Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Wagner - Die Meistersinger Von Nurnberg|
Actor: Wolfgang Brendel
Director: Brian Large
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
A Superb 'Meistersinger' Directed by Götz Friedrich
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 04/19/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I cannot imagine what the previous reviewer was referring to when he said that Wolfgang Brendel plays Hans Sachs as a clown. This is simply not true. Perhaps he came to this opinion because that reviewer feels, as he says, that Sachs is supposed to be a craggy old man. But this is not the case if one takes the time to read Wagner's own libretto. It is clear that Sachs is a widower who is actually not THAT old. Further, his lines indicate that he is a very human, wise, kind-hearted fellow. True, he apparently is mean to his apprentice, David, but apparently that was the custom of the day; he treats David with rough humor, and indeed late in the opera he rewards David by making him a journeyman cobbler, and there is evidence that he is genuinely fond of him. The production is from the Deutsche Oper Berlin from 1995, before the end of Götz Friedrich's reign as the principal director there. He was known world-wide as one of the best opera directors around, and this production certainly is consistent with that reputation. The acting is detailed, very human, and on repeated watching one picks up little true-to-life bits that one didn't notice first time around, often the mark of a great director. The sets and costumes (by Peter Sykora and Kirsten Dephoff) are appropriate if not precisely historically accurate. The television direction by Brian Large is creative and inobtrusive; my only complaints on that score are the tilted still views of a mock-up village made to represent medieval Nuremberg; these were seen during the preludes for Acts I and III. The views made me a little dizzy. The chorus is splendid. The action during the gathering of forces leading up to the Song Contest in Act III is striking and full of life. The mêlée in Act II is both funny and life-like. One notes in Act III that some of the participants, including a couple of the younger Masters, are bandaged or limping as a result of it - a funny touch. As to the music and theatrical values, I cannot compliment this production enough. Gösta Winbergh's Walther von Stolzing is noble and beautifully sung in a free and soaring voice. His Prize Song is thrilling. Eva Johannson, a zaftig Eva, is winsome and in beautiful voice. Her opening solo lines in the Quintet are simply ravishing. The scene between her and Sachs in Act II is touching at least partly because one CAN imagine the possibiliy of a marriage between them. Victor von Halem makes an imposing and noble Pogner amply conveyed both visually and vocally. It was good to see two venerable American singers, Lenus Carlson and Barry McDaniel, as Masters Kothner and Nachtigall. Ute Walther's Magdalene was saucy and knowing, rather than shrill as she is sometimes portrayed. Uwe Peper, although a little long in the tooth for the apprentice David, is both wonderfully sung and acted. I'm one of the few who truly enjoy David's rather long instruction of Walther in the prescribed musical 'Weisen' in Act I and he did that very well. The Sixtus Beckmesser of Eike Wilm Schulte was extraordinarily well sung (the equal of the classic portrayal on record by Hermann Prey) - it is often sung in a barking and 'comic' voice, which takes away from the humor for me - and his acting as the self-important town cleark and 'Merker' was spot on. His reconciliation with Sachs at the end is moving. As for Wolfgang Brendel, I can't say enough good about his performance. He plays Sachs as an all-too-human man, a widower who is lonely and tempted by a marriage to Eva but which he rejects (I thought of him as a male Marschallin as he portrayed his renunciation of his desires in favor of the nobleman, von Stolzing). But he also has a sense of humor, the sort that comes from wisdom and some degree of knowing detachment. He is never nasty, and in some moments, as with Eva, Walther and eventually with David, he is generous and warm-hearted while remaining self-disparagingly genial. Brendel not only sings splendidly (both the Flieder-Monolog and 'Wahn, wahn' are superb), but he presents us with a fully rounded character. Musical direction is in the more than capable hands of Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos. The Deutsche Oper orchestra plays like angels. Did I like this production? You bet I did. I watched it twice in a period of two days, and that's saying a lot for an almost five-hour opera. I will admit, though, that 'Meistersinger' is my favorite Wagnerian opera - the only one with 'real' people in it, as far as I'm concerned - and I never develop Sitzfleisch at a performance or when listening to it on CD. A complete triumph.Scott Morrison"
An all-round ideal 'Meistersinger'
Mr. Matthew J. Williams | Sydney, NSW Australia | 05/13/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Surely it is rare to see such a roundly satisfying performance of Meistersinger - with no significant drawbacks in any aspect of singing, acting or production.Contrary to "A Viewer from USA", Karita Mattila is not magnificent on this DVD. She isn't in it at all. They may be thinking of the soon-to-be-released MET DVD on DG.But Brendel's Sachs is wonderful - ruminative, wise, handsome in a hard-working middle-aged way, thoroughly convincing. He certainly is not meant to be a 'craggy old man' - how then could we make sense of Eva's Act 3 outburst that if she had the choice she would marry him? No, Brendel gets it right, his voice full and firm to the end, and he galvanises an impressive cast.Winbergh's lyrical and expressive Walther could be put in the shade by odious comparisons to the role's greatest exponents on disc - Konya & Heppner (the latter is on the forthcoming MET DVD) - but he is certainly thoroughly enjoyable, even if he lets emotion override singing the notes towards the end of the prize song.The Quintet eventually takes flight though Eva Johannson doesn't launch it with much inspiration. Her outburst at "O Sachs, Mein Freund", though, is spine-tingling, and she looks the part, attractive if not quite as beautiful as Ute Walther, her Magdalena. David & Beckmesser are both well-routined, thoroughly sung and wonderfully acted.Gotz Friedrich's direction is pure gold. The orchestra is on terrific form. This is first-class singing, acting and music making all round. No regrets here."
