Die Meistersinger was first performed in 1868. Wagner had told his friends that it was to be a comic opera to follow his tragic Tannhäuser, just as the ancient Greeks always followed tragedy with comedy. This opera, with a libretto by the composer himself, makes a powerful statement of Wagner’s views on the importance of music to society in general.

Set in late-sixteenth-century Nuremberg, the story revolves around the city’s Guild of Mastersingers. The town is full of excitement about a singing contest in which new members will compete to enter the guild. One of the main characters, the cobbler-poet Hans Sachs, is based on a historical figure. Sachs realises that a love affair is developing between Walther (a young knight from out of town) and Eva, daughter of the city’s wealthy goldsmith Veit Pogner, who has decided that the winner of the contest will be the one to win Eva’s hand. 

The guild has a craftsmanlike attitude to the contest, setting strict rules for composition and performance. As a newcomer, Walther has little hope of learning the details but is determined to win and marry Eva. However, his pre-contest song, with a free-form melody not abiding by the rules, is rejected by Beckmesser, the judge of the contest. 

Next morning, Walther comes to tell Sachs of a wonderful dream he had the night before. He creates a song which Sachs writes down, but it still lacks a final verse. 

On the day of the contest the townsfolk are gathered and the apprentices process formally to the festival followed grandly by the Mastersingers themselves. When Walther sets eyes on Eva he is inspired to complete his song. Sachs persuades him to perform it with the extra verse and his performance wins the prize and Eva’s hand in marriage. 

Walther is still smarting from his previous rejection, but Sachs comes forward, persuading him to accept the prize, and explaining the real purpose of the Mastersingers in honouring the art of German song to the world.

Composer:  Wagner Wiki Link:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Die_Meistersinger_von_N%C3%BCrnberg Title of Musical Work:  Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (The Mastersingers of Nuremberg) (Excerpts)

London Concert Choir concerts featuring this musical work:

Opera House
(13 July 2017)