Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Glyndebourne, GFO, May 2016Posted on 22 May 2016
The first revival of this David McVicar production, with its glorious designs by Vicki Mortimer, beautifully lit by Paule Constable, seems even better than it did five years ago.
As Wagner’s only comic opera — apart from his very early Liebesverbot — Meistersinger needs the light touch that McVicar so ably gives it. The marvellous attention to detail yields numerous witty moments. In Act I for instance as Magdalene gives Eva and Walther another moment together she saucily waves the book behind her back as she goes to the pew to retrieve it, and the entrance of the young apprentice nervously announcing Meistersinger Vogel’s indisposition was a delight, to say nothing of the hilarious antics of Jochen Kupfer as an over-eager Beckmesser.
Dressed in black, with red heels and striped socks in the first act, the affected superiority of this tall, good-looking man with his over-indulgent black, wavy hair and camp attitude was one of the joys of the performance. No wonder Pogner’s lovely daughter Eva, beautifully sung by Amanda Majeski, finds him so unattractive. Superb singing from Hanna Hipp as her companion Magdalene, and David Portillo gave an engagingly feisty vocal portrayal of Sachs’s apprentice David. A well-sung Pogner by Alastair Miles, though his diction did not measure up to the rest of the cast, along with very stout performances by Darren Jeffery as Kothner, head of the Meistersingers, and Patrick Guetti as an imposing Night Watchman.
As the noble and passionate Walther, Michael Schade raised the temperature in Act I with Am stillen Herd, describing his tutelage from the natural world, but ran out of steam by the time of his Prize song. No such problems with Gerald Finley as a magical Hans Sachs, beautifully expressing both his attraction to Eva and agony of losing her, as well as an avuncular desire for Walther to win her. The generous tone in his Act II Flieder soliloquy as he gently stretches his limbs, and the huge emotion of his Act III Wahn monologue, knocking over a chair before continuing with Wie friedsam treue Sitten — singing of the peaceful traditions of his beloved Nuremberg — were simply magnificent. And this is before mentioning the terrific final monologue where he first goes over to Walther, warning him not to scorn the Masters, before crossing the stage to acknowledge and include the humiliated Beckmesser in his praise of noble German art.
The final entrance of the chorus brought a marvellous climax, and if Michael Güttler’s competent and restrained conducting of the excellent London Philharmonic occasionally missed some high points, Finley’s Sachs produced more than enough power and well-nuanced emotion to fully deserve the standing ovation he received from the audience.
This Meistersinger with its sly wit and gloriously spontaneous-looking final scene can hardly be bettered, and “gentlemen in England now a-bed shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here” — if that sounds over the top, Finley’s performance is worth the price of the tickets and a trip to Glyndebourne, named Festival of the Year at the 2016 International Opera Awards.
Performances continue on various dates until June 27 — shortly after Johannistag on the 24th — for details click here.