Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

LABELS: EuroArts
WORKS: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
PERFORMER: Robert Holl, Matthias Hölle, Peter Seiffert, Emily Magee, Endrik Wottrich, Andreas Schmidt; Bayreuth Festival/Daniel Barenboim; dir. Wolfgang Wagner (Bayreuth, 1999)
CATALOGUE NO: 2072358 (NTSC system; dts 5.1; 16:9 anamorphic)


Barenboim’s Bayreuth years gave us a memorable DVD Ring and Tristan, and he’s probably the best feature here. In Wolfgang Wagner’s previous staging, a current recommendation, veteran Horst Stein conducts with mellow warmth. Barenboim is grander and more detailed but less fluent; his penchant for abrupt accelerando, as in the Act III transition, can be irritating. The newer production is easy enough on the eye, with a convex cyclorama of projections such as fresco patterns, pantiled rooftops and green foliage, overhanging a stepped acting area, mostly bare but for some stark houses in Act II. Wolfgang’s action is equally straightforward, but frequently dull to the point of perfunctory. Act III’s Festweise is stagey, with imported dancers, so David rebukes his fellows for dancing when they aren’t, and the Mastersingers’ entrance is shapeless. Nor do the singers generate much excitement. Best are Emily Magee’s Eva, attractive in voice and person, Endrik Wottrich’s lyrical David, and Andreas Schmidt’s silky-voiced, ‘sensitive’ Beckmesser, like Hermann Prey in the earlier set. Between Peter Seiffert and predecessor Siegfried Jerusalem there’s little to choose vocally, but Seiffert, a huge ‘amphora Heldentenor’, looks more like a Balkan baron than a Franconian knight. Matthias Hölle’s Pogner looks richer than he sounds. Robert Holl’s Sachs is the crippling deficiency, stumpily inexpressive both physically and vocally. The recording is fine visually, but the surround-sound mixes are too remote and echoey. Stein and Mackerras remain benchmarks. Michael Scott Rohan