[Met Performance] CID:227990
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg {344} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/27/1971.

(Debut: Benno Kusche
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
December 27, 1971


DIE MEISTERSINGER VON NÜRNBERG {344}
Wagner-Wagner

Hans Sachs..............Giorgio Tozzi
Eva.....................Pilar Lorengar
Walther von Stolzing....James King
Magdalene...............Shirley Love
David...................Loren Driscoll
Beckmesser..............Benno Kusche [Debut]
Pogner..................Ezio Flagello
Kothner.................Donald Gramm
Vogelgesang.............Charles Anthony
Nachtigall..............Robert Goodloe
Ortel...................Russell Christopher
Zorn....................Robert Schmorr
Moser...................Gabor Carelli
Eisslinger..............Rod MacWherter
Foltz...................Louis Sgarro
Schwarz.................James Morris
Night Watchman..........Clifford Harvuot

Conductor...............Thomas Schippers

Director................Nathaniel Merrill
Designer................Robert O'Hearn
Choreographer...........Todd Bolender


Review of George Movshon in Opera (UK)

Before we leave the topic of German nationalism it may be of interest to note that among the standard house cuts in Wagner's score is a major chunk out of the middle of Hans Sachs's closing address "Verachtet mir die Meister nicht." The lines omitted are those in which the composer warns his fellow-countrymen of 1867 to be on their guard against the evil tricks of foreigners. This warning may nowadays strike us as peculiarly inapt to the events of the century that followed. The words were apparently first cut when Die Meistersinger was revived here after the second world war; Sir Rudolf has seemingly never felt the desire to restore the passage.

Although Wagner's comedy may have sprung from a nationalist seed it has long since achieved a universal bloom and even a half-way decent performance is enough to send most men home happy; and the Met's production (a revival of the 1962 staging, designs by Robert O'Hearn, producer Nathaniel Merrill) is more than half-way decent, despite all the quibbles and reservations that follow.

Thomas Schippers may not strike one as the ideal conductor for this work, but he has a personal and coherent view of the score, one that stresses the lyrical aspects while not taking the bombastic elements too seriously. Some of his tempos were perverse: too quick at the start, so you lost the words; then almost too leisurely in Act 3, scene 1, where the singers were ahead of the beat on many occasions. But the orchestral playing was polished, precise and succulent in tone, and you cannot ask for more than that.

Giorgio Tozzi played Hans Sachs. His view of the character is more vigorously extroverted than that of most exponents of the role, a Sachs capable of anger when it is called for, a man of large dimension and large gesture. This is all very well; but Tozzi permits himself a few guileful moments in his dealings with Beckmesser and thereby comes close to destroying the character - for the libretto is at pains to show that Beckmesser digs his own trap. Vocally, Tozzi fell from grace and pitch too often, although in general the rich sonority of his basso cantante is wonderful to savour.

Benno Kusche, making a long-delayed house debut in the role of Beckmesser, showed himself to be a superlative performer, one whose character is kept firmly on the sane side of caricature and who sings all the time. As a result he makes the mime scene less embarrassing than it usually is and remains human enough to be pitied when his world falls apart in the song contest.

James King has a hero's frame and a voice to match, so we had a full-scale Walther, if one occasionally tested in the high notes; but Mr. King does not always mind his knightly manners: in the first act he came down to the footlights for "Am stillen Herd," for which slight any self-respecting band of Mastersingers would rightly have had the apprentices reject him. Eva is one of Pilar Lorengar's best roles, one that allows her youthful vibrato to make its best effect. She was temperamentally ideal on this occasion and set the quintet happily on its way.

Among other performers, Shirley Love (Magdalene) showed her mezzo and her natural sprightliness, to good effect. Donald Gramm offered a suitably fussy Kothner, Lorin Driscoll, a fairly heavy-handed David and Ezio Flagello, a Pogner equally rounded in voice and physique.



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