- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080i/60
- Audio Codec: PCM 2.0, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- Subtitles: English, French, German
- Region: ABC (Region-Free)
- Rating: Not Rated
- Discs: 2 (2 x Blu-ray)
- Studio: Opus Arte
- Blu-ray Release Date: October 30, 2012
- List Price: $29.99
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Sir David McVicar is a highly decorated opera director whose productions always bring added value to familiar works. In this case, McVicar works his sleight of hand at Glyndebourne, not your typical Wagnerian venue, with Richard Wagner’s sole comic opera, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (The Mastersingers of Nuremberg). This opera celebrates the ancient guilds of a long-gone but not forgotten Germany. Walther von Stolzing (Marco Jentsch) arrives in Nürnberg on the eve of a singing contest, the prize of which will be the hand of Eva (Anna Gabler) the beautiful daughter of the goldsmith Veit Pogner (Alistair Miles). However, a mastersinger, Sixtus Beckmesser (Johannes Martin Kranzle) is also in pursuit of the lovely lady. The literal thread that binds the story together is provided by middle-aged cobbler and widower Hans Sachs (Gerald Finley) who is secretly in love with Eva but realizes that he is too old for her. Abetted by his apprentice David (Topi Lehtipuu) and David’s girlfriend Magdalene (Michaela Selinger), Walther learns the art of the mastersinging in record time. After a false start, he composes a prize-winning song, thwarts Beckmesser’s schemes, and gets the girl.
This 2011 production is the Glyndebourne premiere of this beloved opera with a generally strong cast, musical direction and dramatic concept. The McVicar staging updates the surroundings by about four centuries, not really that huge a reach as time stands rather still in this small German town. In contrast to previous Meistersingers that I have seen, there is a deliberate effort to turn over the proceedings to artists with lighter and younger voices than those usually cast in these roles. The risk in so doing is that you get artists with less experience in their respective parts. That aside, maestro Jurowski rises to the occasion and shapes the musical arc of this production to remind us that Die Meistersinger is a comedy and not a chapter in the Ring Cycle. Opus Arte gives us yet another beautifully shot video with superb sonics.
The cameramen have done a great job getting the perspectives of this relatively small stage and house just right. They have also taken advantage of the very telegenic faces of the young cast and make this a visually intimate production. The costumes and sets find the right amalgam and put viewers into a very believable 19th century German town. Check out the spectacular crowd scene in Act III! Colors and costumes are beautiful and all of the sets work to perfection.
Glyndebourne has wonderful acoustics and in this case you get to hear things in the score that are swallowed up by larger venues. Voices and orchestra are well balanced in the DTS-HD Master Audio score. The PCM version is shy on atmosphere but still a decent alternative.
Of course we get a cast gallery but there are two intriguing but brief featurettes: Die Meistersinger von Glyndebourne and Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg-An Opera with Baggage. There is considerable overlap between these extras; I would have preferred more in-depth coverage of the Glyndebourne experience.
The Definitive Word
This is the BD premiere of Wagner’s masterpiece. I want to applaud the Glyndebourne festival for taking a chance with this new production. First, it went for a very young cast, including the Hans Sachs of Canadian baritone Gerald Finley who was a very youthful looking 51 at camera time.The casting decisions work very well for the visual creditability of the lovers Walther and Eva who are usually portrayed by singers much older than their stage counterparts (watch the Metropolitan Opera/Levine DVD to see what I mean). It also helps matters greatly that Finley, an accomplished lieder singer, brings a rarely heard lyricism to the older man role of Sachs. The only real drawbacks in the cast are tenor Marco Jentzsch who simply lacks the heroic heft of his older counterparts and soprano Anna Gabler who lacks the smooth flowing lines of her competitors. But this opera is more about Sachs than about Walther or Eva and here we get a sung rather than barked or rasped performance. This two-disc set may not entirely delete the memories of previous Meistersingers from opera-goers’ brains but with the outstanding leadership of maestro Jurowski and the great overall production values, Opus Arte has presented a terrific alternative to the usual suspects. A definite must-watch and, for my part, a keeper.
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