Search - Wagner, Kollo, Donath :: Die Meistersinger

Die Meistersinger
Wagner, Kollo, Donath
Die Meistersinger
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (16) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (17) - Disc #2
  •  Track Listings (12) - Disc #3
  •  Track Listings (9) - Disc #4

Despite his disdain for some of the sillier aspects of grand opera, H.L. Mencken once said that Die Meistersinger was the greatest single work of art of western civilization--and to many, his hyperbole is forgivable when o...  more »


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Synopsis essential recording
Despite his disdain for some of the sillier aspects of grand opera, H.L. Mencken once said that Die Meistersinger was the greatest single work of art of western civilization--and to many, his hyperbole is forgivable when one contemplates the well-crafted structure of this most human of Wagner's music dramas. Of all recordings of Wagner's sole comedy, this one under the baton of Karajan at his prime has perhaps the best-balanced cast. The clear, youthful tones of Donath in the role of Eva must be close to Wagner's ideal for the role, while Adam makes a compassionate Sachs--though not quite as resonant as one would wish. Kollo's impetuous style is appropriate to the character of the lovestruck Walther. The orchestral playing has the clarity and transparency that is the trademark of the Karajan style, perhaps most appropriate in this, Wagner's happiest work. --Christian C. Rix

CD Reviews

A shoemaker's reach for the sublime song
Mike Birman | Brooklyn, New York USA | 07/17/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"On a cold February Sunday afternoon in 1989 I watched an old and wizened man painfully shuffle onto the stage of Carnegie Hall. As he grasped the handrails placed around the podium I smiled nervously in gratitude that his ordeal was over. It was Will alone that forced his baton upwards. Thus began an astounding 90 minutes of music. The Bruckner 8th Karajan conducted that day was his valedictory, his farewell to music: and to the audience, his fellow voyagers, a glimpse of the beyond. A few months later he was dead.I confess to being a fan of Karajan...the early Karajan of the 1950's through 70's before illness slowed his wand and his unerring vision of orchestral clarity and transparent vocal textures failed. Most of my favorite recorded Opera's of that era are conducted by him. This recording of Meistersinger is evidence of his greatness, if it is evidence you need. Arguments over this singer's aptness or that one's tonal quality are irrelevant when confronted with four and a half hours of matchless sublimity. It is the totality of this performance that recommends it. The slightly guttural sound of the Dresden brasses. The richness of the strings. The Vox Humana woodwinds. All make Wagner's most humane Opera breathe. This orchestra's Central European distinctiveness, slightly coarse and without that sheen the flashier Berlin and Vienna Philharmonics are (justly) famous for, heighten the down-to-earth nature of this Opera. No Gods. No Gold. No powerful jewelry. Just a shoemaker and a nervous song writer.Theo Adam is not everyone's cup of pilsener. His tone is cruder than I'd like, perhaps. But he's not Wotan. The slight inelegance of his voice enhances his performance. Kollo has always been difficult for me to judge. That reediness that creeps into his voice can annoy me if I'm in a bad mood. A sort-of SpongeBob KolloPants. But then Meistersinger is a comedy. Peter Schreier has always been one of my favorite singers and I find him perfect here. Riderbusch, likewise. Helen Donath makes a fine Wagnerian ingenue. Evans avoids taking his performance of Beckmesser over-the-top. That's not easy. The part almost screams for cheap laughs. No performance detracts from the proceedings. The real stars, however, are Wagner and Karajan. This is a great Opera. It requires a unifying vision to make it all work. Recordings of this Opera are infrequent. Great ones are rare. This is one of the rare ones. Not a Reference recording but certainly an important one. If you must choose one Meistersinger (of course, true Wagnerians never face that problem), I strongly recommend this recording. The sound is typical EMI of the era: warm and clear with a lifelike three-dimensionality creating a nice illusion of stage space. Of course, if your budget enables you to supplement this record with one or two others, the recent Sawallisch-Heppner effort merits serious consideration. 5 out of 5 stars for a great recording."
Magnificent festival opera
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Die Meistersinger was the first Wagner opera I heard, and of them all it is the most unique. The comic nature of Die Meistersinger is exemplified in the marvelous casting in this recording, chosen well by Karajan. Kollo is perfect for the role of Walther: a fine romantic Heldentenor. Eva (played by Donath) has the perfect charm and tone for the role, and Adam's Sachs is lovable and charming. Schreier's David is just right for the young, animated personality of the apprentice. Magdalena, played by Hesse, has the perfect sound of an "old maid," and Ridderbusch gives Pogner a wonderful fatherly tenderness. Beckmesser most of all is splendid; Evans gave an exemplary performance in the portrayal of Beckmesser's pomposity and awkwardness. The greatest recording of Die Meistersinger I have yet heard. Kudos!"
A Great Meistersinger, Though Not Without Faults
Mike Birman | 05/30/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This is definately a superb recording, without a doubt. No part of the recording was less than adequate, but all of the small shortcomings made me demote it to four stars. First of all, let's talk about Sachs. Theo Adam's portrayal of Sachs is definately fabulous interpretively, but is lacking the correct type of voice. I feel that Sachs should be played by a more weighty voice, such as Schoffler, Edelmann, or Morris. This is a problem that , while slightly off-putting at first, one can eventually get used to. Next, we come to Walther. Rene Kollo, has just too light a voice for Walther. It is not a big problem, but a true heldontenor (in short supply at the time) would be preferrable. A small quibble. Helen Donath is in the perfect voice for Eva, but gives her too little feeling. Speaking of the Pogners, Karl Ridderbusch is absoutely fantastic as Viet Pogner. His Act I monologue is fantastic. Ruth Hesse as Magdalane and Peter Schrier as David are both excellent for their roles, both vocally and interpretively. Karajan's conducting, while not quite as good as on his earlier recording (it is more pompus) is excellent by any standards. The Staatskapelle Dresden is beyond fault, and plays with a fabulous warmpth and accuracy. Now we come to my main reservation about this recording. The Beckmesser of Geraint Evans. If only he would actually sing the role. He sort of half sings, half speaks the role. Also, he makes him out to be a bit more nasty that he should be. For while he has his nasty side, Beckmesser is not always nasty, as Evans would make him out to be. Despite all of this, and excellent recording."