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Die Meistersinger Von Nurnberg review at Glyndebourne – ‘welcome revival’

Darren Jeffery (Fritz Kothner), centre, in Die Meistersinger Von Nurnberg at Glyndebourne. Photo: Tristram Kenton Darren Jeffery (Fritz Kothner), centre, in Die Meistersinger Von Nurnberg at Glyndebourne. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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In Wagner’s Die Meistersinger Von Nurnberg, the travelling knight Von Stolzing – new in town and unversed in the practices of the Mastersingers – manages to upturn age-old traditions and win the hand of Eva (a prize bride to whoever wins the song contest). The work carries topical resonances in terms of outsider integration and a defence of ‘sacred German art’ against foreign intruders, but David McVicar’s resetting of the action – from medieval to post-Napoleonic Nuremberg – outlines the nationalistic undertones without voicing the worst of them. The ornate, deep-vaulted ceiling of the church dominates Vicki Mortimer’s sets, deftly lit with intense, side-on sunlight by Paule Constable.

Gerald Finley is exceptional in humanising the cobbler-poet Hans Sachs’ predicament of protecting the old guard while accepting the new, the resulting strain almost ever-present in his furrowed brow. The voice is not overwhelming in heft but the payback is an intimacy that is utterly convincing. Amanda Majeski’s Eva is a little unnatural in her acting and lacks vocal bloom, but David Portillo is thrillingly youthful and alert as Sachs’ happy-go-lucky apprentice David. Alistair Miles is assured if not vocally imposing as the goldsmith Pogner, and shows touching affection for Eva in Act II. Jochen Kupfer’s physical command as a vain, slippery but hilarious Beckmesser is remarkable. McVicar’s crowd scenes teem with colour and detail, and Michael Guttler balances the passionate and the ceremonial in the pit, also revealing fetching, aptly nocturnal, half-lights in the music of Act II.

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Verdict
Deft directorial touches, impressive sets and a largely strong cast make this a welcome return of Glyndebourne’s 2011 production
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