, with a voice both dark and romantic, and the Eva of Nancy Gustavson responds rapturously to him. The principals all sing the best-balanced Quintet you will hear on any recording – quite a feat for a live occasion. And once again the all-round standard of the soloists, and the splendour of the chorus and orchestra make this a most exhilarating, moving set. It was the perfect note on which to end that period in the House’s history: more than any other opera, Meistersinger requires dedicated team-work from a huge cast, at least six of whom need to be of star quality. That is what we get here, and so to pick holes in the face of such massive achievement would be petty and irrelevant. Michael Tanner