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Opera in three acts

Composer Richard Wagner · Libretto by the composer
In German with German and English surtitles | New Production

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  • Bayerisches Staatsorchester
  • Chorus of the Bayerische Staatsoper
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DIE MEISTERSINGER VON NÜRNBERG: Bildergalerie

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DIE MEISTERSINGER VON NÜRNBERG: Bildergalerie

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DIE MEISTERSINGER VON NÜRNBERG: Bildergalerie

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DIE MEISTERSINGER VON NÜRNBERG: Bildergalerie

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DIE MEISTERSINGER VON NÜRNBERG: Bildergalerie

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DIE MEISTERSINGER VON NÜRNBERG: Bildergalerie

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DIE MEISTERSINGER VON NÜRNBERG: Bildergalerie

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DIE MEISTERSINGER VON NÜRNBERG: Bildergalerie

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DIE MEISTERSINGER VON NÜRNBERG: Bildergalerie

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DIE MEISTERSINGER VON NÜRNBERG: Bildergalerie

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Even during his lifetime in the 16th century he was already famous and highly regarded as a reformatory lyricist and playwright. And at least by the time Wagner's opera Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg premiered, he had become synonymous with a certain kind of urban lifestyle: Hans Sachs is portrayed by Wagner as an ambassador for a traditional institution that, though positively viewed, is in need of reform. 

In his encounter with the nobleman Walter von Stolzing, he accomplishes his actual masterpiece, in that he is able to mould Walter's progressive, subjectivistic art into something that can be understood and accepted by all. Walter is not in the least bit interested in the tradition of the masters and is committed solely to serving his own love interests. Art for everyone! Away with the elite! No l'art pour l'art! And yet Sachs's endeavours are dangerous: His message, "Do not deride the masters!" always threatens to leave a bitter aftertaste: "Was deutsch und echt wüßt' keiner mehr, lebt's nicht in deutscher Meister Ehr'." (None would know what's German and true, were it not to survive through the honour of German masters) - that would be narrow-minded smugness, hollow populism and nationalism.

With all these questions, truly a work for Munich - which it has been ever since its world premiere here.

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Act One

Eva, the daughter of Veit Pogner, a rich goldsmith, has fallen in love with the young knight Walther von Stolzing. The latter initially came to Nuremberg to do business with her father and has now also fallen deeply in love with her. At the moment, however, there seems to be no chance of them marrying: in order to be accepted into society in the town, Stolzing would have to becomea master in a guild. Without further ado he has therefore decided to join the mastersingers, the guild richest in tradition. However David, Hans Sachs' apprentice, points out to him just how complicated it is to understand and apply all the rules of composition of a mastersong.
There is a conflict smouldering within the guild of the mastersingers,which has long since passed its heyday: Sachs has been pleading for sometime for the decision about the winner of the annual competition to rest with the people at the festival. This would promote the acceptance of the guild. The majority of the masters, however, led by Fritz Kothner and Sixtus Beckmesser, fear that the strict rules would then be of little value and oppose Sachs' suggestion.
Pogner suggests another way in which to make the mastersingers more popular: he has decided that his only daughter, Eva, will marry the winner ofthis year's competition. Beckmesser, the town clerk, already sees himself as the winner - thinking that he will be the only participant in the competition. Stolzing, however, now becomes a further candidate. In order to be allowed to marry Eva, he wants to audition to become a member of the guild by performinga song. It is, however, up to Beckmesser, the mastersingers' marker,to judge Stolzing's song and thus decide whether he should be allowed to join the guild. Before the knight has even finished singing, Beckmesser, obviously biassed, has convinced the other mastersingers that Stolzing's song has been faulty. Stolzing's singing is completely lost against the background of the commotion caused by Beckmesser's strict insistence on abiding by the rules. Only Hans Sachs, the cobbler, supports Stolzing's song. He points out that Stolzing has sung in accordance with new rules, entirely his own, but that his song was by no means faulty. Stolzing is nevertheless rejected.

Act Two

In the evening, Hans Sachs reflects on the song Stolzing sang - he does not knowof any rules in accordance with which he could have assessed the song. He doesnot only recognise what is new in Stolzing's singing but also the love which exists between him and Eva. Sachs himself feels he is too old to marry Eva.
Pogner is also brooding over the muddled situation. Although he would have nothing against the knight as a son-in-law, he cannot grant his daughter her wish. He is bound by his own promise in connection with the competition. He hopes that Sachs will come up with a way out of the dilemma. Eva and Stolzing, meanwhile, are considering how they can make a future together at all possible.
Supposedly their only chance is to elope.
Sixtus Beckmesser still has hopes of marrying into the goldsmith's family.He comes to Eva's window to sing to her the song he will be performing at the competition. But the woman he thinks is young Eva is in fact Eva's companion Magdalene in disguise. Whilst the town clerk falls into raptures to the accompaniment of his lute, his song is interrupted by Hans Sachs at his cobbling. In return for Beckmesser's behaviour towards Stolzing at the audition, Sachs now comments on Beckmesser's verses by beating the soles of the shoes with a hammer. The sound of the lute, the singing and the beating of the hammer bring people on to the scene who begin to quarrel. It soon turns into a general melée in which Hans Sachs is able to prevent Eva and Stolzing from eloping and Beckmesser is beaten by the apprentice David, Magdalene's suitor. Only when the nightwatchman's call is heard is order restored to the town.

Act Three

Next morning, Sachs is reflecting on the 'madness' of the world. During the night he has rescued Stolzing, of whose talent he is convinced, from the fightingand taken him home. When Stolzing tells him about his dream, Sachs encourages him to use it to create a mastersong which will stand firm against the rules of the mastersingers. After some initial hesitation, Stolzing begins to sing and, as if by itself, the right form emerges. Sachs is delighted and writes the notes down immediately, seeing straight away that the song is in accordance with the rules.
Beckmesser, however, coming to complain to the cobbler about hisshoes, discovers the pages in Sachs' handwriting and accuses Sachs of being his rival for Eva's hand. Sachs assures him that this is not the case and lets Beckmesser have the song. The marker leaves, delighted, as he thinks that he can no longer lose with a song by Hans Sachs.
Eva also comes to see the cobbler and asks him for advice. Although Sachs has feelings for her he renounces them in favour of the love that binds Eva and Stolzing. When the knight also comes in and performs yet another verse of his mastersong, Sachs organizes a symbolic christening of it. In a peaceful moment Sachs, Eva, Stolzing, David, who has quickly been named a journeyman, and his future bride Magdalene give voice to their happiness in song.
Meanwhile the people have gathered for the competition on St John's Day. Beckmesser starts to sing the song Sachs gave him but is unable to read Sachs' handwriting. He mangles the words, alters the meaning, imposes his own melody on the song and thus becomes a figure of fun for everyone. He throws the paper down angrily and explains that Sachs is the composer ofthe song. The cobbler rejects the reproach and calls for Walther von Stolzing, who will show by singing it correctly that he is the composer of the song. Stolzing's performance wins the approval of both the people and the mastersingers. The latter solemnly announce that the knight has been accepted as a member of the guild, but he wants to decline the offer. Sachs urges the young poet not to forget the importance of tradition and to respect the experience of the masters. The scene ends with all the people and the mastersingers acclaiming Hans Sachs.

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