Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Richard Wagner 1813–1883
Opera in 3 acts
Libretto by the composer
First performed June 21 1868, Nationaltheater, Munich
Sung in German with German & English surtitles
Introductory talks (in German) in the Holzfoyer 30 minutes before performances begin and on video here shortly before opening night
The competition takes place every year on Midsummer’s Day. Everyone knows how you’re supposed to sing. Everyone knows better than everyone else.
Die Meistersinger started off as a Satyr play (a parody of tragedy combined with comedy), but this »light-hearted« comedy turned into one of the longest and most complex scores in operatic history and still gives rise to heated argument. Unlike the book which inspired him, which viewed the world from an aristocratic point of view, Wagner composed a middle-class opera parodying medieval minstrels.
On midsummer’s eve, the day before the competition, the goldsmith Veit Pogner offers his daughter Eva’s hand in marriage as the prize. The cobbler Hans Sachs, town clerk Sixtus Beckmesser and a newcomer, aristocratic Walther von Stolzing, compete for her. Each in his own way: Walther must overcome a few hurdles before being allowed to marry Eva and be accepted into the masters' guild. Between Sachs and Beckmesser it seems to be more about who’s allowed to marry the bride. A collision between two fundamentally different outlooks on life. But they complement each other, they’re inseparable: one can’t do without the other.
The coming into being of Meistersinger took two decades, right across Europe. Wagner made his first drafts in Bohemia, started on the text in Vienna and continued shaping his characters in a hotel room in Paris. So Wagner‘s German masters were – or at least some of them – born abroad. A dreamy summer night is suddenly hijacked by madness which ends in a senseless mass brawl. A "curious" St. John's Day.