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Richard Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, WWV 96
Franz Hawlata (Hans Sachs), Artur Korn (Veit Pogner), Charles Reid (Kunz Vogelgesang), Rainer Zaun (Konrad Nachitgall), Michael Volle (Sextus Beckmesser), Markus Eiche (Fritz Kothner), Edward Randall (Balthasar Zorn), Hans-Jürgen Lazar (Ulrich Eisslinger), Stefan Heibach (Augustin Moser), Martin Snell (Hermann Ortel), Andreas Macco (Hans Schwarz), Diogenes Randes (Hans Foltz), Klaus Florian Vogt (Walther von Stoltzing), Norbert Ernst (David), Michaela Kaune (Eva), Carola Guber (Magdalene), Friedemann Röhlig (Nightwatchman), Bayreuth Festival Orchestra and Chorus, Eberhard Friedrich (chorus master), Sebastian Weigle (conductor)
Recorded at the Bayreuther Festspielhaus (2008) – 268’03
4 CDs Opus Arte LC11982 – Notes in English, French, German – No libretto

After close listening to this CD and making some comparisons with others (a time-consuming pastime), I can only conclude that there is no reason for anyone to acquire this recording. This is not because it is bad, but there are several recordings with a larger number of distinguished performers and equally good conducting.

What we have here is an audio recording of a production (from the Bayreuth Festival, first staged in 2007) that has also been released on DVD/Blu-ray. The production was controversial (to say the least.) One (of many) negative reviews appeared on this website in which my colleague described it as an épouvantable fatras (“horrible mess”). It is interesting to research critical comments of the day. Those who liked it seemed to like the fact that it was booed as this was evidence that it discomfited the bourgeois types who pay huge sums to travel to festivals - a kind of operatic schadenfreude. Even those who liked it, seemed to have liked just parts.

Thus, the CD is for those who just want to listen, but then you have to put up with numerous thumps emanating from the stage action, plus the fact that the chorus is not always placed to best advantage. The one singer who is of greatest interest is the singular Klaus Florian Vogt, but that alone doesn’t justify purchase. (And he appears on a DVD of the current Bayreuth production of Meistersinger, whose Hans Sachs, Michael Volle, is no doubt better than Franz Hawlata on this issue.)

Let’s hope Sebastian Weigle, who brings forth a host of amusing details in the endlessly playful score, gets another chance to record it. With his Frankfurt Opera forces he has recorded several Wagner operas for the Oehms label and Meistersinger must be on their list.

Another reviewer described the musical values of the production as “reasonably good”. Can you get excited about that? I thought not. It’s of interest only to those who simply must have a copy of every Bayreuth performance.

Michael Johnson




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