Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Edinburgh Players Opera Group: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, 30 September 2007

Not a review exactly, as I was viewing this one from inside the orchestra. Regulars here will know the idea: every year since 2001 a bunch of enthusiasts, abetted by some splendid professional soloists, put on a informal concert performance of one of Wagner's music dramas. The whole business is crammed into a long weekend, with rehearsals generally starting early on Friday afternoon and going on through Saturday, and with the public appearing on Sunday. We don't charge admission but have a collection.

2007 marks the end of an era in one sense, in that while Wagner wrote several earlier operas he wrote only seven "music dramas", and now EPOG has done them all. (In order: Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried, Götterdämmerung, Tristan und Isolde, Parsifal, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.) Several individuals have been involved in them all, including me. (Hilary had to miss Parsifal because her father might have been about to die, and would normally have had nothing to do this year - Meistersinger is the only one without a bass clarinet - except that the second clarinet called in sick on the day so she rushed in to sight-read acts 2 and 3.)

Our usual soprano (Brünnhilde, Isolde, Kundry) is Elaine McKrill, who unfortunately was committed to a series of performances in Germany this year, though I'm sure she'll be back. (We're planning to do the Ring again at the very least, so in 2009 she could be back Hojotoho-ing. Maybe she'd like to be a Rhinemaiden next year?) Eva was however very well sung by Sara Estill, who was new to me. Our Parsifal and Tristan from previous years, Jonathan Finney, sang Walther quite magnificently, while Gerard Delrez was an astonishing Sachs (astonishingly enthusiastic - he made up for our shortage of percussionists by playing the triangle for the guild choruses in Act 3 without even being asked - and astonishing that we could afford to hire someone that good!) Wonderful singing all round, but final special mention must go to Andrew Mayor whose voice as Beckmesser made you feel he nmight have won the contest if only he'd had longer to learn Morgenlich leuchtend.

All this was held together by Mike Thorne our conductor, whose day job is Vice-Chancellor of the University of East London. An amateur in the very best sense of the word, Mike used to conduct a wide variety of (frequently somewhat unusual) repertoire when he was based in Edinburgh. These days we only see him for Wagner, but his preparation is exemplary. Over seven years of doing the music dramas, with amateur players and chorus and a mix of professional and semi-pro singers, we have had precisely one occasion when a stop and restart was required (Götterdämmerung, Act 2, Scene 3, the Chorus of the Gibichung Vassals, if you want to know: simply a vast ensemble to attempt to hold together through some rather tricky corners.)

From a player's perspective, doing Meistersinger is quite a different experience from the other music dramas. There's less of the dense swirling stuff that blackens page after page of Walküre, but the key changes still come faster than you'd like (and the famous quintet is in six flats!). More alarmingly, it's the only music drama where you can have a line of music with ten notes in it and need full concentration to work out where every one is supposed to go. In part that's because there's a lot of light-textured music accompanying very free and flexible singing; in part it's just down to Wagner liking to play around with being on the beat and off the beat. In the end we hit most of them, though a few of the very fluid bits of (especially Beckmesser's) singing had somewhat untidy accompaniment. But.....we survived, we produced the goods (audience members I spoke to afterwards had thoroughly enjoyed it) and we all enjoyed it, tiring though it was.

Thanks to our leader Philip Taylor, not so much for leading as for conceiving and administering the whole enterprise. A splendid achivement.

EPOG sold commemorative mugs when we completed the Ring. I feel that in the same way as one can buy commercially-made "I survived Parsifal" t-shirts (which mere audience members should be banned from defiling) we should have had "I survived all Wagner's music dramas" ones made. Ah well.

Though if I were to have a Wagnerian t-shirt made specially, I'd really like to get a deisgn with four Wagner Tubas, coloured red, yellow, green and blue and topped with respectively an attached circle, an spiral, a spike and a sort of inverted coat-hanger. (You're ahead of me, aren't you?) Underneath, or better still on the back, would be text reading: Wagnertubbies say "Hojoto-ho!"

Sorry.

Until next September then, in E flat, at the bottom of the Rhine.

5 Comments:

At 05 October, 2007 15:25, Blogger JoeinVegas said...

You can do up the shirts yourself - thus keeping them out of the hands of the audience.

 
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