The Meistersinger von Nuremberg de R. Wagner (★★★★✩)

Starring: Gerald Finley (Hans Sachs), Leigh Melrose (Sixtus Beckmesser), Tomislav Mužek (Walther von Stolzing), Jongmin Park (Veit Pogner), Nicole Chevalier (Eva), Sebastian Kohlhepp (David), Anna Lapkovskaja (Magdalene), Paul Schweinester (Kunz Vogelgesang), José Antonio López (Fritz Kothner), Albert Casals (Balthasar Zorn), Kyle van Schoonhoven (Ulrich Eisslinger), Jorge Rodríguez Norton (Augustin Moser), Bjørn Waag (Hermann Ortel), Valeriano Lanchas (Hans Schwarz) , Frederic Jost (Hans Flotz), Alexander Tsymbalyuk (Sereno). O. Teatro Real. Musical direction: P. Heras-Casado. Stage direction: L. Pelly. New co-production of the Teatro Real with the Royal Danish Opera of Copenhagen and the National Theater of Brno. Place and date: Teatro Real of Madrid (IV/28/2024).

A new functional production but with a too gray aesthetic, a lush and poetic pit and a generous cast based on the two pillars of Gerard Finley and Leigh Melrose, resulted in an exciting Meistersinger von Nürnberg at the Teatro Real.

Some historic performances, since the absence of this title in more than two decades in Madrid and the ambition to offer this new production, with the tandem of stage director Laurent Pelly and the baton of Pablo Heras-Casado, resulted in four hours and average of an admirable Wagner, especially in his musical aspect.

Pelly, a skilled narrator of fantastic stories, with a remarkable comedic acumen, confronts his first Wagner, in the always complex characteristic of the composer’s German humor.

The reading works on a narrative level, with an efficient metaphorical scenography, signed by Caroline Ginet, where the city of Nürnberg is recreated as a story of childlike dimensions, and plays with a dystopian and decadent environment with an overly seen effect.

The lighting by the always stimulating Urs Schönebaum compensates with its theatricality for the excessively gray and monochrome costumes signed by Pelly himself.

The dramaturgy, centered on an outdated reality, starring some Meisters of moth and mothballs, serves to influence the decadence of a past that cannot be tolerated and that in its range of grays will give way to the future of the visionary and revealing artist.

Both the follie conclusion of the second act, practical but without fantasy, and the end of the opera, with the loving couple closing a black curtain to leave the past behind, are too timid and miss the opportunity to offer a much more Juicy and revealing. Pelly allows himself to be seduced by the story as a traditional Brothers Grimm-style tale, but it is diluted in a final message that lacks incision and is excessively good-natured.

On the contrary, Pablo Heras-Casado consciously exploits the colors, phrasing and light of a score that draws on the spirit of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, to which Wagner seems to want to wink.

His work in the pit offered a fantastic Overture, balanced between strings full of nuances, dynamics that sprouted poetry and with the pulse attentive to the always complex control of the Wagnerian sound. The fantastic Madrid Symphony Orchestra, the owner of the Teatro Real, responded vital, organic and uninhibited, with specific moments of exuberance that put the voices to the limit.

Along the way, Heras-Casado showed moments where the expressive depth will have room for improvement, two first monologues by Sachs, or the reflective prelude to the third act, but it is clear that he has in Wagner a composer from whom he knows how to get the best from a vision theatrical, contrasted and full of lyricism.

With this, his first Meistersinger, which is his seventh Wagner in his career as a conductor, Pablo Heras-Casado reaffirms himself with another personal triumph that places the Granada-born maestro among the current essential batons within the Wagnerian repertoire.

The cast shone from the opposite poles of Gerald Finley’s Sachs, human, with a smooth emission, control of the tessitura with media intelligence and a fully mature singer-actor, in contrast to the sibylline, with a fresh and chameleon-like voice, a Leigh Melrose in the best moment of his career.

Deserving of all praise, the English baritone, who debuts with his first Beckmesser, on the verge of caricature and overacting but without falling into it, demonstrated in his seventh role for the Teatro Real that Joan Matabosch’s artistic eye does not fail. A recreation that will give you a lot of satisfaction in the future.

If the German-Croatian tenor Tomislav Mužek has a timbre of clarity and adequate light like Walther, his discretion as an actor and a too open delivery, with a tendency to fixed sounds in the high third, detracted from an overall efficient but lacking result. of fantasy.

Soprano of notable means, generic color and estimable actress, soprano Nicole Chevalier’s Eva convinced without moving, and the crowning of the magnificent quintet serves as an example.

Resolute, with perfect timbre like David, well articulated and generous in tone, the tenor Sebastian Kohlhepp contrasts with the metallic voice of the Belarusian mezzo Anna Lapkovskaja, a solicitous Magdalene.

It is fair to highlight among the twelve very correct Meistersinger, the recreations of Kothner by the Spaniard José Antonio López, generous and impeccable, and the forceful Veit Pogner of the Korean bass Jongmin Park. Also mention for their impeccable professionalism the other two Spaniards in the cast, the tenors Albert Casals (Balthasar Zorn) and Jorge Rodriguez Norton (Augustin Moser). Brief but luxurious appearance by the Ukrainian bass Alexander Tsymbalyuk as Sereno.

The work of maestro José Luis Basso shone with an Intermezzo Choir with generous sections. Tuning and clarity of the sopranos, flexibility and nuances in the male section, for a vital result that is key in an opera where the Wagnerian chorus shines like no other. The choir begins the opera and the choir closes it in this opera with some essential functions.

The most human Wagner asks himself and reminds us all that art will always be there to save humanity, or at least, to try.