WAGNER Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Fiore)

Record and Artist Details

Genre:

Opera

Label: Naxos

Media Format: Digital Versatile Disc

Media Runtime: 281

Mastering:

DDD

Catalogue Number: 2 110766-7

2 110766-7. WAGNER Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Fiore)

Tracks:

Composition Artist Credit
(Die) Meistersinger von Nürnberg, '(The) Masters Richard Wagner, Composer
Albert Pesendorfer, Pogner, Bass
Annika Schlicht, Magdalene, Mezzo soprano
Berlin Deutsche Oper Chorus
Berlin Deutsche Oper Orchestra
Heidi Stober, Eva, Soprano
Johan Reuter, Hans Sachs, Bass-baritone
John Fiore, Conductor
Klaus Florian Vogt, Walther, Tenor
Philipp Jekal, Beckmesser, Baritone
Ya-Chung Huang, David, Tenor

The opening signs for this Meistersinger are promising. The curtain of the Deutsche Oper Berlin stays closed as John Fiore steers the company’s orchestra – a classy outfit, with a pleasingly rounded, rich sound – through the Prelude. And throughout, the musical values of the performance prove high, with Fiore showing an excellent grasp of the work’s long paragraphs, pacing the score beautifully and proving alert – but never slave – to its bustling detail.

The Deutsche Oper fields a fine ensemble cast, too. Johan Reuter might be a relatively light-voiced Sachs but sings the role persuasively. Klaus Florian Vogt is a known quantity as Walther and sings with his usual untiring commitment, if a little less freshness these days. Heidi Stober is a keen, focused Eva, Philipp Jekal an excellent Beckmesser and Ya-Chung Huang vivid as David. Among the main roles, only Albert Pesendorfer’s woolly Pogner is a little disappointing.

The production, credited to three directors, has what seems like a sound premise: we’re in a private music conservatoire run by Dr Pogner. He’s looking to hand it over to public ownership under the stewardship of a successor chosen through a singing competition, with Eva thrown in as sweetener – and as a means for her father to retain influence.

So far so sort of good, and there’s a stylish mid-century feel to set and costumes. But the concept soon gets muddied by further ideas. Sachs is a trendy percussion tutor with a sideline in podiatry, yoga and massage, for example, apparently with a sponsorship deal with Crocs shoes. He’s partial to Jack Daniel’s and is already having a full-on affair with Eva.

The conservatoire, a booklet interview tells us, is based on Munich’s Musikhochschule, housed in Nazi-era buildings, and for what should be the processions on the Festwiese poor David is tossed about among nightmarish visions as a digital clock, up until then showing the time of day, turns back to ‘19:33’. But that oblique reference and a fleeting glimpse of a swastika seem like afterthoughts, and certainly aren’t developed.

There are redeeming features. Stober’s Eva is for once a real human character, riven with contradictions and uncertainty. Reuter’s Sachs remains likeable, despite – or perhaps because of – his many very real faults. Although it’s fuzzily defined, there’s also something refreshingly plausible and grown-up about the relationship between Walther and Eva. And Annika Schlicht’s amusingly imperious Magdalene is extremely watchable, if somewhat puzzling. I also like the detail with which the apprentices react to events, not least with disgust at Pogner’s proposal.

Ultimately, though, it doesn’t feel as though it adds up to enough; it’s a production that strips so much away – a Meistersinger ohne Nürnberg, that’s for sure – but without really giving us enough to chew on in return. It’s interesting in parts, and musically often very fine, but that’s not really enough for this of all works.

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