After a short Christmas break from opera - on the stage at least! - I was back at the Royal Opera House for my first production of 2012, and what a brilliant way to start my new year! Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg was the opera, and i loved, loved, loved it. Everything about it. it was just fantastic. The staging was vibrant and colourful, the cast was brilliant, I even found it genuinely funny! The newly knighted Sir Antonio Pappano was in the pitt and he brought the score to life with stunning effect. Each time I'm lucky enough to experience Tony Pappano in action I think I love him even more!
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (her after Die Meistersinger) is not for the faint hearted coming in at 5hrs 40mins in length. Having said that, it wasn't until the end when I rose from seat after the long final act that I felt i'd been sat through such a long performance. A review in the Guardian this weekend said that the production flew by, and I total agree. I found the whole production so engaging that I really didn't notice the time passing. I think this was in large part down to the performance of the cast, as well as the well paced conducting from Pappano. I found the scenes involving the character of Sixtus Beckmesser especially enjoyable, and pretty funny too. I've never really gotten the joke whilst watching comic opera. Whilst those around me chortle, I normally find myself cringing. After all, a good joke in 1850 is rarely as fresh 200 years later, as I often find with much of Jane Austin's 'comic' books, such as Emma. However this isn't always the case, some of Oscar Wilde's work is still brilliantly funny to this day, and this was the case here. The acting throughout was really excellent, something which can be overlooked as something as integral to an opera as the singing itself (or so i've come to realise), which really added the humour to this production. Other highlights included the extravagant choral scenes, especially the riot in the town square at the end of Act II and the final scene in Act III. The stage just kept on filling up, and up and up with people on both occasions. It was brilliant! Also, the tenor Simon O' Neil, performing as the Knight, Walter von Stolzing, also put on a great show, especially considering he was suffering from mild bronchitis.
This opera was a great way to start 2012 for me, and i'd highly recommend it, at least for those of you who are a bit more exposed to opera. Might be a bit much if your experience stops at Verdi's La Traviata. Die Meistersinger and indeed Wagner remain controversial because of their connections with anti-Semitism and the Nazis (more on this in an upcoming post), and i've had to do a lot of reading on the subject to understand it more. If you can look beyond this though and can accept Wagner's work as the art of total genius then you're left with beautiful, beautiful music, rousing choruses and an enjoyable and uplifting opera. all 5hrs 40mins of it.
Seat: Amphitheatre, Right, D77 ****
Synopsis and background: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Die_Meistersinger_von_N%C3%BCrnberg
At the Royal Opera House until 8th January (www.roh.org.uk)
Next Opera: La traviata (Verdi), 17th January