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80 of 81 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wagner's feel-good opera
At last, the Met's definitive version on DVD! And once again, the Met shows us that you don't have to try to be different: just follow the composer's directions. Having seen most of the Met's operas that are available on DVD (and, fortunately, many of them at the opera house too), this one is definitely my favourite. The large cast is uniformly superb, the sets are as...
Published on 2 Feb 2005 by Simon Aiken

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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Limits to suspension of disbelief
Is it very shallow of me, or is it a sign of the times, that I want young lovers to look at least under thirty? The Walther in this production stretches the limits of a viewer's credulity in this respect, as does Eva. They just do not convince as two people under a powerful compulsion to defy their elders. In fact, they seem to be of the same generation as the elders they...
Published 19 months ago by Aurelian


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80 of 81 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wagner's feel-good opera, 2 Feb 2005
By 
Simon Aiken "simonpiers" (Wales) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Wagner - Die Meistersinger Von Nurnberg [Levine, Heppner] [DVD] [2004] [NTSC] (DVD)
At last, the Met's definitive version on DVD! And once again, the Met shows us that you don't have to try to be different: just follow the composer's directions. Having seen most of the Met's operas that are available on DVD (and, fortunately, many of them at the opera house too), this one is definitely my favourite. The large cast is uniformly superb, the sets are as lavish as we've come to expect, and the constant dedication to the details is mesmerising.
Highest praise to James Morris, who is privileged to be playing the most likeable role in any Wagner opera. (The ONLY likeable role?) The security of his voice in the "big bits" is matched by sensitivity throughout - his Act II monologue is a great example. He's as fine an actor as Wagner himself could have wished to see as Hans Sachs - we love this guy! Karita Mattila actually acts the age of her character (late teens), which is a rare gift for any operatic soprano. All her scenes have a special energy. As our hero, Ben Heppner easily out-sings the Walthers of the two rival productions of Meistersinger that are available on DVD. Thomas Allen avoids the popular "caricature" of Beckmesser and perhaps brings more musicality to the part than we are used to hearing. Among the smaller roles, René Pape's contribution as a rather youthful Pogner is outstanding.
The sound quality is impeccable, and they seem to have got the lighting perfect this time. (One gripe I've had with many of the Met productions on DVD is the murky lighting.) The production also benefits immensely from detailed camera work - no where more so than in the lengthy song school scene in Act I, where we seem to be treated to characterisations of all twelve Masters.
I assume that Maestro Levine likes this opera - we actually see him singing along to the music during the prelude! His tempi are traditionally, as befits this production, with the exception of a rather brisk "Entry of the Masters" in Act III; instead of a self-consciously pompous procession we have the Masters hurrying on to the stage one-by-one in undisguised glee. (Sachs picking up the small girl as he enters is a particularly lovely touch.)
The one drawback to this production? From now on, I'm going to find it hard to take James Morris seriously as Wotan... For a modest price you get almost 5 hours of glorious opera. Buy this recording, watch it, and feel good about the world!
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58 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful performance of "Die Meistersinger", 30 Mar 2005
By 
Mr. Christian Hoskins (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Wagner - Die Meistersinger Von Nurnberg [Levine, Heppner] [DVD] [2004] [NTSC] (DVD)
This is a glorious and moving version of this great work. I'd previously not been stirred by my CD sets conducted by Jochum and Karajan (1951). Indeed, the latter version, recorded live at Bayreuth, is so highly regarded that I wondered if my lack of appreciation related to "Die Meistersinger von Nürnburg" itself rather than the recorded performances. Levine and his collaborators have now set me right. This DVD set is such a wonderful experience that "Die Meistersinger" has elevated itself to its rightful place as one of my favourite musical works.

I use the word 'musical' deliberately because it is the music that makes this special. Throughout Acts 1 and 2, there a flow of luminous melody that I'd not really appreciated before and which underpins the unfolding story. However, it is Act 3 that brings the musical and emotional peaks - the meditative prelude, the scene with Sachs and Eva, the entry of the Meistersingers, the delivery of the Prize Song, and Walther's acceptance by Eva and the townsfolk. The Midsummer's Day motif, first heard in Pogner's address to the Meistersingers in Act 1 and at the beginning of Act 2, resounds in the orchestra at key moments like a hymn to joy.

Those used to the familiar grand delivery of the prelude to Act 1 may find it here slightly underplayed. However, this matches Levine's emphasis on warmth and humanity rather than monumentalism. This is matched by the cast - Heppner a hefty but appealing Walther, Mattila a shining Eva and Morris an avuncular Sachs. All of the other characters are memorable in the right way, and the Met provides a traditional and pleasant setting, closely following Wagner's stage directions.

