[Met Performance] CID:311310
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg {383} Metropolitan Opera House: 01/30/1993.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
January 30, 1993


DIE MEISTERSINGER VON NÜRNBERG {383}

Hans Sachs..............Donald McIntyre
Eva.....................Karita Mattila
Walther von Stolzing....Francisco Araiza
Magdalene...............Birgitta Svendén
David...................Lars Magnusson
Beckmesser..............Hermann Prey
Pogner..................Jan-Hendrik Rootering
Kothner.................Alan Held
Vogelgesang.............Paul Groves
Nachtigall..............Kim Josephson
Ortel...................Philip Cokorinos
Zorn....................Robert Brubaker
Moser...................John Horton Murray
Eisslinger..............Charles Anthony
Foltz...................Richard Vernon
Schwarz.................LeRoy Lehr
Night Watchman..........Julien Robbins

Conductor...............James Levine

Review of Richard Dyer in the Boston Globe

A Profoundly Enriching 'Meistersinger'

NEW YORK - Is there any more fulfilling place to be than caught up in a performance of Wagner's "Meistersinger"? The Metropolitan Opera's new
production is uncut; it began at 6:30 and ended well after midnight, and I didn't want it ever to end. There was only one individual performance of historical stature in the cast, the Pogner of bass Jan-Hendrik Rootering, but everyone was entirely capable. The work of the orchestra and chorus, on the other hand, was of historic standard, and so, to my mind, was the conducting of James Levine.

"Die Meistersinger" is a wonderful place to be because it is a comedy that doesn't skirt serious issues, but doesn't sentimentalize them either. It teaches a lesson that is very unfashionable today - that there are more important things than your own individual feelings. These are valuable, of course, and you should give them utterance. But then you set them aside, or, better, use them, to serve to the community; if you are one of the lucky ones, too, like Hans Sachs or Walter von Stolzing, you can use them to advance civilization through art. Community is another of the great things "Meistersinger" is about; it takes all kinds, Wagner says, although that was not the message that the Nazis took out of the composer's celebration of German nationalism. There are no villains in "Meistersinger," even the pompous and self-important Beckmesser, whose mistake was to live his life entirely by the rules and then to break them without knowing what he is doing. The opera is full of deep things to think about - the necessity of tradition and the necessity for change. And it is full of wonderful things to feel, experience and to sense through music - ardent young love, mature wisdom, envy, anger, renunciation, generosity, the calm of evening and the joy of daylight.

All of this was there in the playing of the Met orchestra, one of the great ensembles of the world; the oboe's voicing of the lilac/spring motive at the end of Act I was a miracle. Levine's overture was criticized as lacking the weight and majesty of a self-contained statement; to my ears it had an unpressured, anticipatory preludial quality and left the performance with lots of places to go. Levine took his time to enjoy everything along the way and there was a wonderful transparency in the playing which meant that every note from the singers could be heard. The third act moved, slowly, into a different, more private, and entirely miraculous place before restoring us to the bright meadow of the public world.
Until the final tableau, the new sets by Guenther Schneider-Siemssen are not a great deal different from the old ones by Nathaniel Merrill that served for a quarter-century; the Old Met ran out of money and so a few banners did the job. Schneider-Siemssen gives us the city wall, the turrets of the town, a sloping green meadow. If there's a problem with the sets - apart from the fact that Act I is in, peculiar perspective and awkwardly laid out - it is that they are seldom really used; you might as well have painted drops. Otto Schenk's production was conventional in the extreme, but "Meistersinger" asks for tradition; I did miss the old pillow fight at the end of Act II.

Two old pros dominated the proceedings, Donald McIntyre and Hermann Prey. McIntyre may not have a great voice and a bel canto technique, but he is a resourceful singing actor who knows how to invest every word with meaning, and he does have the power and stamina for the role. More to the point, he also has a great soul. Just to watch him put on his glasses to work on a shoe tells us something about how the cobbler goes about his work with a poet's attention to detail. Prey at 63 provided a sympathetic characterization of Beckmesser - after all, he believes he's right - and produced a fair amount of his famous warm and burry sound. Francisco Araiza isn't a Heldentenor; intelligently, he sings Walther in his own voice, often very pleasingly. Karita Mattila has the radiant physical presence for Eva and a beautiful, dark timbre, although she rarely sings legato or with real freedom at the top; her notion of conveying impetuous youth is to carry on like a kitten in a catnip field. Rootering brought a magnificent sonority to Pogner, and young Lars Magnusson was a breezy, charming David. All of them, working with Levine and the orchestra, contributed to a real performance, the profoundly enriching human experience Wagner meant it to be.



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