Presented by State Opera of SA
Reviewed 4 August 2018
Being unfamiliar with Richard Wagner’s work, really only having heard such pieces as the Ride of the Valkyries, the word comedy is not what I would expect used for one of his operas. Mastersingers Of Nuremburg is described as a comedy – and to my surprise it was!
Set in 16th Century Nuremburg, the story explores the annual song competition and rivalries of the Guilds that controlled the city. Pogner, the goldsmith, will give his daughter’s hand in marriage to the winner of the song contest, Walther von Stolzing wishes to take part but fails to understand the archaic rules and regulations that surround the entrants. He is, of course, already in love with Eva. Hans Sachs, the shoemaker, schools him in the requirements and encourages the newcomer to share his ideas. This brings us to Wagner’s main theme, what is art and how do we define it?
The piece begins slowly both musically and dramatically. The clever staging and lighting allows a window to appear on the scrim forming the back wall and shows shadowy figures crossing before entering or leaving. The simplistic staging allows the music to shine. As Sachs, Shane Lowrencev is the lynch pin around whom the action takes place, he provides the calming negotiation that allows a happy resolution. Lowrencev does well in this role, as does Bradley Daley as Stolzing; both are in good voice. The comedy of the script settles around the character of Sixtus Beckmesser, Town Clerk (Andrew Shore) who attempts to steal a poem he believes to be Sach’s in order to claim the recognition he craves. Shore not only characterises and brings out the comic nuances but also sings with clarity. Other players who do well are Sam Sakker as David, Sach’s apprentice, (especially in the opening scenes) and the two ladies, Kate Ladner (Eva) who sang as beautifully as she looked and, Fiona McArdle (Madeleine-Eva’s attendant).
However, in the second act the real star of the production is the chorus. The State Opera Chorus is always an integral part of any production, but they are wonderful in the festival scene. Conductor Nicholas Braithwaite and Chorus Master Simon Kenway have crafted an uplifting sound ably assisted by director Andrew Sinclair and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra: a great introduction to Wagner.
Reviewed by Fran Edwards
One Night Only – season ended