Meistersinger - as good as can be.
Janos Gardonyi | Toronto, Ontario Canada | 07/19/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After watching that modern day singing contest -The American Idol- I am happy that this wonderful custom of singing for a prize is still part of the young people's world today. I suppose Wagner was ahead of his time using this idea in two of his operas (Tannhauser and Die Meistersinger) as a great musical and dramatic device.
Tristan und Isolde and Die Meistersinger stand as probably the two greatest operas of the 19th century but they couldn't be more different from each other. It is one of the greatest mysteries of Wagner's genius,how he could change his style from the ecstatic chromaticism of Tristan to the optimistic, straightforward C-major tonality and counterpoint of the Meistersinger. But of course Wagner had his own agenda. Die Meistersinger was a way of showing his frustration of getting his "music of the future" (Zukunftsmusik) accepted by the musical establishment (led by Brahms) and also to get back at his critics, mainly Edouard Hanslick, his nemesis. This he did with a vengeance by the character of Beckmesser, the jealous and wicked little town-clerk who can only criticize, but incapable of understanding new ideas and create anything worthwhile. So much for introduction.
First of all I find it hard to forgive ARTHAUS for not releasing this DVD sooner in North America.. It has been available in PAL version in Europe since 2001 and was nominated for Gramophone Magazine Awards that year. It came in third, but only because of the extremely stiff competition (The Damnation of Faust won, also by ARTHAUS).
But I truly love this DVD. A sumptuous live performance from the prestigious Deutsche Oper ,beautifully directed and staged by Gotz Friedrich, gives us a somewhat new look at this magnificent work.
The opera has been slightly modernized, brought to the 19th century but this is hardly noticeable apart from the costumes. The town of Nurnberg is really still the same. The director and designer wisely make reference to the destruction of this city in the War using graphics of a rickety toy-city between acts. They also emphasize the object-lesson of Sachs' warning to Germany not to get too warlike and hungry for territory .At this point the stage goes abruptly quite dark in the middle of the 3rd act celebrations to somehow foreshadow a future disaster. A very powerful statement indeed.
The second interesting point is the handling of Hans Sachs. Here he is represented as one of the working class . " He looks like Lech Walesa," says the Penguin Guide. He is also younger and still virile, and as such it is justifiable that he is still interested in Eva romantically. In fact he is quite a Freudian Hans Sachs.
Wolfgang Brendel is tremendous in this role. His wonderful dramatic ability illuminates the whole performance. His voice is very good, though sometimes I felt it was a bit out of focus, but this being a live performance nearly five hours long, it is quite understandable.
On the other hand Gosta Windbergh as Walther von Stoltzing is no better than satisfactory. Eva Johansson as Eva Pogner
develops her character nicely along the performance though some stressful moments are noticeable. She shines in the third act Quintet however, and contributes wonderfully to one of the most sublime moments in the opera.
I liked the secondary roles very much: Uwe Peper as David with excellent voice and acting energy, never boring. Ute Walther as Magdalena looked very good and stylish and also had a fine voice.
One musn't forget Eike Wilm Schulte, Beckmesser: great character actor singing the role very well.
Among the Meisters of course Pogner , Victor von Halem, a strong basso, well focused. In a lesser role, Fritz Kothner, Lenus Carlson, builds his " master of ceremonies" role interestingly. All the other Meisters are delightfully individualistic, each with his own idiosyncrasies, so the whole first act is a joy to watch and hear.
Frubeck de Burgos handles the majestic contrapunctal score with great Wagnerian authority and knowhow.
I still could go on. To sum up: A wonderful, inspired and imaginative performance with slight vocal imperfections. If you want a " perfect" Meistersinger CD set, go for the Jochum with Fischer-Dieskau, Placido Domingo etc. on DGG.(also by Deutsche Oper). This is the best one I ever heard.
Two DVD's with excellent illustrated booklet, neatly presented. Highly recommended."
Guntram | PR,Brazil | 11/17/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This not perfect,yet so overpowering "Meistersinger" DVD is unimpeachable about one essential matter;that's inconceivable an old,exhausted Sachs voice singing a more than fifty minutes vocal part on this opera and yet,to stir some credible sexual curiosity from Eva about this guy.So,how can I hope a better Sachs performance than Brendel's,just here?He was stupendous. What a touching,vehement,diligent Sachs;his voice is shining,uniform and vigorous from very beginning to the end of opera.I watched this several times,probably just because his so enlightened performance.Another jewel here is Eike Schulte(Beckmesser);a so clever actor,enjoyng each single action on the plot,just like the perfect counterpoint to a progressive (xenophobe,as well)Sachs.On the other hand,I have restrictions on the leading couple;Eva Johansson seems to me much more commited in to display her piercing (irritating,sometimes)voice than on character itself,like if she was singing Elektra or Chrisotemis.However,better excessive than an poor voice.Question mark to me was Gösta Winbergh;act I,he sings the perfect Walther,then losts the plummet on final act II,much more "speaking" then singing the notes on score.Never in pitch on "Morgen",Prize Song,even in his singing class under his master.Vigorous phrasing works much better to his technique and he knows that,sometimes performing a bit brutal.Burgos surely belives on Nuremberg's characters happiness and seems engaged himself on more cheerful aspects on the score.Chorus is astonishing!Very fine orchestral job.Not perfect this DVD,yet so absolutely correct!Why was that?Just because was sincere,competent and absolutely touching.An extroverted "Meistersinger" just to be delighted for."