Mastodon Meistersinger for the perpetually perplexed - The Wagnerian

Meistersinger for the perpetually perplexed

Written By The Wagnerian on Friday, 24 June 2011 | 6:00:00 pm

From today's Guardian and for Meistersinger "newbies" only. Click the link at the end for the rest of the opera and some Meistersinger miscellanea  

Denis Forman,

Meistersinger (Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg), Wagner

The one with a disagreeable town clerk, a noble cobbler, a street brawl and a prize song.


Veit Pogner, goldsmith and Mastersinger - Bass

Eva, his daughter - Soprano

Magdalene, her maid - Mezzo

Hans Sachs, cobbler and Mastersinger - Bass

David, his apprentice - Tenor

Sixtus Bechmesser, Town Clerk and Mastersinger - Bass

Walter von Stolzing, a knight - Tenor

Mastersingers (nine), a night watchman

Act I Sc I: Inside the church of St Katherine's Nüremberg

In which our hero declares his love for a lady but fails to sing his way into the club of Mastersingers whose members will be allowed to compete for the lady's hand.

We are in Nuremberg medieval city of song and there is a church service in progress. Handsome knight Walter sidles up to pretty young woman Eva and says excuse me but are you spoken for? Eva recognizes Walter as overnight house guest. Well no not exactly says her maid Magdalene not actually engaged but father Pogner has booked her as the prize for an upcoming song contest. Whoever wins gets her as wife. I see I see says Walter to Eva let me escort you home. No stay here says Magdalene, here's Mastersinger's apprentice David (sure enough David is fussing about resetting the church as venue for a song contest) he'll teach you the tricks of the Mastersinging trade: you stay and get your Master's certificate and then you can compete for her. Eva I love you says Walter [a bit sudden? Ed] see you tonight. OK says Eva. Exits.

Act I Sc 2: A makeshift arena

So you think you can get your certificate at first try? says David. Ho ho. How much do you know about the Meister method? Zero says Walter. OK listen to this says David. He launches into a farrago of rules regulations admonitions prohibitions. Meanwhile the apprentices set up the singers'dais all wrong. David sorts them out: they take the mickey out of him.

Pogner and Beckmesser enter. You are odds-on favourite to win my girl Eva says Pogner to Beckmesser: such a good singer you are. But if I win and she won't have me will you push it? asks Beckmesser. No I will not push it says Pogner. Excuse me says Walter would the Masters accept me as a late entry? I must propose you for the Masters' club first old friend says Pogner . The Masters assemble: roll call: Pogner makes the opening address. In my travels he says I found Nuremberg's image very poor. We are generally perceived as stuffy starchy stingy also philistine so I dreamt up this song contest to improve the image of this great city of ours and I offer my daughter as wife to the winner. Nice one Pog! shout the Masters. Viva Veit! cry the apprentices. But just one thing says Pogner if she doesn't like the winner she has power of refusal.

Why not allow the people to exercise their democratic right and judge the contest? asks Social Democrat Sachs. Subversive left-wing talk say the Masters. Order! back to the agenda says Pogner: we have this late entry my friend Sir Stolzing. I propose him as candidate for the Masters' Guild. Excellent C.V. noble parents property owner Name at Lloyds member of the Athenaeum banks at Coutts. Vocal education? asks the baker Kothner. I studied these classic LPs of Caruso Gigli Chaliapin says Walter (All dead says Beckmesser). But what actual educational establishment? asks Kothner. School of Nature says Walter (He learnt from the birds says Beckmesser. Are you prepared to submit a trial song? asks Kothner. Yes says Walter (poetically and at some length). Right! Into your marker's box Beckmesser says Kothner and remember Sir Stolzing seven faults and you're out. Take a look at the conditions of contest (apprentices show a video to Walter whilst Kothner sings the soundtrack).

Cue! shouts Beckmesser. Walter takes off into a romantic rhapsody. Beckmesser jumps out. Seven faults already he cries gleefully: do you want any more of this rubbish?It's funny sort of stuff say the Masters. Is this what they call minimalist? asks one. More atonal I would think says another. Perhaps it's tone rows says a third. Can't stand this modern stuff says a fourth. I liked it says Sachs: the marker is clearly biased jealous and emotionally upset. His intervention is unfair. I say go on Sir Stolzing to hell with the marker. Walter sings. Sachs and Beckmesser slag each other off: the Masters argue. Pogner tries to cool it: the apprentices dance: chaos. Beckmesser yells let's take a vote. Big majority against Walter's admission. Curtain.