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4.6 out of 5 stars21
4.6 out of 5 stars
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 2 September 2012
It's tempting to make a snap judgement about a production of a Wagner opera right from the first note, and it's surprising just how accurate that judgement can often turn out to be. I'd suggest that you can get a feel for the tone of the whole 2011 Glyndebourne production of Die Meistersinger von Nürnburg just from Vladimir Jurowski's conducting of the London Philharmonic Orchestra through the opera's beautiful overture. Being Wagner, everything is there upfront in the Vorspiel to Act I, and in such a work with its richness of meaning and infinite ways of interpretation, you could aim for an approach that is respectful and serious, emphatic and declamatory, sensitive and romantic, even playful and irreverent and you would still be touching on vital ingredients that are all part of the make-up of Die Meistersinger von Nürnburg. You might well pick up elements of those qualities in this Glyndebourne production - and by rights they should all be in there - but from the very first note my overriding impression was that there was a particularly English touch to the delivery that emphasises the qualities in this remarkable work that one doesn't find so readily in the composer's other grand music dramas - a lightness, a warmth, a sense of humour and an air of melancholy, the tug of deep human emotions bound up in something great and beautiful.

This is a light, delicate and sensitive treatment of a beautifully balanced, thoughtful and considered work then, a far cry from the most recent Bayreuth production. I don't always like the odd touches that David McVicar adds to his productions and I often find him weak on a cohesive concept, but I can rarely fault him on his ability to hit on the perfect mood and find the most effective way of expressing it through the performers and in their relationship with all the other aspects of the production and musical performance. His work for this Glyndebourne production of Die Meistersinger von Nürnburg is just about flawless. It's perhaps a little unadventurous - setting the work within the years of Wagner's apprenticeship around 1820 rather than the original 16th century setting - but his handling of the diverse moods and rhythms of the work is masterful throughout, taking in the wide range of emotions and tones that has Hans Sachs at its heart, from melancholy to slapstick, without ever missing a beat or hitting an incongruous note that isn't suggested by the score.

Everything about the production respects this, having a cohesiveness in the period design, in the enclosed sacred locations - the church as much as the craftsman's workshop or the community square - in the lighting, in the little touches of humour and irreverence. There's also a recognition that everything important that needs to be expressed is there in the music itself, within the very structure of Wagner's composition which is the very definition of his views on the strength and power of the music-drama, the two aspects conjoined and inseparable, each supporting the other to create a rhythm and balance between the surface drama and the inner nature, with all the contradictions and complexity that this implies. It's enough to give the work room to breathe and allow the performers of the music and the singing to consider the detail, interpret it and express it through their individual strengths of personality. There's never a moment where you are waiting to get to the next more interesting scene, every moment has its own magic and Jurowski and McVicar give the singers all the opportunity they need to luxuriate in the beauty and the rich wonder of Wagner's incredible score, revealing it in all its majestic glory.

Gerald Finley's performance of Hans Sachs is the best example of this. Never have I ever seen Finley look so at home in a role, his lovely baritone sounding warm, rounded and unforced, not over-expressive, but arising naturally out of consideration for his character, rolling around the beauty and the very sound of the words, taking the time to consider their meaning and luxuriate in their phrasing. But it's far from the only impressive singing performance, the clear lyrical lightness of Marco Jentzsch's Walther and Topi Lehpituu's David both perfect foils for Anna Gabler's emotional Eva and Michaela Selinger's Lena. If their singing could be considered to lack traditional Wagnerian force, the work gains from their youthful sincerity of feeling. On the other side of the coin, but perfectly complementary, Alastair Miles displays a studious good natured gravity and solemnity as Pogner with a tone that is as beautiful as it is expressive. You could listen to this for hours. Beckmesser's comic value is easy to overplay and demonise and the role consequently has a tendency to be underrated in comparison to the earnestness of the other characters, but he's no less a vital component to the overall structure and tone and Johannes Martin Kränzle brings colour and personality to the role, with lots of comic grimacing, slapstick and double-takes, all of which fit in perfectly with the tone presented here.

