This splendid DVD of Norwegian director Stefan Herheim’s 2013 Salzburg Festival production of Die Meistersinger draws a strong visual analogy between Wagner’s comic opera and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It works well, aided by a superlative cast, some knockout staging and the full Vienna Philharmonic and Staatsopernchor under conductor Daniele Gatti.
The sets comprise oversized Biedermeier furniture and fittings, emphasising the fairytale feeling. Roberto Sacca as Eurovision song candidate Walther works well with Anna Gabler convincing as his eventual bride. The show, of course, belongs to Hans Sachs, and in Michael Volle we have a particularly fine one, slapstick when playing off Markus Werba’s pedantic, conniving Beckmesser, but also with a very human touch.
There are some clever theatrical moments, but look out for the Apprentices’ Dance when hand puppets make way for the full-size thing. Busts of Beethoven, Goethe and Schopenhauer – representing German art to be protected from foreign influences – act as silent witnesses until the exquisite quintet when Sachs unveils the noticeably larger bust of Wagner himself. There is some obligatory on-stage carnality in the crowd scenes but nothing too hard-core. Gatti (shortly to take up his new position as chief conductor of the Concertgebouw), and the Vienna Phil are superb.