I have only one quibble with this set, and that is that the English subtitles are seriously minimalist. This is somewhat disturbing because one often hears the singers without any accompanying text appearing on the screen. An analysis of the libretto shows that nothing significant is lost, but it makes it more difficult to match words to music for those of us that don't understand German. This is the only blot on this otherwise magnificent set, and not enough for me to withhold 5 stars from my rating.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic Production, 30 Dec 2005
By 
E. A. Redfearn "eredfearn2" (Middlesbrough) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Wagner - Die Meistersinger Von Nurnberg [Levine, Heppner] [DVD] [2004] [NTSC] (DVD)
The New York Met has produced some fine operas over the years, many of them, much to the delight of opera fans, are now available on glorious DVD. This is an example of what could be achieved with tremendous production values; a brilliant orchestra led by maestro James Levine, and a wonderful cast led by the veteran James Morris. Its a fantastic achievement all round. The lovely Karita Mattila is in fine singing voice, aided by Jill Grove as her friend Magdalene. Ben Heppner has a wonderful consistant tone as Stolzing although he may not look the part, he does sing with much passion and style. The well known Baritone Thomas Allen brings the difficult part of Beckmesser alive with much charm and humour. You cannot help feeling quite sorry for him during the climax of the opera. And of course, James Morris, who after his successful role as Wotan in the mighty Tetralogy Des Nibelungen sings the taxing role of Hans Sach with great determination, skill and much warmth. I do not think I have seen a production of Meisteringers which match Wagners production notes. I do think he would have been quite pleased with it. Picture and sound is very good indeed, especially if you have a 5:1 Surround System. A very good buy.
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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Meisterwerk!, 28 May 2005
By 
D. A. Morgan (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Wagner - Die Meistersinger Von Nurnberg [Levine, Heppner] [DVD] [2004] [NTSC] (DVD)
I am not a paid-up member of the Richard Wagner fan club but I can honestly say this is one of the most enjoyable and uplifting operas I have ever seen - live or otherwise. Otto Schenk's production is a visual feast and thankfully this is not one of those productions hampered by hamfisted camerawork; veteran video director Brian Large chooses his close ups and long shots to perfection.
Of the singers James Morris gets the loudest cheers - and so it should be after hours on stage. His is a performance of Sachs - noble of bearing and of spirit - that must be hard to beat. And in an opera of high ideals and low comedy Thomas Allen plays a Beckmesser one can truly feel sorry for. The other parts - Mattila as Eva and Pape as Pogler - are no less enjoyable, rounding off what must be one of the most satisfying renditions of this opera in modern times.
Buy it.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent performance. Excellent sound. Buy it., 31 Jan 2009
By 
Doug Urquhart (Southport, CT USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Wagner - Die Meistersinger Von Nurnberg [Levine, Heppner] [DVD] [2004] [NTSC] (DVD)
Let's start with the technicalities. The picture and sound quality of this disk are superb!The picture is anamorphic wide screen (even though the box describes it as 4:3) and gives crystal-clear reproduction of Gil Wechsler's 'Old Master' lighting effects. The DTS 5.1 sound faithfully reproduces the ambience of the Met (even including the guy with the cough, a few rows down on my left), and is outstanding for a live performance.

The performance? It's the Met - what do you expect? Levine and the Met Orchestra were in top form, extracting every bit of humor and pathos from some of Wagner's most beautiful music.

I must confess that I was worried that James Wotan Morris could handle the essential humanity of Sachs, but I needn't have bothered - he was perfect. It was strange to see him singing with both eyes open, though.

Thomas Allen's Beckmesser was a tour de force, reminding me of Hermann Prey. Not only does Allen sing well, but he is an excellent physical comedian. The scene in Sach's workshop was hilarious. He also managed to convey Beckmesser's malice - essential if he is not to be perceived as a pathetic victim.

Ben Heppner's Walter was outstanding. It is said that nobody plays Walter well. Mr Heppner did. He's the first good Walter I've ever seen.

Rene Pape's Pogner was beautifully sung and acted, but I can't help feeling that he looks a bit young for the part. Well, that's my fault for not suspending disbelief properly - his performance was impeccable.

And now Karita Matilla. I'm probably going to be lynched by one of her rabid followers, but I don't think she makes a particularly good Eva. Her voice was superb, and all that, but there has to be a chemistry between Eva and Sachs, and it just wasn't there. I don't think it was the fault of Morris, either.

