35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
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There are two statues of Hans Sachs in Nürnberg.
The more familiar one, in Hans-Sachs-Platz, emphasises his poetic side. He sits there, paper and pen in hand, gazing pensively at the passers by, with a slightly magisterial air. Many of his operatic portrayals seem to be based on this image.
On the other side of the old town, is a very different statue. Near the White Tower is the 'Ehekarussell', a fountain depicting the various stages of a marriage, as described in his poem 'Das bittersüße eheliche Leben'. Atop this fountain is a very different Sachs - hands on hips, one knee raised in dance, head thrown back in a laugh, Hans Sachs rejoices in the folly of humanity. That's how Robert Holl has portrayed him.
This is, without a doubt, an excellent production. With Barenboim at the helm, in the georgeous acoustics of Bayreuth, it's hard to see how it could be otherwise (Yes, it can be done: I saw Katharina's version - let no more be said about it). Wolfgang Wagner's direction is traditional, and the sets reflect this (although they are much less elaborate than, say, the 1984 Bayreuth production, or the Met).
Robert Holl's Sachs was refreshingly different - less avuncular, more mischievous. His voice was superb, as was the dramatic heldentenor of Peter Seiffert; he brought a presence to Walter that I haven't seen before. The interchanges between him and Sachs showed two wonderfully balanced voices. Magical!
The other principals were good, if not excellent.
As for the Meisters, Hans-Joachim Ketelsen's Fritz Kothner stole the show. Apart from having a beautiful voice, he positively radiated stage presence, and his almost balletic movements with his quill pen were a joy to behold.
Technicalities? Sound(DTS) and picture excellent. 16:9 aspect ratio, so it'll fit right on to your widescreen TV.
Yes, I know there are plenty of very good DVDs of Meistersinger - I've got most of them - so why buy another? Interpretation, for one thing. Try comparing this one the the 1984 production, with Bernd Weikl; they are both top-notch, but different in many ways.
With an opera as rich as Meistersinger, the exercise is well worth while.
And if you haven't got a DVD of Meistersinger yet, this one would be a good start.
22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
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Some of the sadness and anger that had attended Wagner's composition of Tristan had not yet dissipated in the 1860s. Wagner had suffered greatly from isolation due to his forced wanderings throughout Europe, and from constant financial worries because of the difficulties involved in staging his complex operas. Tristan proved especially difficult to stage given its many innovations and its radical departure from the music of the era. Wagner was also ill at the time. Yet Die Meistersinger Von Nurnberg is a radiant and endlessly life affirming opera, proving once again that the relationship between life and art is especially ambiguous in the case of genius. It premiered in Munich at the Nationaltheater on 21 June 1868. Appropriately enough it was Mid-Summer's day.
Often described as Wagner's only comedy, it is his sunniest opera, the one most redolent of daylight. It is certainly different than that quintessential nacht-oper, Tristan. Wagner wrote that he had composed Meistersinger as a means of dissipating some of his suffering, seeing it as a source of consolation and healing for the pain and sorrows of the past. One of the key words in Meistersinger is 'illusion'. Wagner had decided that all of human activity was underpinned by illusion. And that art was especially 'a noble illusion.' Thus, we have in Meistersinger, with its song contest and its contestants, a whole world of illusion. And Hans Sachs tells Walther that 'man's truest illusions are revealed to him in dreams'. Since reading Schopenhauer, Wagner had become convinced that creativity originated in the dream-world. Meistersinger is an opera about dreams. This production lovingly recreates that magic world with superb performances aided by Bayreuth's unique and beautiful sound.
This June 1999 television film is one of the finest and most elegant Meistersinger's I've yet seen, and its fabulous sound is only one of the reasons. The performances are splendid with each of the singers deeply immersed in their roles, the singing unforced and powerful as the voices are projected outward from Bayreuth's incomparable stage. Robert Holl as Hans Sachs has a deep, warm and softly contoured bass voice. Peter Seiffert as Walther is a large, barrel chested man that looks every inch the heldentenor and has a superb voice to match. Emily Magee is a fine Eva, though not particularly youthful in the role. Andreas Schmidt is a dignified Beckmesser, a problematic role historically. The cast is universally good, with no weak links.
One of the two real stars of this production is Wolfgang Wagner, the composer's grandson, who staged and directed this production in 1996 as well as creating the set design. This is one of the best productions of his controversial reign as director. It features a traditional stage design, though stripped of all superfluities. The opera is similarly staged: a traditional production that removes all the dross. Daniel Barenboim is the other star: his conducting is superb, with an attention to orchestral detail that facilitates the Bayreuther Festspiele's stunning orchestral clarity in the opera's complex inner melodic lines. Nevertheless, he is always cognizant of the big picture. The orchestra's splendid technique and dynamics are always in the service of the unfolding onstage drama. He builds dramatic tension by speeding the musical pulse when necessary, pulling-in the reins when the onstage drama dictates a sense of orchestral repose. The Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele play with a beautiful directness under his baton, never giving in to the impulse to engage in dramatic overkill. They play with understated passion. It is a glorious musical experience. The two DVDs run for 274 minutes. The video was taken from a television broadcast and is clear with no artifacts. The sound is exemplary in PCM stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1. There are no extras other than a booklet.
