Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Wagner - Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg / Heppner Mattila Morris Pape Allen Polenzani Levine Metropolitan Opera|
Actors: Ben Heppner, James Morris, Karita Mattila, Rene Pape, James Levine
Genres: Indie & Art House, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
The Quintessential German Opera
Andrew Freborg | Stow, Ohio United States | 01/11/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Meistersinger is the quintessential Wagner - Controversial/German/Dynamic. An experience of the Romantic in music and drama, again the Met does not disappoint with this latest entry in home DVD. Gorgeous traditional staging (recreating 16th century Nurnberg exquisitely), a solid cast, one of the finest orchestras, and quality packaging. The sets, color, costuming and overall staging is perhaps the finest I've seen - you WILL be taken to 16th century Nurnberg. The final scene of Act 3 is spectacular - a Medieval German feast for the eyes - with Wagners magnficient music.
The acting is superb with the characters all very human, and is coupled very well with strong voice performnce from all the cast - no weak links here. The orchestra at times (to me) came across a little "thin."
Though many disagree - I find Levine bringing a richness and depth in his music direction (many complain of "plodding" tempos, etc). As a classical musician (viola) I have to disagree, and Levine is a bit more lively here than in many of his Wagner produtions. These Met releases for home DVD are like fine wines to be treasured over and over - and a wonderful refuge from the world."
Excellent Performance. Excellent Sound. Buy it.
Doug Urquhart | Southport, CT USA | 01/16/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Let's start with the technicalities. The picture and sound quality of this disk are superb!The picture is anamorphic wide screen (even though the box describes it as 4:3) and gives crystal-clear reproduction of Gil Wechsler's 'Old Master' lighting effects. The DTS 5.1 sound faithfully reproduces the ambience of the Met (even including the guy with the cough, a few rows down on my left), and is outstanding for a live performance.
The performance? It's the Met - what do you expect? Levine and the Met Orchestra were in top form, extracting every bit of humor and pathos from some of Wagner's most beautiful music.
I must confess that I was worried that James Wotan Morris could handle the essential humanity of Sachs, but I needn't have bothered - he was perfect. It was strange to see him singing with both eyes open, though.
Thomas Allen's Beckmesser was a tour de force, reminding me of Hermann Prey. Not only does Allen sing well, but he is an excellent physical comedian. The scene in Sach's workshop was hilarious. He also managed to convey Beckmesser's malice - essential if he is not to be perceived as a pathetic victim.
Ben Heppner's Walter was outstanding. It is said that nobody plays Walter well. Mr Heppner did. He's the first good Walter I've ever seen.
Rene Pape's Pogner was beautifully sung and acted, but I can't help feeling that he looks a bit young for the part. Well, that's my fault for not suspending disbelief properly - his performance was impeccable.
And now Karita Matilla. I'm probably going to be lynched by one of her rabid followers, but I don't think she makes a particularly good Eva. Her voice was superb, and all that, but there has to be a chemistry between Eva and Sachs, and it just wasn't there. I don't think it was the fault of Morris, either.
My favorite video production of Die Meistersinger is the 1984 Bayreuth production with Weikl as Sachs, but unfortunately it isn't available on DVD. Until it is, the Met Meistersinger will ably take its place.
Class act reading of wagner's behemoth comedy
Keingelder | Germany | 02/19/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
let's get one thing straight from the start: james morris as hans sachs is not my cup of tea. not to say he doesn't sing and play the role admirably, or that he's not killer in other parts (wotan, boris godunov, etc.). its just that i prefer a lyric heldenbaritone (ie. brendel, weikl, otto edelmann) as sachs, not a bass. based on that, i don't feel like i can fairly judge the man's performance here.
ok, that said, this a masterful recording of wagner's most human music. if you are a fan of opera generally and a fan of wagner specifically, buy this DVD soon.
here are some of the selling points, working from the top down:
heppner as walther: fantastic. maybe he's not everyone's textbook definition of a heldentenor .. but who cares. he has a big, shiny voice that sounds fresh right through the punishing end of the opera, and keeps this nice lyrical momentum pulsing through all of walther's ardent music.
mattila as eva: also world-class. totally immersed, believable acting, gorgeous voice and looks, passionately musical. she sheds some new light on how to sing and play the part, which at worst can be thankless, numbskulled tone-machine.
thomas allen as beckmesser: right on. a little evil, and still willing to 'sing' (gorgeously) when the music calls for it. when not, sticks to typical half-bark/parlando beckmesserism.
pape/polenzani: the monologues of pogner and david are usually snoozers, but not so here.
its no big secret that the mets sets, costumes, orchestra and chorus are unmatched in grandeur and detail, so it doesn't bear repeating here. one could argue that levine keeps the orchestra a little too tightly reined-in (just a moment or two of wild bombast would be nice .. it is wagner, for gods sake) at times, but overall they play gorgeously and sensitively to the singers.
meistersinger is an enormous chunk of art, and new recordings of it are understandably few and far between. be thankful that there is a new one this year, and that it is this damn good."
Heppner and Mattila aside, too often a drag
Bob Epstein | Minneapolis | 07/25/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)
"The best parts of this Meistersinger are Ben Heppner's Walther and Karita Mattila's Eva. Heppner is in gorgeous voice for Walther, although his girth literally can get in the way of the action and the viewer's enjoyment (Brian Large's all-too-frequent closeups do not help). Mattila is the best actor on stage, an infectious, lovely Eva in fine fettle. Her interactions with Heppner provide most of the spark on stage. Thomas Allen's detailed and insightful Beckmesser, and the refulgent sound of the Met Orchestra are also high points.
James Levine's Wagner has never been to my taste - too ponderous, with little line or shape (unless, as they say, round is a shape). Most of the big moments here - Sach's two monologues, the quintet - lack any fire, any conviction. Too often, when Levine does get any momentum going, it is in such contrast to what has preceded it, the music simply does not hold together. Knappertsbusch also took slow tempi in Meistersinger (although judging from his superb 1952 Bayreuth version, not nearly as slow as Levine). But Knapperstbusch knew how to sustain the line and didn't force his singers into levels of discomfort like here.
James Morris' Sachs is a case in point. Under Levine's heavy-handed approach, Morris is stretched to where his wobble becomes even more pronounced. The voice is just not in very good shape. His low range is pretty shot and the vocal weight is not there. His acting, too, leaves something to be desired; Morris is pretty stiff, often resorting to simply crossing his arms and looking uncomfortable. An insightful, wise poet-cobbler he is not. When I saw Morris as Sachs in San Francisco, one of his finest moments came at the end when he approached the scorned Beckmesser and put his arm around him, a touching, consoling gesture. Here he is not even close to Beckmesser at the end, instead swamped by the masters. An opportunity lost.
The masters also often look pretty uncomfortable, resorting to petty reactions in Act 1 that belittle their own tradition. Watch the masters in Fruhbeck de Burgos' touching DVD version with the Deutsche Oper, and you have a totally different feeling. They may be stodgy, resisting Walther's radical new singing, but they still have a dignity and tradition which makes their dilemma compelling, and which eludes the Met's masters, who too often seem petty and childish. Sets here are traditional but drab, not enlivening the proceedings.
Without question, the Fruhbeck de Burgos version is far more inviting. Better acting, inviting sets, fine voices throughout and buoyant tempos make it a wondrous experience, full of humanity. Meistersinger frequently brings a lump to the throat and Fruhbeck's performance delivers in abundance. Other than Walther's prize singing and Mattila, this one too often is a drag."