David McVicar chooses to set his production of Die Meistersinger, staged at Glyndebourne in 2011, in the 1820s or thereabouts. It’s an interesting choice as it puts German nationalism in a specifically cultural rather than political context and also rather clearly makes the point that “foreign rule” = “French rule”. That said, he really doesn’t develop any implications from that and what we get is a production typical of recent McVicar efforts. There’s spectacle aplenty and very good character development but he doesn’t seem to have any Big Ideas; for which, no doubt, many people will be grateful. The only place he seems to go a bit overboard is in laying on some fairly heavy German style humour. People who think that slapping waitresses on the bottom is the height of comedic sophistication will probably appreciate it.
What sets this apart from most Die Meistersinger productions is that the relatively small size of the Glyndebourne theatre allows casting of somewhat lighter voices than might often be the case, starting, of course, with Gerry Finley as Hans Sachs but also allowing for Topi Lehtipuu as David and Anna Gabler as Eva. It’s effective and brings a kind of youthful vigour and optimism to the piece. Actually the singing is really good throughout. Finley is a a darkish and complex Sachs, exhibiting a wide range of emotions with considerable subtlety. Lehtipuu and gabler are engaging and Marco Jentzsch is a wonderful Walther; utterly believable as the ardent young knight. There are good contributions too from Alastair Miles as Pogner and Michaela Selinger as Magdalene. Johannes Martin Kränzle gets to play a very unsympathetic Beckmesser. In this production he’s an arrogant and pompous clown with no redeeming features and is the butt of McVicar’s more Germanic jokes. It has to be said though that he does it very well.
Vladimir Jurowski conducts with the London Philharmonic. It’s all suitably grand and Wagnerian. The Glyndebourne chorus sings very well and isn’t too shabby dancing. They get a lot to do in this production.
François Roussillon directs for video. The stage area is small and he doesn’t have a particularly challenging task. The result is OK, mixing up close ups and full stage shots fairly effectively though rather biased to the former. It’s a full HD and true surround sound recording that looks and sounds fine on DVD but would no doubt be even better on Blu-ray (DVD review copy from the library reviewed). There are a few extras including a short feature on Glyndebourne’s relationship with Wagner and another discussing this production. Documentation includes an essay on Wagner, Bayreuth and Glyndebourne and a synopsis but no track listing. Subtitle options are English, French and German.
This is a very well sung and acted production. The production is close enough to the mythical “composer’s original intention” for the traditionalists or those looking for a good introduction to the piece. There’s nothing here for Regie fans though. They might prefer the recent Bayreuth offering.