Wagner Der Meistersinger von Nürnberg at the Royal Opera House tonight. Tomorrow, a full review, bookmark this site. .Sir John Tomlinson can't sing Sachs any more but my gosh, is he an amazing Veit Pogner. Usually the past fades into the background, but with Tomlinson, Pogner dominates. The whole balance changes when one singer is this good.
This Meistersinger production, (Graham Vick, revived from way back), is an excellent Xmas show, with psychedelic bright colours, that wonderfully humorous riot scene and the brilliant finale. Great fun, but don't expect anarchic or intellectual challenge. Apart from John Tomlinson, there was more grit at Glyndebourne. Oddly enough I kept thinking of baptism that runs throughout this opera like an undercurrent. It starts with the church service, and leads up to the big party on the meadow which celebrates Hans Sachs's nameday. Johannestag, Johannestag! The English translation is misleading. Sure it is midsummer but much more importantly it is the feast of St John. Significantly, Hans Sachs was named (by his apparently single mother) for St John the Baptist, who foretold the coming of someone greater than himself.
This has big implications on how the role of Walther von Stolzing might be interpreted. Sachs, Pogner and the Meistersingers can be gruff and dramatic, but Walther should stand out in a halo of glory, I think, like a latterday Lohengrin, who saves the girl and rejuvenates her whole community. So I thought, very lyrical true Heldentenor, so beautifully sung he's almost divine. So above, John Botha, in 2008. (comparing anyone much earlier isn't right as styles change, even in the way we speak). Ethereal! Close your eyes as the production is awful, but open your ears.
There is a lot on this site about recent Meistersinger von Nürnberg productions like Glyndebourne Gerald Finley and WNO at the Proms (Bryn Terfel) And of course lots more on Wagner.