Sung in English (translation by Frederick Jameson, with revisions by Norman Feasey and Gordon Kember)
Margaret Curphey (Eva), Alberto Remedios (Walther von Stolzing), Norman Bailey (Hans Sachs), Derek Hammond-Stroud (Sixtus Beckmesser), Ann Robson (Magdalene), Gregory Dempsey (David), Noel Mangin (Pogner), Stafford Dean (Nightwatchman)
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For the first time ever, the legendary centenary production of Wagner's The Mastersingers, conducted by Reginald Goodall, is released as a 4-CD set on Chandos Opera in English.
Broadcast live on the BBC from Sadler's Wells Theatre on 10 February 1968, Goodall conducted a cast of such luminaries as Alberto Remedios, Norman Bailey, Derek Hammond-Stroud, Gregory Dempsey, Margaret Curphey and Ann Robson. Following the live broadcast the recording sadly disappeared into the archives and has since become one of the most talked about ‘lost’ performances. Music-lovers have regularly contacted Chandos requesting its release on Opera in English and it is one that Sir Peter Moores was determined to make happen. It even led to an appeal for individuals’ recordings of the broadcast! This 4-CD set has subsequently been re-mastered from a BBC Radio live broadcast and is released at the price of 3 CDs. The sound quality reflects the fact it is a 1968 ‘live’ recording and some deterioration is evident, although this does not detract from the fantastic performance value. ‘A popular comic opera’, The Mastersingers is an ensemble opera in a sense which Wagner’s other operas are not. Yet despite its comic opera standing, it is in fact a deeply spiritual work. Wagner wrote, ‘it is impossible that you should not have sensed, under the opera’s quaint superficies of popular humour, the profound melancholy, the lament, the cry of distress of poetry in chains, and its reincarnation, its new birth, its irresistible magic power achieving mastery over the common and the base.’ Nicholas Payne writes: “the rise and fall of Goodall’s orchestra is drenched in tears which encompass both supreme joy and unrequited sorrow. Goodall sensed that the generosity of spirit which inhabited Sadler’s Wells and its company in the final years at that theatre would never be recaptured.” Sir Peter Moores comments on this release: “The resounding success of Reginald Goodall's Mastersingers led to his conducting an 'English' Ring at the London Coliseum in the 1970s. That Ring started me recording opera in English so I am thrilled that we have been able to add The Mastersingers to our Opera in English catalogue - alongside Goodall's Ring.”
5th July 2008
“There might be flaws in this long-awaited CD release of the original performance, but few of them come from Goodall's thrilling grasp of Wagner's late comic opera. Compelling, joyous, often magnificent, Goodall displays a great sense for overall dramatic architecture and a spaciousness that highlights detail.”
13th July 2008
“The performance is greater than the sum of its parts: individual roles may have been more lustrously sung on disc, but it is hard to think of a more satisfying team than Norman Bailey (a noble Sachs, earthy and poetic), Alberto Remedios (a liquidly sung, golden-toned Stolzing), Derek Hammond-Stroud, (a pernickety, word-perfect Beckmesser), Margaret Curphey (occasionally lemony-tinted, but radiant on the top line of the quintet) and Gregory Dempsey (a David who really sings the notes). Goodall’s towering achievement shines through the sometimes boxy recording.”
11th July 2008
“Avid Wagnerites have been clamouring for the commercial release of these two performances for ages. Broadcast on Radio 3, from Sadler's Wells and the Royal Opera House respectively, they have cult status among postwar British Wagner interpretations, and each also represents a significant moment in its company's history. Reginald Goodall's English-language performances in 1968 marked the start of a 15-year-long Wagnerian golden age, as far as Sadler's Wells (later English National) Opera was concerned. Bernard Haitink's Meistersinger - the high point of his tenure as Covent Garden's music director - was broadcast in July 1997, on the eve of the house's closure for refurbishment.
Stylistically, they are antithetical. Goodall's at times overwhelming performance is at once extremely slow and phenomenally intense, while Haitink is swift, mercurial and altogether more relaxed. Goodall never lets us forget that Meistersinger is a parable of poetic creativity, and there is an overriding sense of metaphysical resonance and elation in his interpretation. Haitink, meanwhile steers us through an urbane social comedy, before anchoring the work in the final scene, when Walther (Gösta Winbergh) gives the song's first performance, as Sachs (John Tomlinson) gazes contentedly on.
Goodall has marginally the more consistent cast, the product of his determination to train an ensemble of house singers. Bailey's nobly introverted Sachs has claim to being the most beautiful on disc, and few Walthers have ever matched Remedios in poetic fervour. Winbergh, very much his equal in vocal ease and beauty, is more impulsive and also, tellingly, more obviously aristocratic. Goodall has the better Eva in the ecstatic Margaret Curphey, while Haitink's Nancy Gustafson is having an off night. On the other hand, Thomas Allen's subtly characterised Beckmesser, for Haitink, is preferable to Derek Hammond-Stroud's snarling caricature on the Goodall set.”
“Goodall's understanding of what every beat of this core means, and his successful communication of that to his personally trained cast, is a thing of wonder. Climaxes are immense; timers may tell us it's slow, but the pulse never flags.”
“It's eminently listenable, capturing the musical and spiritual glow of Goodall's orchestra and voices, masterfully embodying the comedy's entwining pain and laughter. …this is not only something very special, but (for Anglophones) strikingly accessible. Pure gold!”
“Quite a revelation. The radio recording captures the atmosphere thrillingly. [Bailey] was an outstanding Sachs, firm and focused...Hammond-Stroud is a delightfully characterful Beckmesser, pointing the humour infectiously...It is striking that not one of the singers has even the suspicion of a wobble.”
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