Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Wagner - Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg|
Actors: Giorgio Tozzi, Richard Cassilly, Arlene Saunders, Ernst Wiemann, Toni Blankenheim
Genres: Indie & Art House, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
LUDWIG/PHIL STATE ORCH HAMBURG
Beautiful, Traditional Performance
V. Stasov | 03/08/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Wagner would approve of this 20th century example of gesamtkunstwerk - fusion of the arts. The one thing he had been missing in his panoply was the advantage of modern recording technology and cinematography. Here, though, Rolf Liebermann acts on Wagner's behalf. In this production the camera enhances this Meistersinger, functioning as a creative element, rather than just recording a staged performance. The camera brings us right into the lively activity of this enjoyable production from the Hamburg State Opera.
This lovely, traditional performance of Meistersinger is unexpectedly fine in many ways. Georgio Tozzi is outstanding as Hans Sachs, which he called his "proudest professional appearance", and watching him in this Hamburg film, one can see why. His Italianate Sachs is handsome, warm, witty and most importantly - quite beautifully sung. In fact, Tozzi's ebullient Sachs is as winning and well-sung as that of any Bayreuth sacred cow of the golden era of Wagnerian singing. What a surprise, and what a pleasure.
Not all the voices are flawless, but none are bad or painful to listen to, which can often occur in Wagner. In fact, most are quite good. Richard Cassilly does a perfectly fine job as Walther, and although his acting is a bit on the wooden side, we're grateful that he sings his part without strain or crudeness. Frankly, this is the best I've ever heard him sound. He's not my favorite heldentenor, but he comes through for us here. He's a very large man and he mostly stands and sings with few expressions or gestures. But that's okay because everyone else is so animated in this Nuremberg that we can overlook Walther's (or is it Cassilly's?) self conscious and shy behavior. And we can thank the gods that he doesn't sweat all over the soprano like he did in the Met Tannhauser.
Cutting to the chase, the quintet is beautifully sung. Arlene Saunders carries the line without faltering, and the other members of the cast join in and produce a glorious, moving conclusion to the emotional scene in which Sachs, once and for all relinquishes the nubile Eva to Walther.
As an ensemble piece, this Meistersinger comes together beautifully. This filmed production never loses its dignity. There's none of the slapstick or crude humor of many stage productions of Meistersinger. Its funny but never silly.
All of the characterizations are compelling. The Eva of Arlene Saunders is well acted and beautifully sung. She's no teenager but she's an attractive enough woman with a beautiful voice and excellent dramatic skills. Toni Blankenheim, while not exactly a bel canto Beckmesser, is never hateful or ridiculous and his singing never sinks to the level of undignified cackling. Gerhard Unger is a famous David, and it's nice to see his amorous attachment to Magdelene performed with affection and sincerity.
Meistersinger is a very long piece with some uncomfortable and dark moments. Sach's physical punishment of David and his lengthy - and prescient - extolling of German art at the end make for some unappealing aspects of this opera, but for the most part it's an immortal work of great beauty. A quite lengthy opera, but it hangs together here and never gets lost in the frequent longueurs of other performances.
The Best 'Meistersinger' I've Ever Seen
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 03/11/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Three years ago I raved about the qualities of a DVD of 'Meistersinger' starring Wolfgang Brendel as Sachs. I thought it was magnificent. But the present DVD -- recorded in 1970 -- trumps that one; it is better musically and much better dramatically. In fact, this is the most consistently dramatically engaging performance I've ever seen of this opera either onstage or video recording (and I've seen most of the videos and a number of staged productions here and in Europe). Indeed, I'm tempted to say it is the most engaging video production of ANY opera I've seen. Much of the credit goes to the Sachs of Giorgio Tozzi. My surprise was that I had never known he ever sang the role. He is not only the most engaging, human, natural and vocally magnificent Sachs I've ever encountered, he is surrounded by a cast who are both musically and dramatically first-rate. Much of the credit must go to the director for television, Joachim Hess, who took the stage production of the Hamburg Opera and recast it for a television studio recording. The advantage of a studio recording is that we not only get lots of closeups, which of course make the subtleties of the various portrayals all the more lifelike, but there is also sophisticated camera movement, important for a production that features so large a cast and their individual characterizations. I do wish we could be a little clearer about which master was which, but no matter: anyone knowing the opera well would immediately be able to tell Hermann Ortel, say, from Balthasar Zorn. And for others that probably doesn't matter all that much. One does notice that there are no women singers amongst the apprentices (as called for by Wagner's score); they are replaced onstage by young men no doubt for a more lifelike effect.
There are some niggling technical limitations. This was one of the first full-length television opera productions in color. Consequently, the constraints inherent in camera equipment of the time -- only a few years after color TV became available -- causes some quick camera movements to be just a bit blurry. Color, though, is true. Sound is mono but good nonetheless. The playing of the Hamburg Philharmonic under Leopold Ludwig, the Hamburg Opera's longtime music director, is marvelous. The sound mix tends to place the voices in an aural spotlight, but the so-important orchestral score is never lost in the background.
