Wagner-Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Tozzi, Wiemann, Hamburg, Ludwig) (1970) (NTSC)

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Released 28-Mar-2007

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Opera Booklet
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 1970
Running Time 239:02
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (62:37)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Joachim Hess
Studio
Distributor

Select Audio-Visual Distrib
Starring Giorgio Tozzi
Ernst Wiemann
Toni Blankenheim
Richard Cassilly
Arlene Saunders
Gerhard Unger
Ursula Boese
Hans-Otto Kloose
Case PUSH-11-Dual
RPI $89.95 Music Richard Wagner


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame German Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 mono (1536Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.29:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
German
French
Italian
Spanish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    With the first performance of Die Meistersinger in 1868 Richard Wagner reached a creative and artistic peak that was to last until his final work Parsifal in 1882. The scenario for the opera was written in 1845 but he did not commence writing the libretto until 1862. Composition of the main body of the work began the next year and was completed in 1867. However he must have been working and reworking the musical sound-world over in his head, as he wrote the Prelude to Act One, essentially an overture that musically tells the entire story in under ten minutes and includes most of the major themes, even before he had started composing Act One.

    The work was premiered in 1868 and has not been out of the repertory since. It was said to have been for a time* Hitler's favourite opera, though towards the end of his life he was more interested in operetta.

    Unlike the rest of Wagner's mature works, Die Meistersinger is a comedy. That is not to say that it is any less serious than his other music dramas, nor that it is uproariously funny from start to finish. In the course of the work Wagner explores not just the comic possibilities of the story of a fifteenth century song contest, but also the nature and purpose of music, the value of both tradition and innovation in the arts, the resignation of middle age to no longer being young and the passing on of knowledge from generation to generation.

    All of this is achieved not just through the libretto. The music itself, more than in any of his previous works, comes to be a character, commenting on the story and revealing layers of meaning within the work.

    The leading character in the story is Hans Sachs, a Mastersinger in the Bavarian city of Nuremberg. This character is based on a real Mastersinger of the same name, though the story and other characters are inventions of the composer. A knight from the country, Walther von Stolzing (Richard Cassilly), has fallen in love with Eva (Arlene Saunders), daughter of the Mastersinger Veit Pogner (Ernst Wiemann). She returns his affections but Pogner has decided that he will offer up his daughter as a prize in a singing contest on the following day, St John's Day. If she does not marry the winner of the contest, who must therefore be a Mastersinger, she can marry no other. Walther tries to sing before a meeting of the Mastersingers but he breaks all of the rules of song and is denied admission to the Guild.

    Sachs (Giorgio Tozzi) on the other hand can see merit in Walther's song and eventually tutors him in the rules. Walther's chief rival is the Town Clerk Sixtus Beckmesser (Toni Blankenheim), a pedant and something of a devious character. With the help of Sachs Walther strives to win Eva's hand for himself.

    This is probably the longest opera that is regularly performed. The most recent Australian production a few years ago took some six and a half hours from start to finish, including one and a half hours of breaks, making for five hours of performance. A test of stamina therefore but in a good performance the time seems to fly by.

    This DVD contains a film of the Hamburg State Opera production in 1970. But it is not a filmed performance. The performers lip-synch to a pre-recorded soundtrack and the camera moves about in an intimate fashion, with long takes in a television studio rather than in the actual opera house itself. While the film was made for screening on television, it was shot on film rather than video and was shown in theatres in the US.

    The production is a traditional one and is well acted and sung by the entire cast. Of note vocally are Tozzi's Sachs and Cassilly's Walther. Neither are particularly good actors. Cassilly is fairly wooden while Tozzi is a little over the top, especially in Sachs' closing speech about German art. Arlene Saunders on the other hand is an excellent Eva. While probably two decades older than the character she plays, she is effectively girlish. Blankenheim makes an excellent Beckmesser. He avoids descending into caricature and does not employ the whiny tone that so many in this role use. Gerhard Unger is a very good David, though obviously much older than his fellow apprentices.

    This would be a first recommendation for the work on video, despite the mono sound, if it wasn't for the cuts that have been made. There is a small cut to some of David's speech in Act One, and what seems to be another cut just before Sach's biblical song in Act Two. Both of these would be possible to live with, but I cannot understand the major cut in Act Three, where the entire section between the song about the tailor and Sachs' greeting to the assembled throng has been omitted. This means that the entry of the Mastersingers is gone. The cut is jarring and pointless, and ruins what had been an excellent production up to this stage. I cannot think what the filmmakers were thinking. Perhaps they were contracted to bring the running time in at four hours and no more. Who knows, but almost forty years later we have to suffer an incomplete version of the opera. Still, there is much to enjoy in what we do have.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.29:1, which appears to be the original aspect ratio.

    I had been expecting that this would be a videotape recording and therefore of lesser quality, so I was pleasantly surprised. It is not perfect visually but it is very good, of similar quality to cinema films of the same era.

    The transfer is sharp for the most part, with a slight fuzziness in wider shots. The lighting is better than it would have been had this been a straight filming of a live performance, though sometimes flesh tones seem a little washed out by the lighting. Colour otherwise is unexceptionable. Blacks are solid and without any noticeable noise. In fact I did not notice any significant film to video artefacts.

    There are film artefacts, mainly bit of fluff and debris and the usual white flecks. These are generally not that noticeable except in the night setting of Act Two. There were occasional more significant issues, such as a moving horizontal distortion at 104:35 that looks oddly like a tracking error and a large triangular reel change marking at 108:00.

    Optional English subtitles are off by default. These are in clear and easily read white text, and virtually all of the libretto is translated. The only faults I noticed were a spelling mistake: "faired" instead of "fared", and one instance of a missing space.

    Both discs are dual-layered and RSDL formatted. The first two acts are contained on Disc One. As the first act is longer than the second act the layer pause occurs during Act One rather than between the two acts. It is placed at 62:37 at the point at which Walther ascends to the master's chair to sing his trial song. While this is at a natural pause in the music, which is thus not disrupted, the break is noticeable. The layer break on Disc Two occurs at 60:24, as Sachs is about to name the prize song. This is again at a natural break in the music, and this time the layer break is fairly smooth.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The sole audio track is Linear PCM 2.0 mono, in the original German of course.

    The soundtrack was pre-recorded and the performers lip-sync to it. The lip-synching is excellent, with few noticeable discrepancies. The audio is a standard mono presentation, with a great deal of bass, which is muddy at times, and some stridency in the upper registers. There is a slight ringing sound at times, particularly in the third act, though if you are familiar with historical recordings this will not be disturbing.

    There were no issues with pops or crackles on the soundtrack. I did not notice any hiss.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Booklet

    A 40-page booklet has a cast and crew list, track listing, an essay about the opera, a synopsis and biographies of the theatre director, conductor and the main cast members. The texts are repeated in French and German.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This disc has been released worldwide, so apart from price there is no difference between regions.

Summary

    A fine film version of this masterpiece, spoiled by unnecessary cuts.

    The video quality is very good.

    The audio quality is good.

    The only extra is a booklet.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-NS9100ES, using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-HS60 LCD Projector projected to 80" screen. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD Player, Dolby Digital and DTS. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES for surrounds, Elektra Reference power amp for mains
SpeakersMain: B&W Nautilus 800; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Tannoy Revolution R3; Subwoofer: Richter Thor Mk IV

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