Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Wagner Wochen, February 2010Posted on 15 February 2010
Rossini’s comment that, “Wagner has lovely moments but awful quarters of an hour” was spoken before Die Meistersinger was created, and this opera has, for me, not a dull moment — it’s one glorious thing after another. Of course a determined director can spoil it, as happened at Bayreuth this past summer in Katharina Wagner’s diabolical production, but here in Berlin the production by Götz Friedrich was a wonderful antidote. The church pews became visible during the overture, the houses of Sachs and Pogner were opposite one another, the Flieder bush was visible on stage in Act II, and Sachs breathed its scent during his Flieder monologue. All this is as it should be, and I loved the sets by Peter Sykora, who collaborated with Kirsten Dephoff on the nineteenth and twentieth century costume designs. The production had a sense of movement and spontaneity, and on the fields outside Nuremberg the opening events of the final scene were enlivened by acrobats, and a wonderful charade with the tailors, their goatskin, and men dressed in armour, showing how they protected the city from a long siege by pretending it still had frisky goats inside.
Within this delightful production we had Klaus Florian Vogt as a glorious Walther, with Michaela Kaune as a lovely Eva, both having sung these same roles in Bayreuth last July. Beckmesser was brilliantly performed by Markus Brück, clearly sung, amusingly pompous and clumsy, but never over the top. Kristinn Sigmundsson was a strong Pogner with fine stage presence, and Paul Kaufmann and Ulrike Helzel did well as David and as Eva’s confidante Magdalena. James Johnson sang a very sympathetic Hans Sachs, and though he was a little underpowered and lacking in stage presence, he interacted well with the other cast members. The chorus sang strongly, and the conducting by Donald Runnicles never flagged, never went over the top, and gave the singers plenty of space.
As I said, this was the perfect antidote to the nonsense from Bayreuth, and I’m delighted I came to Berlin to see it.