Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

Thomas Schippers
New York Metropolitan Opera Chorus and Orchestra
15 January 1972
Metropolitan Opera House New York
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
Hans SachsTheo Adam
Veit PognerEzio Flagello
Kunz VogelgesangCharles Anthony
Konrad NachtigallRobert Goodloe
Sixtus BeckmesserBenno Kusche
Fritz KothnerDonald Gramm
Balthasar ZornRobert Schmorr
Ulrich EißlingerRod MacWherter
Augustin MoserGabor Carelli
Hermann OrtelRussell Christopher
Hans SchwartzJames Morris
Hans FoltzLouis Sgarro
Walther von StolzingJames King
DavidLoren Driscoll
EvaPilar Lorengar
MagdaleneShirley Love
Ein NachtwächterClifford Harvuot
Opera Today

This matinee, January 15, 1972, was the first Meistersinger I ever attended. I had known the opera only through recordings and had found it long-winded and hardly amusing; I found Parsifal easier going. But I adored the performance in the opera house: the opera seemed shorter and less daunting. And in fact, it was both: The Met in those days cut about 20 minutes out of the opera–and besides that, now that I hear the performance again, Thomas Schippers’ reading of it is particularly breezy.

Just to get details out of the way: In Act 2 some of the back and forth in the “Jerum…” episode and part of Beckmesser’s serenade are gone, and in Act 3 a couple of minutes of Sachs’ instructions to Walther and the last verse of Walther’s practice song have been excised. And the section of Sachs’ final spiel about the Germans watching out for the wily ways of foreigners had been eliminated at the Met ever since the opera returned after the Second World War. Even today those words tend to sting in hindsight, but the Met now presents the opera complete. The cast was just about the best the Met could muster in those days. As mentioned above, the lamented Thomas Schippers’ leadership is somewhat light-handed; he eschews much of the philosophizing. Tempos are on the quick side, winds are stressed over brass; sweet moments–Sachs and Eva, for instance–are lovely. Conversely, the Mastersingers themselves seem not to take themselves as seriously as elsewhere and Sachs is mostly lighthearted.

In the person of Theo Adam, who had a voice lighter than say, Hans Hotter’s or Paul Schoeffler’s, we hear a Sachs whose “Wahn” monologue even seems like a passing glitch; the world is a sunny place for him. And he sounds younger than usual. His tonal center never flags and he’s just as enthusiastic at the opera’s close as he is at its start. James King as Walther and Pilar Lorengar as Eva make a charming pair of lovers. His voice is at its brightest and most secure, and although he never was the most introspective of singers, that stance hits the spot in this straight-on reading. His first-act audition is rough-and-ready and brilliantly sung; he’s ardent in Act 2, and he shows no sense of tiring in his third act–a feat in itself. He lacks the poetry and legato of, say, Sandor Konya, but he’s a young Meistersinger of a different color.

Lorengar’s warm voice and the insistent throb of her vibrato make her Eva a very enticing young woman, hardly a shrinking violet–a luscious reading. The other young couple sounds odd: Lorin Driscoll’s David is perky, knowing, and rhythmically right-on; as Magdalene, Shirley Love sounds a bit like his mother. (The Met invariably used to cast somewhat aging plummy mezzos in this part.)

Benno Kusche, making his debut as Beckmesser (although he had sung the part all over the world for 30 years), is marvelous; his over-enunciation of the text sounds spiteful–and, as it should be, we feel his humiliation in Act 3 despite how little we like him. He ducks a few high notes, but so what? Ezio Flagello’s Pogner is less of a windbag than he can otherwise be, and Donald Gramm’s Kothner is precise and pointedly sung.

As suggested, Schippers takes the work at face value and opts to treat it as a comedy, filled with charm, with a cobbler more Mensch than deep-thinking poet. First choice for this opera remains the fantastic Kubelik on Arts, but this one is delightful–in very fine 1972 sound–and shorter. No libretto; just synopsis, track, and cast listing.

Artistic Quality: 8
Sound Quality: 8

Robert Levine

User Rating
Media Type/Label
Sony, OOA, TOL
Technical Specifications
356 kbit/s VBR, 44.1 kHz, 558 MByte (flac)
Matinee broadcast
A production by Nathaniel Merrill (1962)