Wagner: Die Meistersinger / Jurowski, Finley , Selinger, Miles, Gabler, Jentzsch
English-speaking audiences have always found Die Meistersinger to be a life-enhancing celebration of wisdom, art and song. So it proves in David McVicar's production – the first at Glyndebourne – which is updated to the early-19th century of Wagner's childhood. At the centre of a true ensemble cast is Gerald Finley, a 'gleamingly sung', 'eminently believable' Sachs (The Independent on Sunday), supported by the dynamic conducting of Vladimir Jurowski which, like McVicar's production, uses Glyndebourne's special intimacy to bring sharp focus to bear on the subtlety of Wagner's musical and dramatic counterpoint.
McVicar has put on a great show with style, intelligence and insight. -- The Telegraph
Musically, it was judged faultlessly for the scale of the theatre by Vladimir Jurowski, who conjured playing of mercurial clarity not the first words one would normally choose for this gargantuan score from the London Philharmonic Orchestra, sustained with unfailing vigilance and concentration. -- The Guardian
DIE MEISTERSINGER VON NÜRNBERG
Walther von Stolzing – Marco Jentzsch
Eva – Anna Gabler
Magdalene – Michaela Selinger
David – Topi Lehtipuu
Veit Pogner – Alastair Miles
Sixtus Beckmesser – Johannes Martin Kränzle
Hans Sachs – Gerald Finley
Kunz Vogelgesang – Colin Judson
The Glyndebourne Chorus
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Vladimir Jurowski, conductor
David McVicar, stage director
Recorded live at Glyndebourne, Lewes, July 2011
Picture format: NTSC 16:9
Sound format: LPCM 2.0 / DTS 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: English, French, German
Running time: 300 mins
No. of DVDs: 1
R E V I E W:
WAGNER Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg • Vladimir Jurowski, cond; Anna Gabler ( Eva ); Michaela Selinger ( Magdalene ); Marco Jentzsch ( Walther von Stolzing ); Topi Lehtipuu ( David ); Gerald Finley ( Hans Sachs ); Johannes Martin Kränzle ( Sixtus Beckmesser ); Alastair Miles ( Veit Pogner ); Glyndebourne Festival Ch; London PO • OPUS ARTE OA 1085 D (2 DVDs: 300:00) OA BD7108 (Blu-ray) Live: Glyndebourne 6/2011
John Christie, Glyndebourne’s founder, was Wagner-obsessed and would have dearly loved to present one of the composer’s operas early-on in the Festival’s history. But such an undertaking was not a reasonable possibility in Glyndebourne’s original 300-seat theater. As John Christie’s grandson recounts in one of this Blu-ray’s “extras,” an early Glyndebourne conductor commented “if you put on Wagner, you’ll need to put the audience on the stage and the stage in the auditorium.” Glyndebourne got a new opera house in the 1990s, seating 1,250, and Wagner finally came to East Sussex in 2003 with a production of Tristan und Isolde. This David McVicar-directed Meistersinger represents Glyndebourne’s second Wagner staging, and it’s something special.
Die Meistersinger , at one level, is about intergenerational conflict and being able to cast younger singers as the quartet of lovers is a real plus. (The recent PentaTone Meistersinger on SACD succeeds, in part, because those singers at least sound youthful.) At Glyndebourne, McVicar notes, he could “cast singers that are appropriate to the ages of their characters and are physically convincing.” Marco Jentzsch, the strapping Walther, has got to be 6’3” or 6’4”—a far cry from the all-too-common fireplug Stolzings, whose boots come up most of the way to their protuberant abdomens. If Jentzsch can’t belt out the Prize Song as powerfully as a Ben Heppner or Peter Seifert, he’s fully up to the lyrical requirements of the role and his voice has a pleasant timbre. The Finnish tenor Topi Lehtipuu handles the part of David very effectively, both his character’s palpable horniness and, more critically, the act I exegesis on song writing. Anna Gabler is a complex and passionate Eva, as confused as Nuremberg’s shoemaker about the possibility of a future as Mrs. Hans Sachs. Michaela Selinger, the Magdalena, is perky and vocally appealing.
Alistair Miles portrays a Pogner that is Sach’s equal in intelligence and integrity, despite his fat-cat status; Johannes Martin Kränzle’s Beckmesser executes the requisite physical comedy and manages just the correct amount of pedantry and pride to define the town clerk’s obvious short-comings while leaving him a sympathetic character. Beckmesser, here, is a victim of his own personality failings rather than a fundamentally bad person. Any Meistersinger, of course, depends on its Sachs to keep our interest up for five hours, and Gerald Finley is a superb one. He happens to be the best singer here, but his acting is what makes this production so compelling. Finley’s character, we know from the outset, is thoroughly engaged with the dual goals of achieving artistic progress and promoting Stolzing’s romantic efforts—but is also a very conflicted human being. When the curtain goes up for act III, it’s clear that Sachs has been drinking all night and he kicks some furniture around. He uncovers a portrait of his late wife. And just before Walther enters to compose his song, we see Sachs pick up a pen to write something—presumably a contest song to compete for Eva himself. The Knight comes into the workshop and Sachs backs away from the abyss.
It’s that sort of theatrical detail that makes this production exceptional. The size of the stage and hall is still small by Metropolitan Opera or Covent Garden standards and allows for a high level of intimacy. As McVicar tells us “Everyone on stage is a character and has a story.” Watch the Masters as they congregate in acts I and III, especially the guy with the ear trumpet. That’s “Ulrich Eisslinger,” not exactly a major role—he has one line in the act I roll call. The part is positively savored by Adrian Thomson, who responds to every event on stage with facial expressions and body language that are alone practically worth the price of admission. And look at the Masters’ faces when Walther’s final version of the Prize Song takes an unexpected harmonic turn. These guys—the singers and their characters—are really listening deeply.
McVicar moves the action from the 16th century to the early 19th, the era into which the composer was born. In a second extra feature, Die Meistersinger —An Opera with Baggage, the director reminds us that the 1820s and 1830s were a time before Unification when Germans “could point to their culture as an expression of their national identity.” By considering Meistersinger in the context of this time frame, McVicar doesn’t need to directly address the future commandeering of this work for the vilest of nationalistic purposes. I like any Meistersinger where Beckmesser stays on stage after his humiliation. He’s not the “other”—he’s still part of a community.
The production is sumptuously lit and filmed, in the same league as the Met’s venerable Otto Schenk version—and the meadow scene is a real eyeful. The sound is richly detailed with excellent vocal/orchestral balances. (In multichannel, the “auf den theater” brass fanfares are definitely coming from afar.) Subtitles are offered in English, French, and German. Glyndebourne’s Meistersinger goes straight to the top of the heap among the eight video versions in my collection. It registers here, to use David McVicar’s words, as “a profoundly human, wise, warm, loving work.”
FANFARE: Andrew Quint
Catalog Number: OA 1085D
Label: Opus Arte
Composer: Richard Wagner
Conductor: Vladimir Jurowski
Orchestra/Ensemble: Glyndebourne Chorus, London Philharmonic Orchestra
Performer: Alastair Miles, Anna Gabler, Colin Judson, Gerald Finley, Johannes Martin Kränzle, Marco Jentzsch, Michaela Selinger, Topi Lehtipuu