Poetic aside . . .

27Jun10

I will get to Knuffle Bunny and the philosophy of language next post, I guess. I get sidetracked by shiny things . . .

Richard Wagner

I got to Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg last night on a friend’s ticket. It was wonderful, and not just because John was an extra in the crowd scenes. The sets and costuming were stunning, the acting was good and the music was exquisite. It struck a nice counterbalance to an otherwise tough weekend, too; Meistersinger is laugh-out-loud funny.

A little about Meistersinger. First, the main character is Hans Sachs, taken from the real Reformation poet and Mastersinger of Nuremberg somewhere in the mid-16th century. As the opera opens we meet Eva Pogner, our love interest, and Walther, a young knight/poet and learn that Eva’s father, Veit Pogner, who is a Meistersinger, has decided that the winner of the next day’s (St. John’s Day) singing contest will win his daughter’s hand and all his money. As is usual in these cases, the daughter pretty much goes along. The poet/knight is just barely sketched as a character, but he does get some wonderful music to sing. The character that really gets developed is Hans Sachs.

Hans is a widower who’s known Eva her whole life, and he loves her. There’s a wonderful bit of exploration of the nature of his loves, but he comes down as a father and gives up romantic aspirations in order to foil Beckmesser and let Eva find love with the poet/knight, though he seems driven almost as much by his philosophical desire to see the Meistersinger guild evolve from hide-bound and rule-driven into an organization that honors the rules which protect its heritage, but is driven by a love for art–oops, that’s capital A Art.

This is Wagner, so the opera ends on a gratuitous note of German nationalism and exceptionalism. That’s a bit sour, but I complain when it’s done by American writers as well.

Anyway, it’s long but highly recommended.

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