The cast could hardly be bettered for its time. Almost all the main singers were company members of the Hamburg Opera. The only exceptions were Richard Cassilly, a then-much-admired American heldentenor, and Tozzi, another American, long a stalwart of the Metropolitan (and the voice for Rossano Brazzi in the movie of 'South Pacific'). Cassilly is not much of an actor, but his part really just calls for him to stand and sing, and that he does with a beautifully controlled tenor voice that rides over the orchestral sound in such set-pieces as the Prize Song ('Morgenlicht leuchtend'). Arlene Saunders, an American lyrical soprano then a member of the Hamburg company, is a beautiful woman, perhaps no longer a teenager but capable of conveying both the innocence and the romantic longings of Eva. In her scenes with Sachs, she is charming and kind; there is real sexual tension in the scene where she and Sachs discuss his possible entry into the song contest in an effort to win her hand. One particularly funny spot is her facial expression (including crossed eyes) when Beckmesser is making a fool of himself during the singing contest in Act III. Her soprano shines in the Quintet ('Selig wie die Sonne'). Ursula Boese makes a marvelous, rich-voiced Magdalene, more a woman of spirit than a virago. She and David make the most of their comic byplay. Special mention must be made of tenor Gerhard Unger who virtually owned the role of David for twenty-five years and whose portrayal is full of boyish charm and earnestness, not to speak of the ideal vocal qualities called for in the role. This production makes the usual cuts in Wagner's perhaps overlong (for some) opera and one of the victims is a cut in David's delicious first act instruction for Walther of the Master's musical 'tones.' It is, truth be told, usually cut, but I missed hearing it. (I am delighted that in the current Met production it is kept in and Matthew Polenzani as David makes the most of it.) Toni Blankenheim makes a human yet laughable Beckmesser. He sings the role, rather than bawling it as some do. Outstanding among the masters is the black-voiced Ernst Wiemann as Eva's father, Veit Pogner. His first act aria in which he pledges his daughter's hand to the winner of the Song Contest is moving.
Visually this is a traditional production; the extreme care that has been taken to make the sets and costumes seem real is laudable. Everywhere one looks, in say Sachs's workshop, one sees verisimilitude. This even includes, in Sachs's Fliedermonolog, a pretty convincing portrayal of cobbler Sachs working on a pair of shoes with authentic appearing tools and leather. Only in the third act do we have a more generic set depicting the bank of the Pegnitz River, but this is because the stage is filled with masters, apprentices and townspeople, as well as the principal singers. That said, the procession of the apprentices and masters is filled with little details that delight.
One final word about the portrayal of Sachs by Giorgio Tozzi. Not only does he sing musically and dramatically aptly, his acting is, in a word, sensational. He is a handsome strongly-built, broad-shouldered man with an imposingly leonine head, twinkling eyes, mobile and responsive facial expressions, natural and yet complex movements, including little bits of stage business that are inspired -- a look here, a gesture there -- and all the while his dark commanding bass voice is rolling out in unending supply. Musically this is one of the great portrayals of Sachs. Dramatically it is nonpareil.
I urge anyone who loves this work to consider getting this DVD. In spite of its minor technical limitations, it is a revelation.
TT=240 mins (2DVDs); Sound: mono; Subtitles: English, German, French, Spanish, Italian; Format 4:3; Region 0 (worldwide)
A great Meistersinger
Robert T. Martin | 10/02/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Tozzi is glorious. His Sachs is a wise and profoundly good natured human being. The other singers are also wonderful particularly the Eva of Arlene Saunders and Ernst Wieman's Pogner. However, this performance achieves greatness in large part because of the contribution of conductor Leopold Ludwig. His pacing is perfect. One is left with the impression that the music follows an unbroken line-a symphony with words; it's a performance that possesses that rare quality of "swing." The visuals and mono sound quality are very fine. This is one of the great recorded performances of this opera and it's a must have for any Meistersinger fan.
As other reviewers have noted there are substantial cuts in this performance, so it should not be considered a first choice. Nevertheless it's a real find for anyone who already knows and loves this opera."
A Meristersing worth your consideration
David D. Dollinger | Pasadena, CA | 05/03/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"My intitial reaction to the series emanating from Hamburg was to dismiss them since they were films. However in view of the price and the logic that one can never have too many Meistersings in one's collection won out and I acquired it.
My only regret is that cuts were made in the score. I find this very surprising. What was also surprising was how well the singers were able to lipsynch. Indeed there were moments that one would swear that this was a real performance. Bottom line for acquiring this set is Giorgio Tozzi: he is absolutely marvelous; his command of the Wagner line, his legato, his knowledge of the text all mark him as a superior singer, one who should have had a more international career. I assume that he had the career that he wanted, remaining for the most part at the Met rather than embarking on the creation of an international singer. I don't know how many times he sang Sachs at the Met but it trumps Morris' DVD by light years. Did he consider other Wagner roles? Wotan, The Wanderer? He made a number of LP's and many of them have made it to CD but even his turn on the musical comedy stage did not turn him into a household name. No matter, since we do have his Sachs and a glorious performance it is. But there are other reasons for acquiring this set, the Von Stolzing of Richard Cassilly. Alas he is no actor, not particularly attractive and barely attempts to create a character; but he sings beautifully and I was stunned after remembering a Met radio broadcast (Tannhsauser, I think) in which was very poor. I suppose that he could be accused of the typical charge: park and bark, except that he doesn't bark, he sings lyrically and heroically as is needed. In short it is a very good performance in spite of the negative comments above. Arlene Saunders was a member of the Hamburg house and they were lucky to have her. By the time this film was made she perhaps was too old and the camera can be merciless (the 60's hairstyling doesn't do her any favors either). But the voice is sweet and true. She is taxed by the Sachs mein Freund passage, but other than that she is spot on.
The major cuts are particularly unfortunate since they involve David, sung by Gerhard Unger, the man who owned the role for twenty years and rightly so. True he certainly doesn't look like a David, but the voice has hardly aged and this is the only visual document of him that I know of.
I now have four Meistersings, the two Bayrueth productions, the Deutsch Oper and Hamburg. If forced to choose, blade to the throat, it would have to be Tozzi. Fortunately DVD collecting is not like that and I can revel in all four."