Thursday, November 19, 2015

Die Meistersinger

Conductor Sir Mark Elder*
Production Sir David McVicar

Hans Sachs: James Rutherford (bass-baritone)
Walther von Stolzing: Brandon Jovanovich (heldentenor)
Eva: Rachel Willis-Sørensen* (soprano)
Magdalene: Sasha Cooke (mezzo-soprano)
David: Alek Shrader (tenor)
Sixtus Beckmesser: Martin Gantner* (baritone)
Veit Pogner: Ain Anger * (bass)

Last night the San Francisco Opera opened its new production of Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg by David McVicar. The plot is a bit similar to Tannhäuser. The production comes from Glyndebourne. I watched Katarina Wagner's Meistersinger in 2012, and then the Salzburg version in 2013. Both of these were in sharp contrast to this very conservative production.

Historical footnote: the last Meistersinger guild disbanded in Memmingen in Bavaria in 1875, which means that there were still active Meistersingers when Wagner completed his opera in 1868.

This is Meistersinger as Wagner imagined it. Each scene moves through the story carefully. Pogner offers his eldest daughter to the winner of a Meistersinger contest. Hans Sachs ponders this situation and decided that he must rescue her. He must find a suitable mate who can win the singing contest, and once the potential husband is identified, Sachs must see that Walther wins. It takes forever.

This performance often seemed more like conversation than singing. All the singers were very good, with Brandon Jovanovich at the top of the heap, but they chatted their way through most of the scenes. Even German can be sung legato. It was announced before the third act that Jovanovich had a cold, but he did fine. James Rutherford seemed an excellent Hans Sachs, but a bit young for the part. Perhaps they were saving their voices.

It was comforting but not very exciting to be able to follow the story so easily.

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