Poetry and music merge into a musical dramatic dialogue full of comical highlights.

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

Richard Wagner, De Nederlandse Opera

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The artistically gifted knight Walther von Stolzing can only win the hand of his true love Eva Pogner if he can triumph in a song contest. The powers that be, exemplified by the hateful Beckmesser, are bent on thwar­ting his efforts. But the legendary Hans Sachs, the master of all master singers, recognizes the pure talent of Walther. Artfully, he ensures that Von Stolzing can win the contest after all. In his one and only comic opera, Wagner has blended poetry and music into one continuous dramatic music dialogue focusing on the conflict between bourgeois tradition and true artistry, in which truth is ultimately victorious over delusion.

Please note: the final tickets for June 17 are available at the Muziektheater only.

Credits

libretto, music
Richard Wagner
musical direction
Marc Albrecht
direction
David Alden
decor
Gideo Davey
costumes
Jon Morrell
choreography
Jonathan Lunn
lighting
Adam Silverman
orchestra
Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest
choir
Koor van De Nederlandse Opera
directed by
Thomas Eitler
production
De Nederlandse Opera
cast
James Johnson
Alastair Miles
Pascal Pittie
Mattijs van de Woerd
Adrian Eröd
Thomas Oliemans
Marcel Beekman
Reinhard Alessandri
Frans Fiselier
Tom Haenen
Tijl Faveyt
Roberto Sacca
Thomas Blondelle
Agneta Eichenholz
Sarah Castle

It's Wagner's most heartwarming opera

The Guardian

Background information

New production

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In his only comic opera, Wagner distilled poetry and music into a single unified form that unfolds as an unbroken stream of music-dramatic dialogue. It became a singspiel, partly based on personal experience, about the romance between the bourgeois girl Eva Pogner and the knight Walther von Stolzing, who may only wed his beloved once he has won the annual singing contest. The cobbler Hans Sachs represents, on the one hand, the old guard as a member of the Guild of Mastersingers; on the other hand he is open to modernization and stimulates the knight’s artistic gifts, stoking the conflict between narrow-mindedness and true artistry – a theme certainly not unfamiliar to Wagner himself. Love triumphs in the end, thanks to Sachs’ closing address in which he praises the ‘master’s honour’, a typically German honour one might view with considerable scepticism: the Meistersinger finale was, after all, misused for political purposes.

 

No opera in all music history has given rise to so many reasonable disputes amongst scholars and to so much verbal tastelessness, from both well-meaning and malicious feuilletonists.

- Claus H. Henneberg

 

The story

 

I

The young knight Walther von Stolzing is in love with Eva Pogner. When he hears that she is to be the bride of the winner of a song contest, he decides to enter. David, apprentice to the cobbler and poet Hans Sachs, explains to Walther the complicated rules of qualifying for the event. The town clerk Beckmesser is dismayed by the sudden appearance of a rival for Eva’s hand. Acting as an adjudicator of Walther’s audition, Beckmesser convinces the mastersingers to turn him down. Only Sachs recognizes the young man’s artistry.

 

II

Having heard of Walther’s rejection by the mastersingers, Eva goes to Sachs for counsel. She even suggests he enter the contest himself, but he refuses. Eva and Walther make plans to elope.

Beckmesser sings a serenade to Eva, but Sachs sabotages the effort by hammering away in his shoe-repair workshop, each blow of the hammer accentuating a mistake in Beckmessers’ song. The racket wakes the neighbours and a general melee ensues. Sachs intercepts Eva and Walther just as they are about to make their escape.

 

III

Sachs writes down a dream he had the previous night, with which Walther still can enter the contest. Beckmesser discovers the verses, written in Sachs’ handwriting, in the cobbler’s workshop. He takes the poem and, confident of victory, heads for the meadow where the festival is to be held. The various artisans’ guilds and finally the mastersingers make their entrance. Beckmesser stumbles over the verses and is the laughing-stock of the crowd. Sachs proposes inviting a capable singer to sing his words with the appropriate melody and calls upon Walther, who interprets the song with such beauty and skill that he is declared the winner. Just as he is about to refuse the guild’s King David medal, Sachs intervenes, explaining that the art of the mastersingers is a symbol of the true and honourable German spirit, in good times and bad. All praise Sachs’ wisdom and German art.

Biography

Richard Wagner (1813-1883) is regarded as one of the greatest composers in the history of music. Only equalled by Verdi he is a giant of nineteenth century opera. Wagner wrote many of his libretti himself and aimed to create a Gesamtkunstwerk, in which all parts, including the music, were subservient to the drama as a whole. His most famous works in music theatre include Der fliegende Holländer(The Flying Dutchman, 1840-1841),Tannhäuser (1845), Lohengrin (1845-1848), Tristan und Isolde (1856-1859), Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (1845/1861-1867), the four part cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen (1851-1874) and Parsifal (1865/1877-1882). Originally Wagner wanted to become a playwright, but from 1831 he studied music at the university in his hometown Leipzig. In this period, Beethoven was a major inspiration to him. In 1833 he was appointed choir master of the theatre in Würzburg and in that same year he composed his first complete opera. In 1836 he married the actress Minna Planer, whith whom he went on to have a long but troubled marriage. In 1842, after having lived in Riga and Paris, he was appointed Kapellmeister in Dresden. Wagner was involved with revolutionaries and anarchists, including Mikhail Bakunin. In the revolutionary year 1848 he was forced to flee to Switzerland. There he met Mathilde Wesendonck, the wife of a wealthy industrialist and patron of the arts, and struck up a love affair with her. In 1870 he married Cosima, who was the daughter of Franz Liszt and 24 years his junior. They had three children. After having moved around various towns and cities, including Paris, Biebrich and Vienna, Wagner settled in 1871 in the town of Bayreuth, in the north of Bavaria. There, with the support of the town council, and eventually also king Ludwig II, he had an opera house built. This Festspielhaus was opened in 1876 with a performance of the complete Der Ring des Nibelungen. Ever since, the Bayreuther Festspiele are held there every year, the organisation of which is still managed by the Wagner family. Wagner died in Venice on 13 February 1883.

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