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Wagner;Richard Die Meistersing

Wolfgang Brendel , Brian Large    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
I cannot imagine what the previous reviewer was referring to when he said that Wolfgang Brendel plays Hans Sachs as a clown. This is simply not true. Perhaps he came to this opinion because that reviewer feels, as he says, that Sachs is supposed to be a craggy old man. But this is not the case if one takes the time to read Wagner's own libretto. It is clear that Sachs is a widower who is actually not THAT old. Further, his lines indicate that he is a very human, wise, kind-hearted fellow. True, he apparently is mean to his apprentice, David, but apparently that was the custom of the day; he treats David with rough humor, and indeed late in the opera he rewards David by making him a journeyman cobbler, and there is evidence that he is genuinely fond of him.
The production is from the Deutsche Oper Berlin from 1995, before the end of Götz Friedrich's reign as the principal director there. He was known world-wide as one of the best opera directors around, and this production certainly is consistent with that reputation. The acting is detailed, very human, and on repeated watching one picks up little true-to-life bits that one didn't notice first time around, often the mark of a great director. The sets and costumes (by Peter Sykora and Kirsten Dephoff) are appropriate if not precisely historically accurate. The television direction by Brian Large is creative and inobtrusive; my only complaints on that score are the tilted still views of a mock-up village made to represent medieval Nuremberg; these were seen during the preludes for Acts I and III. The views made me a little dizzy. The chorus is splendid. The action during the gathering of forces leading up to the Song Contest in Act III is striking and full of life. The mêlée in Act II is both funny and life-like.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An all-round ideal 'Meistersinger' May 13 2004
Surely it is rare to see such a roundly satisfying performance of Meistersinger - with no significant drawbacks in any aspect of singing, acting or production.
Contrary to "A Viewer from USA", Karita Mattila is not magnificent on this DVD. She isn't in it at all. They may be thinking of the soon-to-be-released MET DVD on DG.
But Brendel's Sachs is wonderful - ruminative, wise, handsome in a hard-working middle-aged way, thoroughly convincing. He certainly is not meant to be a 'craggy old man' - how then could we make sense of Eva's Act 3 outburst that if she had the choice she would marry him? No, Brendel gets it right, his voice full and firm to the end, and he galvanises an impressive cast.
Winbergh's lyrical and expressive Walther could be put in the shade by odious comparisons to the role's greatest exponents on disc - Konya & Heppner (the latter is on the forthcoming MET DVD) - but he is certainly thoroughly enjoyable, even if he lets emotion override singing the notes towards the end of the prize song.
The Quintet eventually takes flight though Eva Johannson doesn't launch it with much inspiration. Her outburst at "O Sachs, Mein Freund", though, is spine-tingling, and she looks the part, attractive if not quite as beautiful as Ute Walther, her Magdalena. David & Beckmesser are both well-routined, thoroughly sung and wonderfully acted.
Gotz Friedrich's direction is pure gold. The orchestra is on terrific form. This is first-class singing, acting and music making all round. No regrets here.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Meistersinger - as good as can be. July 18 2004
After watching that modern day singing contest -The American Idol- I am happy that this wonderful custom of singing for a prize is still part of the young people's world today. I suppose Wagner was ahead of his time using this idea in two of his operas (Tannhauser and Die Meistersinger) as a great musical and dramatic device.
Tristan und Isolde and Die Meistersinger stand as probably the two greatest operas of the 19th century but they couldn't be more different from each other. It is one of the greatest mysteries of Wagner's genius,how he could change his style from the ecstatic chromaticism of Tristan to the optimistic, straightforward C-major tonality and counterpoint of the Meistersinger. But of course Wagner had his own agenda. Die Meistersinger was a way of showing his frustration of getting his "music of the future" (Zukunftsmusik) accepted by the musical establishment (led by Brahms) and also to get back at his critics, mainly Edouard Hanslick, his nemesis. This he did with a vengeance by the character of Beckmesser, the jealous and wicked little town-clerk who can only criticize, but incapable of understanding new ideas and create anything worthwhile. So much for introduction.
First of all I find it hard to forgive ARTHAUS for not releasing this DVD sooner in North America.. It has been available in PAL version in Europe since 2001 and was nominated for Gramophone Magazine Awards that year. It came in third, but only because of the extremely stiff competition (The Damnation of Faust won, also by ARTHAUS).
But I truly love this DVD. A sumptuous live performance from the prestigious Deutsche Oper ,beautifully directed and staged by Gotz Friedrich, gives us a somewhat new look at this magnificent work.
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