This is as memorable as Meistersinger as any you'll find, one that capitalises on the intimacy of the Glyndebourne theatre and finds an appropriate tone in the performance, the staging and the singing to delve more deeply into the particular human qualities that are unique to this Wagner music-drama, expressing everything that is great about this work on levels I've never considered before. The Glyndebourne effect and the challenges of staging Wagner there is explored in the concise extra features, in interviews with Jurowski, McVicar and Finley, with particular consideration on the approach taken for this work. The Glyndebourne relationship with Wagner is also covered in the accompanying booklet, which also contains a full synopsis. The quality of the Opus Arte Blu-ray production is exemplary in every respect, from the screen direction by François Roussillon, to the well-lit High Definition image and the lovely detail revealed in the HD audio mixes. The 2-disc BD is of course compatible for all regions, but includes only English, French and German subtitles.
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on 6 December 2012
Having seen this splendid production at Glyndebourne I wanted a record of my visit. It is a different experience entirely to see Wagner played in the more intimate space of Glyndebourne rather than in a large opera house. It does not exactly transform 'Meistersinger' into a chamber opera but it does put this grandest of operas into a more human context.
The performance does not present a starry international cast but the total impression is of a production thoroughly worked-out and convincing. David McVicar has eschewed his more eccentric tendencies and produced a timeless, if slightly updated, vision of the work. Gerard Finley, a younger Sachs than we are used to, sings beatifically and makes Eva's attraction to him more believable than is usually the case. Glyndebourne's generous rehearsal schedule really shows in this performance that runs like clockwork but is not without soul. The semi-permanent set looks rock solid and works well, except for the street scene of Act II, where the permanent Gothic arches make the houses look as though they are built under a viaduct and the space is restricted for the riot episode.
I have noticed on many Blu-ray recordings that the lighting seems harsher than it does in the theatre but one gets used to this after a few minutes. I'm pleased to report that there is a complete lack of 'tonsil shots', where as so often on opera recordings, the camera produces too many extreme close-ups. Opera singers were never meant to be seen four inches from their face while singing. The surround sound, of course, is excellent and the theatre experience is wonderfully recreated.
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on 13 October 2014
This is my favourite opera of all time, and for my money perhaps the greatest opera ever written: I have known and loved it for some sixty years in many different recordings and performances. I can only echo the high praise this version has generally received, with only one relatively minor quibble to which I will come later. First, I simply cannot understand the criticism which has been expressed about Marco Jentzsch as Walther: I am not qualified to say whether his singing is always technically faithful in the proverbial "nth degree" to the printed notes in the score; I neither know nor care - he sounds fine to me. He is not of course a "heldentenor" (and is perhaps all the better for that), but he brings a compensating lyricism, sensitivity and lightness to the part which I find very refreshing. As to the assertion that Gerald Finley is too young for Sachs (and I remember the same misguided criticism being levelled at Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau!), I suggest that the essential qualities of Sachs are his wisdom, humanity and intellectual maturity, not his physical appearance. Also one should remember that, to be dramatically convincing, he needs to be young enough for Eva at least to consider him at one point as a possible husband.

My only real criticism concerns the very end of Act 2, where I feel the director has not been faithful to Wagner's (implied) wishes, and so has lost one of the loveliest and most atmospheric moments of the work. Wagner's stage direction at this point reads: "The full moon comes out and brightly illumines the now peaceful alley. The watchman walks slowly up the alley, and as he disappears round the corner the curtain falls rapidly to coincide with the final chord". It is arguable, I grant, but to my mind this suggests that at this final moment of the Act the stage should be empty except for the Nightwatchman himself, before he too disappears; and that is how it is usually played. We thus have the lovely and telling contrast of the peaceful moonlit scene completely restored to order and tranquillity after the riot and confusion which reigned just a few minutes before. In this production, however, the director spoils that by keeping Beckmesser on stage too long, and also by having ghostly and rather grotesque figures prancing about - presumably representing the "ghosts, spooks and evil spirits" of the watchman's closing lines. I suppose it is a defensible interpretation, but I think it's a pity - albeit not the end of the world.

