THE MASTERSINGERS OF NUREMBURG
by Richard Wagner.
London Coliseum St Martin’s Lane WC2N 4ES In rep to 10 March 2015.
3pm 21 Feb, 7 March.
5pm 18, 25 Feb, 3, 10 March.
BSL Signed 3 Mar.
Runs 6hr Two intervals.
TICKETS: 020 7845 9300.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 14 February.
Reveals the dramatic coherence of the magnificent music.
To begin at the beginning, this production of Richard Wagner’s opera emanates from Wales, and Welsh National Opera. And, at the beginning, it distracts from Wagner’s dramatic overture with a collage of faces from German culture.
Identifying these leaves the score a kind of background music. Yet it makes a point, for example seeing composer Kurt Weill and, near him, playwright Bertolt Brecht, who would jointly create The Threepenny Opera, subverting all Wagnerian opera stood for.
Subversion runs through Richard Jones’ production, richly mixing comedy and melancholy. An old Mastersinger hobbles behind the rest, yet is first on the scene for the middle act’s nocturnal street-riot, which involves the night-gowned Mastersingers, contrasting their daytime dignity and formal guild costumes. These are kept in special wardrobes, while the Mastersingers’ musical rules apparently look from above, like religious art in church, setting parameters for human thought.
Nuremburg’s streets are reduced to the space between young Eva’s two homes, their owner’s trade-marks hanging outside – her goldsmith father Pogner and Hans Sachs, the shoemaker she adopts as a father-figure. When Walther’s arrival gives her the chance of a new life, the lovers sit quietly round the corner during the fight.
The final act goes inside Sachs’ house, its layout mixing his interests as cobbler and musician. Jones sets the action at the time of the opera’s creation, helping Iain Patterson’s Sachs take us inside the craftsman’s consciousness, battling unexpressed love for Eva and guilty grief at losing her. James Cresswell’s dignified Pogner embodies paternal anxiety at his daughter’s leaving home, while Rachel Nicholls’ Eva grows in confidence as her existence opens-out.
As the first act concludes Andrew Shore’s Beckmesser, self-important upholder of the tradition that upholds his status, stands behind the huge board on which he’s marked-down Walther’s trial-song in evident opposition to Sachs’ openness to innovation. For this production places Mastersingers alongside Twelfth Night in picturing a static society brought alive by a newcomer, and Henrik Ibsen’s act of revenge on his critics, which also contrasts mentalities, An Enemy of the People. Though Wagner, every bit the dramatic thinker, has the better tunes.
Walther von Stolzing: Gwyn Hughes Jones.
Eva: Rachel Nicholls.
Magdalene: Madeleine Shaw.
David: Nicky Spence.
Hans Sachs: Iain Paterson.
Sixtus Beckmesser: Andrew Shore.
Veit Pogner: James Creswell.
Fritz Kothner: David Stout.
Kunz Vogelgesang: Peter Van Hulle.
Konrad Nachtigall: Quentin Hayes.
Ulrich Eisslinger: Timothy Robinson.
Hermann Ortel: Nicholas Folwell.
Balthasar Zorn: Richard Roberts.
Augustin Moser: Stephen Rooke.
Hans Folz: Roderick Earle.
Hans Schwarz: Jonathan Lemalu.
Nightwatchman: Nicholas Crawley.
Chorus and Orchestra
Director: Richard Jones.
Conductor: Edward Gardner.
Designer: Paul Steinberg.
Lighting: Mimi Jordan Sherrin.
Choreographer: Lucy Burge.
Costume: Buki Shiff.
Assistant designer: Dilâra Medin.