Festival Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, Sat 4 Aug.
Celebrating 20 years since they first brought Wagner’s Ring Cycle to life, State Opera of South Australia are commemorating this milestone with a magnificent production of Richard Wagner’s The Mastersingers Of Nuremberg Act III; two and half hours of pure bliss with the superb backing of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Nicholas Braithwaite.
Revealing the cobbler’s/poet’s workshop, the curtain raises and the stage lights softly illuminate Hans Sachs (Shane Lowrencev) sitting at his desk, lost in deep thought, despairing at the human folly of the night before; the audience are instantly taken into Wagner’s world. As his apprentice David (Sam Sakker) enters, the magic of the act begins. Some of what happened the previous evening emerges in the stories told by the incredible voices of Lowrencev and Sakker; with it, bringing a smile to my heart.
Hans decides to help Walther Von Stolzing (Bradley Daley) become a mastersinger and win the hand of his beloved Eva (Kate Ladner). The twist comes as Sixtus Beckmesser (Andrew Shore) tries to interfere and steal what he thinks is Hans’ song so he, too, could win Eva’s hand.
So immersed in the music and the stunning voices of this fantastic cast, ninety minutes pass almost unnoticed and we are at interval, left to absorb the beauty of what we have just seen before returning to the minimal staging that has now become the arena for the singing competition. Sixtus attempts to sing what he thinks is Hans’ song – a sure fire winner – with terrible and funny results, only to be found out to be a fraud and Walther emerges as the true writer to win the day and the hand of his love.
The closing of the curtains leaves me wanting more – the whole four-and-a-half hours of this purely magical opera. As always, State Opera of South Australia has impressed with their exquisite presentation of a classic work, and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra is sublime with their perfect sounds of paradise; together, they are beyond description.
Sung in German with English surtitles for those who are not familiar with The Mastersingers, but they are not really needed as the performers easily convey the story and the music completes the emotional soundtrack perfectly. A truly beautiful evening of opera.