My favorite video production of Die Meistersinger is the 1984 Bayreuth production with Weikl as Sachs. At the time I bought the Met version, the Bayreuth production wasn't available on DVD. Until it was, the Met Meistersinger ably took its place.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a revelation, 6 April 2007
By 
Neil Pelling "Enigma***" (South Wales) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Wagner - Die Meistersinger Von Nurnberg [Levine, Heppner] [DVD] [2004] [NTSC] (DVD)
I have known the music to most of this opera for getting on for sixty years but have never seen it staged. This performance is superb especially James Morris as Hans Sachs and the Beckmesser of Thomas Allen. The staging and costumes are in keeping with the time it was written. (No modern update here). To watch this opera along with the english subtitles really brings home the comedy of the piece. Don't be put off by the length of it. This is no Pagliacci. Watch it over two nights if necessary but if you like Wagner's music and have never seen one of his opera's give this a try. Better still rent it from Amazon as I did. You can purchase it later.It is cheaper than four CD's anyway.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Mastersingers of New York, 11 May 2008
By 
Nicholas Casley (Plymouth, Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Wagner - Die Meistersinger Von Nurnberg [Levine, Heppner] [DVD] [2004] [NTSC] (DVD)
"It didn't fit any of the rules." Thus does Hans Sachs contemplate at his leisure the new song by Stolzing, which provides the autobiographical key to Wagner's great comic opera. This DVD features a performance of Otto Schenk's traditionalist 1993 production at the Met. The performance was filmed live in December 2001.

A beaming James Levine clearly enjoys himself in the orchestra pit as he commences the opening prelude, and that smile of joy is prevalent throughout the following 290 minutes. The glorious sound of his orchestra and the perfect phrasing are a joy to hear.

The cast are superb. James Morris as the hero Sachs is indescribably flawless; Thomas Allen is equally so as the prim and officious Beckmesser, and when both are on stage together, they are a delight to behold; Matthew Polenzani provides benign humour (Beckmesser's humour is tragic) through his portrayal of the apprentice David; and Rene Pape as Pogner displays the pride of a successful businessman who seeks fame by auctioning his daughter, truly a man who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing.

The casting is not visually perfect. Ben Heppner is too old to play Stolzing. He looks as if he could even be Eva's father. And he is too large to be a convincing beau, at least by contemporary standards. But his fine voice and committed performance cannot be doubted. Despite her mature beauty, Karita Mattila as the innocent and nave Eva is, I'm afraid, for me too old to be convincing in the part too. But once these disappointments are taken on board, their performances are so good, and the music is so divine, that I still nevertheless consider this DVD to be worthy of five stars.

The only extra provided consists of an interesting picture gallery of the opera showing scenes from previous productions of this work at the Met.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Meister production !, 11 Dec 2006
By 
Steven Lust - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Wagner - Die Meistersinger Von Nurnberg [Levine, Heppner] [DVD] [2004] [NTSC] (DVD)
No DVD can reproduce the atmosphere of live performance, but this one

comes about as close as possible. This performance radiates personality, charm and emotion with singing that's second to none. As other reviews have noted there are extremely fine performances from James Morris, Ben Heppner and René Pape. Excellent pcm recording if you don't have surround with detailed and well lit images which appear to dwarf the size of the Met. This DVD would still be a bargain at twice the price !
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lavish, 7 Jun 2007
By 
maximus (manchester, uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Wagner - Die Meistersinger Von Nurnberg [Levine, Heppner] [DVD] [2004] [NTSC] (DVD)
This is such a great value DVD, it deserved more than 5 stars :o) Not only is the video and sound quality superb, the staging is lavish and fitting of this huge Opera, but wait until you hear the music. From the moment you see Levine walk to the podium to start the Overture/Prelude I was gripped. The Orchestra play it to perfection and then comes the first scence with the solemn chorus and the solo performances that follow are out of this world. The balance between stage and orchestra pit is very well judged and you feel you are at the live performance. If you are a Wagner fan, then this DVD is a must have along with Levine's Ring cycle (also recorded at the Met).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't forget the staging, 30 Oct 2012
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This review is from: Wagner - Die Meistersinger Von Nurnberg [Levine, Heppner] [DVD] [2004] [NTSC] (DVD)
Nobody seems to have mentioned the staging and stage business. This, the blocking, costumes, sets, lighting etc are all of sterling quality. And the music is great too!
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