Richard Wagner

The Mastersingers of Nuremberg

Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg Akt 1-2

Bayreuther Festspiele, 1984.
Inszenierung: Wolfgang Wagner
Dirigent: Horst Stein

Hans Sachs: Bernd Weikl
Veit Pogner: Manfred Schenk
Kunz Vogelgesang: András Molnár
Konrad Nachtigall: Martin Egel
Sixtus Beckmesser: Hermann Prey
Fritz Kothner: Jef Vermeersch
Walther von Stolzing: Siegfried Jerusalem
David: Graham Clark
Eva: Mari Anne Häggander
Magdalene: Marga Schiml

Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg - Akt 3

Played without any intermission, a complete performance of Die Metstersinger would take just about four and a half hours. Yet when, prompted by his reading of a history of German literature, Wagner first considered thе subject of the mastersingers of Nuremberg, he planned a one-act comedy —a half-hour afterpiece to Tannhauser. It was sixteen years before he again took up the subject and another six before be completed it By that time the originai plan had succumbed to Wagner's penchant for giganticism, and the most endearing of his operas was produced. Paderewski called it "the greatest work of genius ever achieved by any artist in any field of human activity." Very few other musicians would rate it quite that high, and even the most rabid Wagnerians might prefer to give the palm to the Ring or to Tristan. Yet there is little question that it ranks, along with Verdi's Falstaff and Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier, as the best of the operatic comedies since Mozart; and in popularity it outranks the two later works.



Opera in three acts by Richard Wagner with

libretto in German by the composer

WALTHER VON STOLZING, a young Franconian knight
EVA, daughter of Pogner 

MAGDALENA, her nurse

DAVID, apprentice to Ham Sachs 


HANS SACHS, cobbler
VEIT POGNER, goldsmith



HERMAN ORTEL, soap boiler
stocking weaver
HANZ FOLTZ, coppersmith



Time: middle of the 16th century
Place: Nuremberg

First performance at Munich, June 21, 1868

WALTHER VON STOLZING:  Tenor. A young Franconian knight who is visiting Nuremberg. He has fallen in love with Pognefs daughter Eva. Walther^s first appearance is in church, as he attracts Eva's attention and she gives her nurse, Magdalene, the slip and meets Walther after the service, Magaalene returns in time to hear him asking Eva if she is already engaged to be married, and tells Ыш that Eva has been offered by her fiather as the prize to the winner of the forthcoming song-contest Only members of the Mastersingers" Guild are allowed to enter the competition, as Pogner is determined his daughter must marry a Master. Magdalene's sweetheart, David, instructs Walther in the art of singing required for the competition. Walther is staggered to hear of all the rules which apply, and cannot imagine how he is going to become a Master and win the contest As Pogner appears, Walther asks him to allow him to take part in the contest Pogner agrees (after all,a noble knight as son- in-law appeals to him) but insists that Walther must abide by the rules and this involves an audition. To the gathered Masters, Pognet proposes Walther as a possible candidate.

explains that he learned how to sing from reading the works of Walther von der Vogelwekie, a 12th-cent, Minnesinger. He sings his song and is laughed at by them all, especially Beckmesser, who acts as 'marker' and fills his slate with adverse marks. However, Hans Sachs has realized that for all his lack of experience and ignorance of the rules, Waither's singing has an artistic quality which deserves consideration. That night Walther meets Eva and tells her he has no chance of winning the contest and asks if she is prepared to elope with him, to which plan she agrees. But Sachs has overheard their conversation and knows this would lead to disaster. He keeps an eye on them that evening as Beckmesser comes to serenade Eva and the whole town, disturbed by his noise, starts a riot. Hoping to escape under cover of this noise, Eva and Walther are foiled by Sachs, who pushes her into her father's house and drags Walther into his shop. The next morning, Walther tells Sachs he had a dream and Sachs encourages him to use his dream as the basis for the song he will sing in the contest. Sachs also explains to him how the Masters' rules are there to uphold tradition and are not to be scoffed at. As Walther sings his song, Sachs gives him hints on the way it should be performed, the key relationships, harmonies, number of verses, etc. Sachs now sends Walther to dress appropriately for the competition and when he emerges Eva has arrived, also adorned for the day in white. She has come to ask the cobbler to adjust her shoes, but she and Walther stare at each other in such a way that it is quite obvious to Sachs that they are deeply in love.

