CLASSICAL: A master stroke

Die Meistersinger

ROH, London

To a tumultuous welcome, Bernard Haitink swept to the podium and raised his hands in a gesture which seemed to say. "Silentium! Silentium!" Here come . At last. After three-and-a-half years of waiting for this first revival of Graham Vick's masterly production, Haitink for one was not about to prolong the anticipation. In an account of the prelude which was in every sense a portent of things to come, being rich, good humoured, the warmest of embraces, he caught both the tide of the audience's enthusiasm and the irresistible pull of Wagner's inspiration. Like all great Meistersingers, this one glowed. It glowed with a vividness that precious few can command, it glowed with the promise of midsummer magic, of love's sweet dreams and the spirit of creativity.

It's an innocent, sun-kissed world that Vick and his designer Richard Hudson have evoked here. The colours are bright and honest - oranges and yellows and greens by day, indigo blue by night. A picturesque pageant, tales of yore replete with jolly townsfolk, crisply costumed. And all of it suffused in a rosy, surreal light (Wolfgang Gobbel). But into this dream-world, real people have wandered. Vick maintains an historical context, a tangible sense of time and place. In the very opening scene, a procession of children and their elders pass through the church carrying perfect little wooden replicas of old Nuremberg landmarks. Civic pride. By Act 2, those replicas have grown into a full-scale model village which Brobdingnagian apprentices eagerly dust down in readiness for the approaching festivities.

But the real joy of Vick's work is in the fine detail, the fidelity to text. It could be argued that the Act 2 riot - in which Vick, in a capricious allusion to the night-watchman's warnings about evil spirits abroad, unleashes an Hieronymus Bosch-like nightmare with ghostly nightgowned figures spewing through every orifice of the set - is too fanciful, too slapstick-comical to be genuinely disturbing. After all, Sachs's disillusionment in Act 3 should have some basis in reality. The more so since John Tomlinson's bluff, unsentimentally humane Sachs is about as real as they come. When he finally gives vent to his frustration, his anger, in the penultimate scene, your heart goes out to him. When he gathers his "family" about him to choose a name for Walther's prize song and chokes on the emotion of the words "may it grow and prosper", you see a man of vision rising above the mundane. I should have liked a few quieter moments from this Sachs, a gentler, more gratifying legato for his balmy nocturnal monologue in Act 2. No question that all those Wotans have taken their toll. The big, dark, callused voice doesn't really speak now at much less than mezzo- forte. But what a truthful, heartfelt, commanding performance.

And what a perfect contrast to Thomas Allen's funny, entirely believable Beckmesser. Believable because this Beckmesser is for once a mastersinger before he is a buffoon. Whether fussing with his spectacles or checking for dust on the marker's booth, this prim, prissy, preening creation is as fine as Allen has ever given us. And it sits in that part of his voice which is still best preserved - the upper part. Gosta Winbergh (Walther) gets ample opportunity to exercise his upper parts, of course, and would be ideal if he could find ways of relaxing into, yielding a little more to his prize-winning song. Or maybe Nancy Gustafson's radiant Eva is prize enough. There is a new Magdalene from the excellent Catherine Wyn-Rogers and a strapping puppy of a David - appropriately (though not, I suspect, intentionally) gauche in voice and manner - from Herbert Lippert.

Vick ensures that we are all a part of "the big picnic" which is 's final scene. At the centre of it is Sachs, the proud face in a sea of faces. And in our ears is Wagner: voices and trumpets raised in affirmation. When it's as good as this, we've no right to expect better.

Further perfs Fri, Mon 24 (0171-304 4000)

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent