MET Opera House building–Lincoln Center/Tuesday October 26th, 2021.
Welcome back friends!
This week, welcome back again, to opera.
Welcome to an incredible and monumental tribute; a tribute to the importance of creating praised Art, to live a fulfilling, lively, and contented life; a tribute from German composer, Wagner (1813-1883), one of the most talented craftsmen ever, in the world of classical music/drama masterpieces.
And Wagner was sincerely convinced, I believe, that accomplished Art, (which intrinsically, results, for many, from a relationship between innovation and tradition, exhilaration and discipline, artist and audience), Art can lead those interested in growing their talent for personal artistic expression, (especially when recognized as such), and particularly, when inspired and regimented, Art can lead those devoted to refining their craft (whatever craft, it may be), to all sorts of victories, glee, and happiness, in the personal and public spheres.
Wow! and Yay!
Welcome to 19th century (1868) “Die meistersinger von Nürnberg”, by Wagner; a galvanizing comedy in three acts, which fleshes out, in particular, the art of inspired “mastersinging”, with incredible brio, showcasing Wagner’s amazing command of musical language, and wonderful mastery of poetry, as well (Wagner having also, unsurprisingly, chosen to write this opera’s libretto).
And what particularly moved me, with this huge opera dedicated to song writing, is Wagner’s capacity to create a lighthearted love story, overflowing with skilled poetry and music, romance and comedy, yet, interspersed as well, with gravitas at times; a mirror/counterbalance opera, to another opera Wagner wrote in 1861, a beautiful tragic love story (and probably my favorite Wagnerian opera, “Tannhauser”), showcasing as well, another song contest, but which ends, here, in “Die Meistersingers von Nürnberg” case, happily.
Yay! Yay! Yay!
Finally, be forewarned that this unique, colossal ” Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg” opera, is also, one of the longest opera ever written (5hours and 50 minutes long, people), yet, time flew supersonically, at the Met Opera House theater, last Tuesday (it was that entertaining); and thanks to two intermissions, it allowed also, for fun socializing, leg stretching, and merriment (always a plus).
Wow and Yay, yay, yay!!!
So, what is “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg” about?
In a nutshell, it is a love story, between two young love birds, from the 16th century, which takes places in Germany, during a singing contest, right before the St John Midsummer joyful festivities (celebrating the most sunlight in the year, and St John the baptist’s birth, a huge festival, for centuries, around the world, including lots of singing, dancing, game playing, and festive bonfires), which ends well for the love birds, despite rivalries with two other potential suitors, generational gaps, and youthful craft shortfalls.
Wow! and Yay! Yay! Yay!
In Act 1, Young, handsome, dashing, knight, Walther von Stolzing, from Bavaria, a self-taught poet and singer, meets per chance, in Nürnberg, (an idealized symbol of cultural greatness), a center of wealth, where accomplished craftsmen, of course, understand beauty and poetry, like no other (people); young Walther, meets lovely, charming, young Eva, who has just attended mass, with her servant Magdalene. Young Walter of course, immediately falls head over heels, in love with Eva, and wants to know, if Eva is already engaged to be married. Eva replies that she is to be engaged, the next day, to the winner of a song contest (with complicated rules and regulations), held by the local guild of “mastersingers”, as her father, a respected and wealthy goldsmith, wants to honor praised Art, by giving away his fortune to the winner, and his daughter (if she agrees, she can disagree to marry the winner if she doesn’t love him, but she is told, that it will be mandatory for her, to wed a meistersinger).
As Walther sings in front of members of the guild (and his two main rivals), an impulsive tune, in praise of love and spring, breaking many of the masters rules, Walther is rejected from the trial song contest; yet one of his rivals, the most talented and illustrious poet amongst the mastersingers, and older widower, and equally highly respected, as an accomplished craftsman (a praised shoe maker), Hans Sachs, reflects on the unexpected appeal of the spontaneous tune; sung with an intensity and a passion, by the self taught poet, young Walther, that deeply moves, wonderfully hearted, skillful, and brilliant Sachs.
Wow! and Yay! Yay ! Yay!
In Act 2, Eva, hearing the disappointing news (that young Walther was dismissed from the song contest), from her servant Magdalene, who is also, the sweetheart of Hans Sachs apprentice, David; Eva then, visits Hans Sachs (Walther’s greatest rival, since Sachs is not only highly respected by all, as a poet and shoe maker, but also deeply admired by Eva, and who feels huge affection for him, despite his age); Eva then visits Hans Sachs, to learn more about Walther’s trial misfortune. Eva learns as well, that Beckmesser, an old pedantic town clerk, also wants to win her hand, and Eva, lets Hans Sachs know, that she wouldn’t be unhappy, if Sachs won the contest himself.
Yet, Eva does also reveal to Hans Sachs, her warm and loving feelings towards young Walther. Hans Sachs then, decides immediately, to self-sacrifice his potential bliss with Eva, and will help instead Eva to find happiness with young Walther.
Yay! yay! yay!
Of course, young Walther appears soon after, and convinces Eva to elope with him; as Hans Sachs wanting to help them, and also protect them, prevents their flight, by lighting up the street with a lantern, to force Eva and Walther to stay still; and as Bessmecker (the second rival), arrives to serenade Eva; Bessmecker actually does (a wonderfully fun serenading scene from the street), to the audience’s delight, in front of Eva’s servant, Magdalene, impersonating her on a balcony, while Eva and Walther observe the serenading, from the street, while hiding; and all the while, as Sachs, listening to Bessmecker’s serenading song, from the street also, hammers out “broken” rules of meistersinging, at Bessmecker’s demand, to help strengthen the quality of Bessmecker’s song, while (Sachs) is fixing shoe soles.
Confusion and mayhem keeps growing in the street, when David also attacks Bessmecker, for apparently wooing his sweetheart, Magdalene.
And pajamas-clad neighbors, roused from their sleep, from all the noise and chaos, join in, outdoors, the general ruckus. All very joyful, lighthearted, loud, a tad angry, and silly scenes!
In Act 3, Sachs, at home, the next morning, reflects to himself, on the madness of the world, often filled with unnecessary anger and tumult.
Then, young Walther arrives at Sachs home, and tells Sachs of a glorious dream, he has just had.
Recognizing a potential prize song, Sachs then decides, to help young Walther win the singing contest, taking place later in the afternoon, by shaping young Walther’s words and rhythms, according to the rules of mastersinging.
Wow! and yay! yay! yay!
As young Walther departs from Sachs’ home, Bessmecker appears, and steals Walther’s poem from Sach’s desk, thinking it is a poem written by Sachs himself, the most treasured meistersinger poet, which will allow him, without a doubt, to win the song contest.
Young Walther then returns to Sachs’ home, sings his mastersinger song to Eva, in the presence of Sachs, David and Magdalene; Eva blesses/baptizes Walther’s new song, and all five characters sing a beautiful aria, reflecting on happiness.
Yay! yay! yay!
Guilds and a large crowd then, congregate in a meadow, outside the city, to celebrate the St. John’s Day Festival: the masters enter, and Sachs, is especially cheered on, by the crowd. Bessmecker is first to sing; Bessmecker sings the poem written by Walther (which Bessmecker stole at Sachs home), and to which, Bessmecker wrote his own music; earning quickly, laughter from the crowd, as words and music clash, and Walther’s original words sometimes, are distorted as well.
Walther then, sings his own version, the original one; and enraptured and delighted, the crowd, immediately proclaims Walther, winner of the singing contest.
Walther refuses the masters necklace at first, but is then convinced by Sachs, to accept it, to honor both tradition and innovation. Everyone happily reconciles, the love birds are united, and the people of Nürnberg, laud one last time, the most illustrious and respected meistersinger of all of Nürnberg, Hans Sachs.
Wow! and yay! yay! yay!
What else of importance, is there to say, regarding this opera, in my opinion?
Grandiose, incredibly poetic, entertaining, morally righteous, are all words that come to mind. And I think, that what I love most, about this opera, is Wagner’s utter delight, and exaltation, at explaining artfully (pun intended), the wonders and wondrous blissful emotions, which his art /craft brings him, and whose inspiration combined to discipline, allows Wagner to serenade us often, with incredible music and beautiful words, serving a compelling and simple, yet arresting story; a story filled with interesting characters, especially Hans Sachs, who understands the importance of allowing the greater good in life to flourish, over selfishness, despite his shortcomings; in particular, despite his final comment, about German Art, an unnecessary and nationalistic unfortunate comment, as Art, should always, in my opinion, only be praised for Art’s own sake, or in other words, Art should always be praised, just for Art’s own intrinsic value.
What to say about the singers and the production?
Just the best!
German Baritone Michael Volle, an accomplished and seasoned Wagnerian singer, was just terrific, as the most respected, warm hearted meistersinger poet, Hans Sachs. German tenor, Klaus Florian Vogt, as the dashing, enamored, young Walther von Stolzing, a sensitive and charming, self-taught poet and knight, was very convincing and filled with youthful passion towards Eva; Eva having been sang outstandingly, with beautiful color and power, by Norwegian soprano extraordinaire, Lise Davidson, under Pappano’s dynamic and inspired baton.
And the sunny, and yet solemn, Schenk production, illustrated well, the various emotions conveyed throughout this hugely unique and uplifting work, whether in crowds, or more intimate settings.
And here are two of my favorite musical moments in this opera:
Firstly, let’s listen to the beautiful Lutheran chorale music, as the opera starts, and the two lovebirds meet in front of church:
Is it not just gorgeous?
And now, let’s hear the prize winner song, delightful both musically and its wording.
So, to sum up my feelings about Wagner’s monumental “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg” admired last Tuesday, at the MET Opera, in great company: what a terrific ode to the importance of praised Art, to lead a happy and fulfilled life.
Until next time friends!
Eternal butterflies 😊