Wagner's only comedy (if you don't count Das Liebesverbot, based on Shakespeare's rather difficult Measure for Measure), is basically an initiation ritual. Walther von Stoltzing is in love with a young woman named Eva. He must prove his love by composing a song for the Mastersinger festival; if he wins the competition, he wins Eva. Meistersinger is also a treatise on why Wagnerism is better than the old (read Brahmsian) style of composition. Hans Sach, Walther's sponsor, insists that Walther's first improvised song, Am Stillen Herd, even with its weaknesses, shows much promise. Sixtus Beckmesser, on the other hand, insists that it does not adhere to the classical virtues, and, therefore is unworthy of any attention. The contest enjoins all its competitors to set the poem Morgenlich luectend im Rosigemshind to music. Beckmesser's version is sludge, and he makes a fool of himself singing it. Walther's song, on the other hand, wins both the contest, and Eva. As an argument, Meistersinger is pretty flimsy stuff; Brahms is no Beckmesser. Yet as music drama, Meistersinger is remarkable. Dover reprinted the early Peters edition. There is an English translation of all German frontismatter; unfortunately, however, there is no English glossary of German musical terms. There is a reprint of the original title page, which is kind of fun. The score is too big, and the book too small for podium use, but the book is well made, easy to read, quite reasonably priced, and ideal for the average opera lover.