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Wagner Richard
Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg
Act I
Act II
Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Die (The Mastersingers of Nuremberg)
  • Richard Wagner. Music drama in three acts. 1867.
  • Libretto by the composer.
  • First performance at the Königliches Hof-und Nationaltheater, Munich, on 21st June 1868.
Hans Sachs, cobbler bass-baritone
Veit Pogner, goldsmith bass
Kunz Vogelgesang, furrier tenor
Konrad Nachtigal, tinsmith bass
Sixtus Beckmesser, town clerk bass
Fritz Kothner, baker bass
Balthasar Zorn, pewterer tenor
Ulrich Eisslinger, grocer tenor
Augustin Moser, tailor tenor
Hermann Ortel, soapmaker bass
Hans Schwarz, stocking weaver bass
Hans Foltz, coppersmith bass
Walther von Stolzing, a young knight from Franconia tenor
David, Sachs' apprentice tenor
Eva, Pogner's daughter soprano
Magdalene, her nurse soprano
Nightwatchman bass

In St Katharine's Church Walther tries to attract the attention of Eva and learns finally from Magdalene that she is to marry the winner of the mastersingers' contest the next day. Magdalene's lover David, Sach's apprentice, starts to teach Walther the rules of the contest. Pogner welcomes Walther's entry to the contest and makes it clear that he is offering his goods and his only daughter as a prize to the winner, provided that Eva approves of the man who wins. Hans Sachs proposes that the winner should be chosen by the people but the suggestion is rejected. Asked about his teacher, Walther claims the poet Walther von der Vogelweide and nature and proceeds to sing his trial song for entry to the guild, while Beckmesser, in the marker's booth, scratches on a slate a record of Walther's mistakes. Sachs alone approves the song, and Walther is rejected. The second act shows midsummer eve in Nuremberg, where Sachs sings of the joys of spring, recalling Walther's trial song. Walther himself now urges Eva to elope with him and she changes clothes with Magdalene, but they wait, while Beckmesser comes to serenade Eva, now Magdalene in disguise, and Sachs punctuates the serenade with his own singing and cobbling. A riot follows, with David attacking Beckmesser, who he thinks has been serenading his Magdalene. The nightwatchman's horn puts an end to the disturbance. In the opening of the third act Sachs, in his workshop, considers human delusions. Walther comes to him, telling of a dream he has had and singing what is to be his prize song. Beckmesser now enters the workshop, alone, and takes the song that Walther has left there, accusing Sachs of intending to enter the contest himself. Sachs denies this and lets Beckmesser take the song. Eva now seeks consolation from Sachs, who tells her he will not be King Mark to Tristan and Isolde. David, joining Sachs, is promoted from apprentice to journeyman. At the contest Beckmesser sings to his own melody the song he has taken from Sachs, producing a travesty of it. Walther now comes forward and makes sense of the poem in a winning performance. Walther at first refuses the Master's chain that Pogner offers him, but it is Sachs who has the last word in praise of holy German art.

Wagner's only mature comedy is a remarkable example of holy German art. Leitmotifs are now interwoven, over forty of them, with a dozen or so used in the famous prelude. Further orchestral excerpts may be heard in the Dance of the Apprentices and Entry of the Masters from the third act. While it must always be difficult to isolate concert excerpts from a through-composed score, the prize song itself, Morgenlich leuchtend in rosigem Schein (Bathed in the rosy light of day) has also been extracted for instrumental arrangement, for violin by August Wilhelmj and by Fritz Kreisler and for cello by Pablo Casals. Sachs has two well known monologues, the so-called Flieder Monologue, Was duftet doch der Flieder (What scent the lilac brings) and the Wahn Monologue, Wahn! Wahn! Überall Wahn! (Delusion! Delusion! Delusion above all!). The ridicule accorded Beckmesser, with his misplaced musical accents and pedantry, thinly hides an attack on the critic Eduard Hanslick, a leading figure in the field of musical aesthetics, and Wagner's anti-semitism openly expressed in his writings, notably in Das Judenthum in der Musik (The Jews in Music). This attack was much more than a jibe at Hanslick's Jewish maternal descent.


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