Nevertheless, the cast are so good and the overall production so wonderful that it would be churlish to give it anything less than the full five stars. There are some good alternatives out there, but if I could only have one video Meistersinger I think it would be this one.
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on 1 December 2012
This is a great production.Gerald Finley is the best Sachs offering a warm, nuanced and however powerful baritone voice.His acting is outstanding and comes out beautifully in an excellent, clear blu-ray picture.
I have got all recorded versions of Die Meistersinger and this is my preferred one : For the greatest work of Art, a great Glyndebourne achievement.
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on 10 February 2013
D'une qualité visuelle formidable. Un son excellent comme les chanteurs et le chef. La mise en scène est toutefois conventionnell
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on 1 November 2013
Without a moments hesitation, one finds oneself in total agreement with all that has been written by previous reviewers. Why therefore, have I chosen to give this fine performance & interpretation of the Meistersinger von Nurnberg only four stars. It all rests on the unfortunate performance of one Marco Jentzsch, from the very outset of him opening his mouth, I found myself squirming uncomfortably & looking forward to him finishing whatever it was he was trying to sing. Any remotely observant listener would have noted from the outset how totally out of keeping his singing was with everyone else, two aspects of his voice stood out: First his dreadfully laboured sounding vibrato & his repeated inability to hit the specific notes, instead using the aforementioned vibrato to somehow gradually find his way to the correct note. Even if one tries to be a little more accepting & less critical of his particular style of delivery, accepting also the inherent difficulties of performing along side such greats as Finley to mention but one example, I find his whole persona & frankly limited acting & singing abilities detracted greatly from my enjoyment of the piece as a whole. It is worth noting the praise offered regarding specific performances by other reviewers, even more noteworthy is the fact Mr. Jentzsch is not mentioned once, which reminds me of the old German saying "Kein Wort ist auch Ein Wort". Although it may appear otherwise I do not like dwelling on criticism especially where one contributor is concerned, but for the sake of prospective buyers of this opera, it seems only fair they are warned, that amidst such a marvellous production & glowing individual & group performances, its overall effect is without doubt spoiled (putting it politely) by Mr. Jentzsch's contribution.
It is beyond me why he was allowed to play such an important role, what really summed his performance up was the reaction of the audience at the end, those players of lesser roles received far more recognition & applause, quite frankly I'm not certain he wasn't blushing slightly. Doubtless my opinion will be endlessly criticised, & my abilities to recognise such details questioned, however I stand by my assertions. I will watch this Blu-ray again at some point next time however I think the use of occasional fast forward maybe in order.
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Glyndebourne does it yet again and can be justly proud of this excellent production of Wagner's Mastersingers. Orchestration, casting, staging and costumes are all top grade. Gerald Finley is outstanding in the lead role of shoemaker Hans Sachs. Although the Mastersingers meeting in Act 1 might very well seem tedious, this is largely a problem for non-German speakers having to read what is being said. Having to do this when most of the singing is 'song-centred' and melodious is no problem and only becomes one when protracted 'sing-talk' is taking place as we have here. Watching the production more than once helps with this problem for non-German speakers.

There's just the two female characters: Eva and Magdalene, well played by Anna Gabler and Michaela Selinger respectively. There are times when it's easy to have the impression that women are being drowned out by a blaring posse of self-opinionated men, epitomised in the argumentative gathering of the Mastersingers. Fortunately, this kind of thing is happily cancelled out by the endearing, caring characters of Magdalene's love interest in the shape of Sach's apprentice, David (Topi Lehtipuru) and the impoverished knight Walther von Stolzing (Marco Jentzach) These actors, and indeed the whole cast, could not have been better selected for their roles. It's like as if it's all the real thing, causing the viewer to exclaim: 'I know someone just like that!' This has to be a tribute both to Wagner's genius and to the excellent acting. Eva's problem in having to choose between the two men she loves, Hans and Walther, is tellingly staged, causing the viewer to meditate upon the many faceted meaning of 'love'. Although she realises that the choice is weighted in favour of the younger man, she also realises that her happiness could not have been possible without the caring, unselfish love of the older one. Here Wagner is showing us that there's never anything truly clear cut about how everything turns out in life.

Johannes Martin Kranzle is excellent in the role of town clerk, Sixtus Beckmesser, who hopes to win the master singer contest along with marriage to Eva. In fact, the whole performance gives the impression that all the participants have been carefully chosen for their roles. And, wonder of wonders, it's all been achieved in England at Glyndebourne and it's hard to imagine how it could have been done better. Yes, it really is as good as that! There's nothing wrong with the Blu-Ray recording, which plays well on my player. I'm very pleased I bought this recording. If you like Wagner, you'll love this production.
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on 20 May 2013
This production from Glyndebourne is top class. The production is superb with wonderful sets and the cast is pretty well perfect. Gerald Finley acts and sings superbly as Hans Sachs. He seems to be born for the part. He looks slightly too young but this is a minor quibble. Eva is sung by Anna Gabler who looks the part, being young and beautiful, and also sings and acts very well. The intimate setting of the Glyndbourne theatre allows the casting of singers who look appropriate for their parts. The playing and conducting is just as good. A must-have performance.
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on 8 February 2015
This is the finest production of Die Meistersinger of the several I have seen on DVD. The principals are excellent and totally convincing. The Glyndebourne chorus is outstanding musically and dramatically. The production succeeds in avoiding the false and poisonous interpretations and implications which infected this great work in its past. From every point of view the production is a triumph for Glyndebourne.
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on 3 May 2013
This is simply the most engaging and wonderful production of this opera I have ever seen. Beautiful and passionate, tender and touching, powerful and utterly splendid! If ever there was a production that I would recommend to both the avid Wagerite AND non would be this one!!! Worth every watch over and over again!
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