Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

Richard Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

Orchester der Oper Zürich, Franz Welser-Möst

Studio: EMI

 

This glorious 1995 production of Wagner’s festival opera highlights the central debate about the artist, his inspiration and the academic rules that have to be worked with, or around, by setting it not in the Middle Ages so much as in a high-Victorian world of frock coats and cravats. Wolfgang Brendel’s impressive performance as Hans Sachs has both the authority of the great poet trying to make everyone understand the virtues of good sense and a middle way, as well as the emotional appeal of a man whose decision to make Eva’s choice between him and Walther is for once a real struggle: Brendel plays him as a man young enough to be a credible rival to the young minstrel-knight. Gosta Windbergh in turn brings real passion not only to the “Prize Song” itself but to the whole opera, not least to the aristocratic/bohemian distrust of the bourgeois world of the master singer for which Sachs ends up rebuking him. Schulte’s performance as Beckmesser conveys the meanness and pettiness without buying wholly into the viciousness with which Wagner humiliates his comic villain and through him all of his own enemies. Conductor de Burgos manages to keep the massive scale of this longest of comic operas human and humane–this never becomes a sinisterly intense or vast performance. —Roz Kaveney

 

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