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Wagner - Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg / Heppner, Mattila, Morris, Pape, Allen, Polenzani, Levine, Metropolitan Opera
List Price: $39.98

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Customer Reviews:

  • Uneven but overall a welcome addition
    As with most MET DVDs, this one is brightly filmed; the sets are generally colorful and realistic (i.e., look appropriate to Nuremberg rather than Aunt Lizzie's broom closet or some such). The orchestra is first class, and the singers mostly do justice to the work.
    Why not five stars? An opera DVD can compromise somewhat on the voices (as this one does), but it lives or falls on the sets, direction, and acting ability (as well as appearance) of the singers. (If you desire the best voices, look for an audio recording -- the Kubelik, the second Karajan, or the Sawallisch are good bets from the vocal/orchestra perspective.) Here's where my reservations enter:
    1. Although the sets for Acts II and III are what one would expect (and accomodate the crowd scenes well within the limitations of a stage), the set for Act I is terrible. After the magnificent overture (a little too stately from Levine, but that's his style), the curtain rises on the congregation in song. Done right, this can be a powerful visual experience. What the MET does is place the chorus behind a wooden screen with a single doorway (through which Eva can be seen), so the visual impact of the church scene is lost. It's as if the viewer were a church mouse peeping out of the rector's closet. The visual doldrom of this set contributes to what seems to be an extra long Act I (again, Levine's tempos don't help either).
    2. This production suffers from the all too frequent perverse relationship between singing and acting/appearance. The best singers (Heppner, Mattila) are the worst actors and/or the actors that appear least appropriate for the role. (Although Heppner hardly looks like a dashing young knight, at least he gives some representation to the weight challenged among us (including me) who are underrepresented in most of the entertainment world.) Morris looks ok in the part, but his voice shows significant signs of wear (especially in Act I; things improve, curiously, as the opera progresses). The exceptions are Allen (Beckmesser) and Pape (Pogner) who both sing and act well. (Pape would have been better as Sachs.)
    3. Although the MET orchestra plays beautifully, there is a sluggisheness to the proceedings. Levine prefers slow tempi; that can work in Parsifal (it does in the 1979 and 1985 broadcast performances; less so in the 1993 filmed version)and Mahler (in my view he is an underrated Mahler conductor). However, Meistersinger requires more sparkle; you can't find that here despite the excellence of the sound.
    As for comparisons, I have only seen a portion of the Australian opera production with McIntyre as Sachs; overall, the MET production is superior....more info
  • Is Wagner Truly a Great Composer?
    Quite a pageant, this Meistersinger! The sets are magnificent. So are the costumes. The comic bits are really funny, and the poignant bits are poignant enough. The recording and cinematography are first rate, good mainstream movie quality. The orchestra plays beautifully. I sat through most of the 292 minutes of the DVD thinking that I would have to award at least four stars. Make no mistake: I was genuinely entertained. However, there were four dreadful weaknesses:

    1. The singing of James Morris. As other reviewers assert, his voice sounds old and tired. His tuning is imperfect at critical moments. His lower register is feeble and raspy. I kept finding my ears wishing he'd sit down and let someone else sing. Perhaps he has been a great singer in his days, but he's not adequate to the burden of singing Hans Sachs today. I could go farther; I could say that his voice has all the musical charm of a gas-powered leafblower, but that would be cruel and impolitic.

    2. The chorus. Did no one else notice what a growly mess they made of their music? Such an approximation of tuning! Pfui! Teufel!

    3. Hans Sachs's final paean to German mastery. Not only was James Morris's voice reduced to a thin snarl by that time but the whole aria is anti-climactic both musically and dramatically. Given the historical resonance of Wagner's role in German culture, it was also painful to the mind.

    4. The music. Half of it is glorious, memorable, inspiring. I've carried the Meistersingers' entry march in my mind since I first played it myself in my junior high school orchestra. Unfortunately, the other half of the score is grind-it-by-the-foot sausage music. Did Wagner's ego blind him to the compositional requirement of giving us his best at all times, of polishing and selecting? I loved the high points of this performance, but it required a bovine patience and devotion to fairness to sit through the rest.

    Others have commented on the problems specific to the DVD format, that both Karita Mattila and Ben Heppner look too old and stiff. I had the same problem at first. Heppner in particular has the physical presence of a tuba player in a small town oompah band. But I overcame that sensation of incredulity as I listened to their splendid vocal performance. Opera is still a stage art, and such magnificent voices are not so common that a few wrinkles and a little pudge should banish them from the stage. ...more info
  • A Magnificent Meistersinger
    I know this opera very well, having played it several times (violinist) and heard/seen it many more times.

    I believe this is the finest opera DVD I have seen. It is full of the visual charm needed to place it in its context as a German opera, and musically it is superb. The acting, lighting, scenery and costuming are matchless in my experience. Every part is sung/acted convincingly, even though not all the singers seem perfectly suited to their parts in regard to age.

    I plan to see it many times on our new 42-inch HDTV. I can recommend it without hesitation....more info
  • The Quintessential German Opera
    Meistersinger is the quintessential Wagner - Controversial/German/Dynamic. An experience of the Romantic in music and drama, again the Met does not disappoint with this latest entry in home DVD. Gorgeous traditional staging (recreating 16th century Nurnberg exquisitely), a solid cast, one of the finest orchestras, and quality packaging. The sets, color, costuming and overall staging is perhaps the finest I've seen - you WILL be taken to 16th century Nurnberg. The final scene of Act 3 is spectacular - a Medieval German feast for the eyes - with Wagners magnficient music.

    The acting is superb with the characters all very human, and is coupled very well with strong voice performnce from all the cast - no weak links here. The orchestra at times (to me) came across a little "thin."

    Though many disagree - I find Levine bringing a richness and depth in his music direction (many complain of "plodding" tempos, etc). As a classical musician (viola) I have to disagree, and Levine is a bit more lively here than in many of his Wagner produtions. These Met releases for home DVD are like fine wines to be treasured over and over - and a wonderful refuge from the world. ...more info
  • Very good traditional performance
    Actually I would rate it 4 1/2 stars. The singers and conducting are excellent, the sets and costumes are excellent (very traditional) The reason I don't give it 5 stars is because the opera has some tedious sections. If you love Meistersinger, you will probably give this DVD 5 stars....more info