Opera Scotland

Meistersinger von Nürnberg Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg; The Mastersingers of Nuremberg; Mastersingers

Richard Wagner (born Leipzig, 2 March 1813; died Venice, 13 February 1883)

The composer.


First performance: Munich (Royal Court Theatre), 21 June 1868.
First UK performance: London (Drury Lane), 30 May 1882.
First performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (Royal Lyceum Theatre), 15 September 1894.
Scottish Opera premiere: Glasgow (Theatre Royal), 15 December 1976.

In the middle of composing The Ring, Wagner broke off to produce Tristan, and after that effort he decided to produce a light comedy before returning to The Ring. Meistersinger developed into a far larger work than he seems to have intended, and though it is certainly a comedy, it is a piece of great humanity, perhaps the most three-dimensional of all his works. Unusually for opera, many of the situations arising in Die Meistersinger are occasions when singing is an entirely natural activity, whether the opening scene in church, or the subsequent trials and rehearsals of new songs, or the final song contest itself.

Walther von Stolzing, a young knight (tenor)
Eva, daughter of Pogner (soprano)
Magdalene, her nurse (mezzo-soprano)
David, Sachs’ apprentice (tenor)
Hans Sachs, a shoemaker and Mastersinger (bass-baritone)
Veit Pogner, a goldsmith and Mastersinger (bass)
Sixtus Beckmesser, Town Clerk and Mastersinger (baritone)
Nine more Mastersingers (various)
Nightwatchman (bass)

Plot Summary
The opera is located in sixteenth century Nuremberg, where the guilds of master craftsmen also take pride in their abilities as singers and poets. Walther, a young knight visiting the town, attends a church service, where he is attracted to Eva, the goldsmith’s daughter. He discovers that her hand is to be the prize in the approaching song contest, and resolves to enter. His main rivals are both middle-aged masters. Sachs is a cobbler, a leading member of the Mastersingers, and an upholder of the traditional virtues of the guilds, while also being open-minded enough to accept innovations. Beckmesser, the Town Clerk, is both more unscrupulous and far less talented and imaginative. Walther’s initial efforts at composition are derided by Beckmesser and the other masters, but Sachs observes a latent talent in the youth, and also recognises that Eva favours this young knight. He nobly gives up his own claim, and the final contest rests between Walther and Beckmesser. The clerk steals the song lyric which he finds in Sachs’ workshop, not knowing it is Walther’s composition, but at the contest his grotesque attempt to improvise a melody makes him a laughing stock. In a petulant outburst he confesses that the dreadful verses are actually by Sachs, who then reveals the author to be Walther, whose performance makes him a clear winner of the contest and of Eva.

The Cast

Augustin Moser
 a tailor
Balthasar Zorn
 a pewterer
 apprentice to Sachs
 daughter of Pogner
Fritz Kothner
 a baker
Hans Foltz
 a coppersmith
Hans Sachs
 a shoemaker
Hans Schwarz
 a stocking-weaver
Hermann Ortel
 a soap-boiler
Konrad Nachtigall
 a tinsmith
Kunz Vogelgesang
 a furrier
 Eva's nurse
Sixtus Beckmesser
 town clerk
Ulrich Eisslinger
 a grocer
Veit Pogner
 a goldsmith
Walther von Stolzing
 a young knight

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