- 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|
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.