Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
is Wagner's most life-affirming opera, a romantic comedy about life and love in 16th century Nürnberg with none of the mythological characters and settings of the composer's other operas. The story concerns a knight, Walther Von Stolzing (here sung by Paul Frey) who must win the hand of the woman he loves, Eva (Helena Doese) by competing in a competition to become the Master Singer of the city. Against him are various romantic rivals, while in the role of his eventual mentor is the shoemaker Hans Sachs (Donald McIntyre).
Doese brings just the right innocent femininity to one of only two important female roles--the other is filled by Rosemary Gunn as her governess, Magdalene. Paul Frey is fine as the romantic young knight, but the opera belongs to the great New Zealand Wagnerian bass-baritone, Donald McIntyre. His performance is richly insightful as only one so steeped in the world of the composer could be. The staging is deliberately unspectacular, the colours muted to the natural earth tones of the Middle Ages, focusing all attention on the characters, drama and exhilarating music. Though running three-and-a-half hours, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg is an excellent introduction to Wagner's art; especially as presented in this 1990 performance in an engagingly direct and unpretentious style, one that draws the audience in and makes for highly effective small-screen viewing.
On the DVD: Die Meistersinger is presented on two DVDs to maximise picture quality over the 227-minute playing time. The image is 4:3 and is typical of a 1990 live opera performance recorded on video, being perfectly acceptable while revealing all the faults of the medium. The stereo sound is very good without being exceptional. There are optional subtitles in English, German, French and Spanish but no extras. --Gary S Dalkin
Maestri Cantori Di Normiberga (I) / Die Meistersinger Von Nurnberg (2 Dvd)