Richard Wagner, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (1868)
Based on: an original story by Richard Wagner
Notable Cultural Reference: Triumph of the Will
Setting: Nuremberg, 16th century
Sung in: German
Plot in 101 words or less: Knight Walther, in town on business, spots Eva and falls hard. Alas! Eva is to marry whoever wins the local song contest. David, who crushes on Eva’s companion Magdalene, explains the rules of mastersinging (it’s a thing, okay?). Walther can do this, no problem (he can’t). Burgermeister Meisterburger Beckmesser, who also wants to marry Eva, fumes. He serenades a disguised Magdalene by accident, much to the dismay of David. Fight! Fight! Walther (literally) dreams up the perfect song and cobbler Sachs stirs the pot by ensuring Beckmesser plays the fool. For some reason, this takes almost six hours to play out.
Anyone who regularly reads this blog will not be surprised to hear that I was absolutely dreading this San Francisco Opera production: it is Wagner, it is German, and it is long. On the bright side, it is a comedy, so on the night it didn’t seem nearly as long as I feared it would. This was helped tremendously by the cast, especially Brandon Jovanovich (fighting a cold) as Walther, Rachel Willis-Sørenson as Eva, Martin Gantner as Beckmesser, Alek Shrader as David, and my beloved Sasha Cooke as Magdalene.
Once again, as with Lucia di Lammermoor, there seemed to be a disconnect between the production design and the music, wherein the strongest musical parts of the opera are the quiet moments, but the production chose to play up the chaotic elements instead. All in all, not bad, but certainly didn’t help sell me on longer operas or Wagner.