The Scotsman
Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Edinburgh, 2 September 2006
WHAT a way to go. Brian McMaster's final statement as Edinburgh International Festival director was issued through a piece of programming epic in scale and overwhelmingly emotive. He chose a concert performance of Wagner's Die Meistersinger as the climax to his final festival and packed it with a cast geared to create a sense of occasion. For instance, who'd have expected to see such immortal veterans as John Shirley-Quirk, James Rutherford, Jeffrey Lawton, John Mitchinson or Richard van Allen pulled out of retirement to take the stage as the collective "Masters" - a deliciously poignant touch. Part of the fun lay in trying to recognise who was who. And if the old power wasn't always there, the essential charisma and magic was. This was a performance loaded with character, fun (it is a comedy) and some seriously good singing. Robert Holl sang the pivotal role of Hans Sachs with enormous warmth, against which Andrew Shore pitched his Beckmesser as appropriately bitter and pathetic. Jonas Kaufmann's Walther glowed with rich, golden lyricism. Hillevi Martinpelto seemed to strain a little in the higher register as Eva, unlike the consistency of Wendy Dawn Thompson as Magdalene

This was anything but a static affair. Neat little "production" touches lit up the five-hour show. Toby Spence's shoes were presumably deliberately scuffed to emphasise the boy in the apprentice David, a role he sang with engaging zeal. Conductor David Robertson commanded a tight ship, drawing hot-blooded playing from the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and animated energy from the Edinburgh Festival Chorus and the "Apprentices" of the RSAMD Opera School. It was worthy of such a special occasion.

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