Daniel Barenboim has become a solid conductor of Wagner and this is a very fine performance. It's become my favorite DVD of the opera and makes for a good investment if you like Meistersinger. Strongly recommended.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Mr John Haueisen
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This is one of the two best Meistersingers I've ever seen! Here's why I think so:
I never thought any production could approach the 1984 Bayreuth production, starring Bernd Weikl as Sachs, Hermann Prey, as Beckmesser, and Siegfried Jerusalem as Walter. This one may just be up there in the top two. Here, in a 2008 production by Daniel Barenboim, Robert Holl is Sachs, Andreas Schmidt is Beckmesser, and Peter Seiffert is Walter.
All three sing and act in a way that keeps you riveted to the story. The big bonus here is Eva--the prize in the singing contest. In all previous productions, Eva has been too fat, too old, or can't sing. In this one, Eva is sung and acted by the very attractive Emily Magee, who is certainly a prize worth winning.
For those who are new to this opera--Wagner's happiest opera--the story centers on a young man who comes to Nurenberg to study the art of music. He falls in love with the beautiful Eva, who is to be promised as the prize in a singing contest. All sorts of complications develop, and Wagner takes advantage of the opportunity to comment, through his characters, on the purposes of good music and how the creative artist goes about writing music.
Imagine being one of the critics of Wagner's day, who had viciously and repeatedly attacked him in the media, and then found yourself as a laughable, ridiculous character in Wagner's next opera! Such is the case here, where strikes back at his critics by inventing the character Sixtus Beckmesser, a pedantic, sycophantic, officious and tedious bore. Richard Wagner was commenting on the rigidity and close-mindedness of the music critics of his day. The opera makes the point that minds must be kept open to new ideas, while still retaining an understanding of what makes "classical" classic.
It's a nice touch that there are subtitles in German as well as English, Spanish, and French.
Sound is PCM Stereo, DD 5.1, and DTS 5.1. Artistic supervision was under Wolfgang Wagner, yes, he's Richard Wagner's grandson!
The Johannestag festival music is some of the brightest and happiest, so much so that those who think Wagner is always heavy and ponderous, will scarcely believe their ears. Costumes and scenery are lavish and authentic. The various guilds are dressed differently and it is easier to imagine their rivalry.
Again, the acting and singing are superb, and a beautiful Eva, who can sing and act is icing on the cake. Even for those who think they don't like Wagner: Give this Meistersinger a try. It has love, sublimely beautiful music, and a story with a happy ending. It's magnificent!
11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
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This live 1999 Bayreuth Meistersinger has some strong virtues, although overall it does not move me as much as I had hoped. First, the positives. The staging is compelling - traditional yet not old fashioned, a nice combination. It has a simple, fresh look and is very convincing. The masters are an individual lot who make a strong impression: time-honored yet of an independent mind and outlook. They sing and interact well, are full of character and come off most successfully. The festivities surrounding the march of the mastersingers and the prize song have a good deal of spontaneity, with a beautiful verdant background.
Of the major roles, however, only Peter Seiffert's Walther is first rate - full of lyrical ardor although he is portly and a stand-and-deliver type of actor. Still, most compelling. Emily Magee's Eva offers some strong vocalism, but too often, she does not look very comfortable or sure of herself, providing little chemistry, especially with Sachs (although I am inclined to blame the Sachs here for that).
I am not fond of Robert Holl's Sachs. His characterization is dour, and although the voice is not unpleasant, it lacks energy, vocal resources, variety and range. He just doesn't move me very much and Holl is not a very comfortable stage creature. Too often he seems to be looking down; you can't even see his eyes. Not a compelling performance.
Andreas Schmidt's Beckmesser is well sung but he too, just doesn't come across as very convincing. His attempts at humor don't come off very well. Matthias Holle's Pogner is first rate; well sung and dignified, making a strong impression.
Daniel Barenboim's conducting I had mixed feelings about. Lyricism is well represented but especially in Act 3, he doesn't make Meistersinger soar enough. There could be more frisson and excitement. He is too earthbound at times.
Overall, this doesn't compare on DVD with the 1984 Bayreuth Meistersinger led by Horst Stein, somewhat understated but with a far stronger Sachs in Bernd Weikl, a funnier Beckmesser in Hermann Prey and more lavish sets. Even better yet is the Gotz Friedrich 1995 Deutsche Oper Meistersinger conducted by Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos - wonderfully acted and sung, full of spontaneity and life-enhancing, as Meistersinger should be.
0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
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The person who received this, said it was the best gift ever. It was a great feeling to hear that. It isn't often when I get so much praise for my choice of a gift.