Sunday, 12 March 2017

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at the Royal Opera

Mia Stensgaard's set design and Kasper Holten's direction worked in Act I in a gentlemen's club setting. The set totally failed in Act II - if you didn't know the opera, you wouldn't know the drama took place on a street corner with the action taking place in front of the houses of Sachs and Pogner. The fight / crowd scene was OTT - was it necessary to have shiny golden codpieces / phalluses? Act III worked a little better, with a slowly rotating set.

Bryn Terfel gave us a broody Hans Sachs, and delivered the long monologues with intelligence. Johannes Martin Kränzle was a superlative Sixtus Beckmesser: he had a certain Mr Bean quality to his demeanor and made the comedy part of the opera come to life. Gwyn Hughes Jones was Walther with a ringing heldentenor voice, though his costume (rags, t shirt with a tailcoat) didn't quite portray his knightly provenience. I was hoping for some funky designer outfit, the Walther's costume hardly changed during the entire opera. The quintet, led by Rachel Willis-Sørensen as Eva, was sublime - while Pappano created a sense of suspense for this highlight in the work.

Pappano solved the potential lull in Act I by adopting a very upbeat tempo. There was no standing around - he maintained onward momentum leading all the way to the finale sung stupendously by the ROH Chorus.

Commentators continue to be troubled by Wagner and the somewhat nationalistic tone in Die Meistersinger. Wagner wrote "die heil'ge deutsche Kunst" putting Art before people: to be truly and vehemently nationalistic, he could have written "die heil'ge deutsche Volk". But he didn't.