Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg [Bryn Terfel]

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg – Music-drama in three acts to a libretto by the composer [concert performance; sung in German]

Walther von Stolzing – Raymond Very
Eva – Amanda Roocroft
Magdalene – Anna Burford
David – Andrew Tortise
Hans Sachs – Bryn Terfel
Sixtus Beckmesser – Christopher Purves
Veit Pogner – Brindley Sherratt
Fritz Kothner – Simon Thorpe
Kunz Vogelgesang – Geraint Dodd
Konrad Nachtigall – David Stout
Ulrich Eisslinger – Andrew Rees
Hermann Ortel – Owen Webb
Balthasar Zorn – Rhys Meirion
Augustin Moser – Stephen Rooke
Hans Foltz – Arwel Huw Morgan
Hans Schwarz – Paul Hodges
Nightwatchman – David Soar

Citizens of all guilds and their wives, journeymen, apprentices, young women, people of Nuremburg

Chorus of Welsh National Opera

Orchestra of Welsh National Opera
Lothar Koenigs

Reviewed by: Christian Hoskins

Reviewed: 17 July, 2010
Venue: Royal Albert Hall, London

Bryn Terfel. ©Clive Barda/DGThe casting of Bryn Terfel as Hans Sachs in Welsh National Opera’s production of Wagner’s comic-opera made this concert a hot ticket even before the company’s performances in Cardiff and Birmingham began to collect highly favourable reviews. Given that a concert presentation of “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg” in a space as large the Royal Albert Hall risks losing much of its intimacy and humour, it’s perhaps not surprising that it hasn’t been presented at the Proms before. Nevertheless, even without the benefit of surtitles, this proved to be an entertaining and stirring performance.

Lothar Koenings conducting Die Meistersinger at the BBC Proms. Photograph: Chris Christodoulou / BBCMuch of the credit for this is due to the insightful and spirited conducting of Lothar Koenigs, the WNO Orchestra supporting the singers with playing of unflagging warmth, character and spontaneity. The lyricism and vitality of the earlier acts were matched by profundity of the Act Three ‘Prelude’ (strings and brass providing an unforced eloquence here) and the buoyancy and élan of the public celebrations later on. The contribution of the 70-strong WNO Chorus was especially impressive, bringing a biting intensity to the ‘riot scene’ in Act Two, a heartbreaking ardour to the townspeople’s ‘Wach’ auf’ in Act Three, and a blaze of joy to the very close of the opera.

Bryn Terfel may have taken on the role of Hans Sachs only recently, but seems to have been playing him for a lifetime, so natural and authoritative is his interpretation, encompassing Sachs’s multiple roles as world-weary philosopher, potential suitor for Eva, counsel to Walther, and hero to the townspeople. There was also some suitably amusing clowning during his interaction with Beckmesser in Act Two. Elsewhere, Sachs’s great monologues were sung with musicality and attention to detail, his response to the greeting of the people in Act Three imbued with feeling.Providing a superb foil to Terfel’s Sachs was Christopher Purves’s comic Beckmesser. Small of stature but large of voice, Purves portrayed Beckmesser as fool father than villain, perplexed by Walther’s arrival in Act One and confounded by Sachs’s hammering in Act Two. Purves’s mastery of slapstick – this was a Beckmesser that would suddenly run away in response to excitement or surprise – brought a great deal of humour.

Richard Wagner (1813-83) in Paris in 1867Raymond Very presented an elegant and dignified but slightly anonymous Walther von Stolzing, his voice always pleasant but rarely projecting much volume or passion. Amanda Roocroft’s Eva was lively and attractive but also reserved vocally, not making much of an impression until her contribution to the Act Three Quintet. By contrast, Andrew Tortise’s eager and proud portrayal of David was both enjoyable to watch and sung with conviction throughout. Among the other singers, Brindley Sherratt was a musical Pogner and Anna Burford an appealing Magdelene.

Although no stage director was credited, it was clear that some thought had gone into the positioning and movement of the cast. One oddity was that Purves had no slate on which to scrape his chalk during Walther’s song in Act One, although Terfel had a hammer and shoe for interrupting Beckmesser’s song in Act Two. Whatever the reason, the overall impression was one of a special occasion, a credit to all concerned.

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