Wither demonstrates his song to Eva who is totally over whelmed by it and grateful to Sachs for helping him. At the song contest, Beckmesser sings first—he has stolen Walther's song but he has no idea how to render it and makes a laughing-stock of himself. Sachs then invites the Masters to hear Walther sing the same song, and as he does so it is dear that he will be the winner. He is taken to the throne where Eva sits and he kneels before her as she places the victor's wreath on his head. Her father steps forward to put the Masters' chain of office round Walther's neck, but at this point the young knight rebels and announces that he does not wish to belong to this Guild whose members made things so difficult for him at his audition. Sachs points out to him that he is the winner not because he is of noble birth, but because of his artistic ability—he should not repulse membership of the Guild or mock German Art Contrite, Walther agrees to accept their honour. Eva takes the victor's wreath from him and places it on Sachs's head Sachs, in his turn, takes the chain from Pogner and puts it round Walther's neck. Arias: Am stillen Herd in Winterzeit ('At the quiet hearth in wintertime'); Fangetan! ('Begin!'); Morgenlich leuchtend in rosingen Schein' ('Shining in the morning's rosy light'). Created (1868) by Franz Nachbaur.

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg   Morgendlich leuchtend in rosigem Schein Jonas Kaufmann

EVA: Soprano. Daughter of Veit Pogner. Her long-standing nurse and companion is Magdalene. Her father has promised her in marriage to the winner of the next Masters' song contest. Unknown to him, she has fallen in love with the young knight Walther von Stolzing. Although she is to be allowed to veto the choice of husband, her father insists she can only marry a member of the Masters' guild, which Walther is not, Walther asks Eva's father to back his request to join the guild, which Pogner gladly does, but adds that he vdll be subject to the tests that all applicants have to face. Walther sings his song to the gathered assembly; marked by the town-clerk Beckmesser, who himself has ambitions to many Eva. The knight is failed by the marker. 

Eva learns of this later from Hans Sachs, whom she knows is very fond of her, but he does not seem wiling to help Walther. Later, Walther and Eva meet and arrange to elope that night.

The plan works, but Sachs watches them, blocks their escape, and takes her back to her home. Understanding what the problem is, Sachs sets about coaching Walther, The next morning Eva visits the cobbler to collect her new shoes and while she is there, Walther arrives. She expresses her gratitude to Sachs for helping them so selflessly—she knows that, in his own way, he also loves her. At the meadow on the bank of the River Pegnitz, Eva is led into the arena by her father and seated on her throne to listen to the competi-tors. Walther sings and is clearly the winner. Eva places the victor's myrtle wreath on his head. She is very upset vihen he refuses it Sachs explains to him why he should accept it and, as he capitulates, Eva places the wreath on Sachs's head. The young couple join Sachs in praising 'holy Gennan art' Aria: О Sachs! Mein Freund! Du teurer Mann! ('O Sachs! My friend! You dear man!'); quintet (with Sachs, Walther, Magdalene, and David—Eva opens the ensemble): Selig, wie die Sonne ('As blissfully asthe sun'). Created (1877) by George Bentham.

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: "Selig, wie die Sonne" (Quintet)
Metropolitan Opera
Quintet from Act III of Wagner's "Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg." Karita Mattila (Eva), Jill Grove (Magdalene), Ben Heppner (Walther), Matthew Polenzani (David), James Morris (Sachs). Production: Otto Schenk. Conductor: James Levine. 2001

MAGDALENA: Mezzo-soprano. Eva's nurse and companion. She hopes to marry David, Sachs's apprentice. In churchy she realizes that Eva's attention is wandering to Walther; the handsome young knight. After the service, Magdalene is sent to retrieve Eva's belongings from their pew in order to leave Eva alone with Walther. Magdalene is апшош that people do not suspect a relationship between these two before the song contest for the prize is Eva's hand in marriage. Magdalene suggests Waither should learn the way to go about winning her. She asks David to teach Walther the rules of the guild to ensure that he is elected a Master.

She later learns from David that Walther has failed the test. She urges Eva to ask Hans Sachs for help. Eva asks Magdalene to stand at the window, dressed in Eva's cloak, so that Beckmesser, who is coming to serenade Eva, will mistake Magdalene for Eva—Magdalene agrees to this ruse, hoping it vdll also make David jealom. She is unaware that Eva is planning to elope with Waither, leaving Magdalene behind to confuse her father. David's jealousy is duly агошед and he sets about beating-up Beckmesser. Frightened that he will badly injure the town-clerk, Magdalene screams for help. By now the whole town is awake and only the Nighit-Watchman's arrival restores sanity. Magdalene explains to David what it was all about. At the contest she is clearly delighted when Walther wins. She hopes that now that Sachs has upgraded David from ’apprentice’ to 'journeyman', they too wffl be able to wed, Magdalene has no solo aria, but sings in many ensembles, including the famous third-act quintet with Eva, Waither, Sachs, and David, where her opening line is Wach' oder traum'ich schon so fruh? (‘Is this a vision or a dream?’). Created (1868) by Sophie Dietz.

Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnburg - Finale

DAVID: Tenor. Apprentice to Hans Sachs, he has a long-standing relationship with Magdalene, Eva's companion, even though she is older than he is. There is to be a trial for those wishing to become new Masters, Magdalene asks David to ensure that Walther succeeds (so he can enter the song-contest for which the prize is marriage to Eva)- David explains to Walther the Tablatur, the table of rules by which all songs must be composed. These rules are quite complicated and David soon realizes that Walther's chances of remembering them are remote. David then supervises the other apprentices in setting the scene for the song contest, and explains to Walther how there will be a marker to listen for his mistakes. He knows that Walther will fail, and indeed he does. David knows this means trouble with Magdalene and when they meet she is certainly not pleased with him. He helps Sachs sort out the new shoes ready for the morrow and goes to bed. He is awakened by noise in the street below his window, and looks out to see Magdalene being serenaded by Beckmesser (whoo thinks he is singing to Eva). He rushes out and starts beating Beckmesser, who is saved by Sachs's dragging David away and sending him into the house. The next day Magdalene tells Ыш the story of her impersonation of Eva and he is reassured, but worried about what Hans Sachs is going to say to him about his behaviour the previous night. He returns to the house, where Sachs is studying a large book. Sachs says nothing and this worries David until he goes up to Sachs and asks his forgiveness. Sachs just asks him to sing his new poem. Suddenly, David remembers— it is Sachs's birthday: He presents him with flowers and ribbons which Magdalene gave him. He also suggests to Sachs that he, too, should take part in the competition for Eva's hand. David is sent to get ready to accompany his master to the song contests When he emerges» he is amazed to have Sachs announce that he is upgrading him from 'apprentice' to 'journeyman'. He сап't wait to tell his fellow apprentices and Magdalene. At the end of the day's events, his pride in being able to serve someone as noble as Sachs is obvious. Arias: Gleich Meister! Hier! ('I'm coming, Master! Неге!'); Der Meister Ton' und Weisen ('The Masters' tones and melodies'); Am Jordans Sankt Johannes stand' ('On Jordan's banks St John did stand'); quintet (with Sachs, Eva, Waltherr and Magddene), in which his opening lines are: Wach' oder traum' ich schon so fruh? ('Do I wake or dream so early?').  Created (1868) by Max Schlosser.

Prize Song from Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg Act III

HANS SACHS: Bass. One of the senior Masters, a cobbler. His apprentice is David. Living opposite the Pogner family! he has watched Eva grow up and is very fond of her. At the assembly of the Masters at which Poguer offers Eva as the prize at the next sdtig contest, Sachs suggests that the people of Nuremberg have the casting vote, 6ut he has to abandon the idea when it becomes clear that all the other Masters are against him. He accepts that Eva herself shall have the final say in whom she is to many He backs up Pogner in his suggestion that Walther von Stolzing shall enter the contest, even though he is not a Master, emphasizing that the only true concern in this contest is art. He is attracted by the young knight's singing, recognizing his talent but ignorance of the rules. He criticizes Beckmesser for being so against Walther, pointing out that he has a vested interest—he would like to marry Eva. Sending David to bed, Sachs settles in the shade of the elder tree outside his door and considers how best to help Walther, As he sits and works at his last, Eva visits him. She is concerned that Beckmesser might win her hand in marriage, and makes it clear that she would consider Sachs a more suitable husband. Sachs lightly tells her he is too old, and she starts to question him about those who have taken part in the auditions that day. As their discussion proceeds, it Is obvious that her interest is in Walther. And whilst he approves of the knight as her future husbands Sachs nevertheless feels some jealousy, acknowledging to himself Ws own feelings for Eva. Realizing that she is planning to elope with Walther, Sachs determines to stop them, knowing this to be a foolish solution. He watches Beckmesser arrive to serenade Eva and agrees to listen to him singing, but he will act as 'marker' and he macks the mistakes by hammer-blows on his last. This causes great aggravation as Beckmesser struggles to be heard above the hammering. All the time, Sachs is keeping a watchful eye on Walther and Eva, and as they try to escape under cover of a riot which begins in the street, he pushes Eva into her father's house and drags Walther into his shop. The next morning, David interrupts Sachs's reveries, reminding him that today is bis name-day. Sachs sends David off to dress for the contest and lapses into his famous Wahn ('madness') monologue, ruminating on man's inhumanity to man. He resolves to help Walther, explaining to him the rules of the contest, how the song must be written and sung. Walther sings his song and Sachs gives him hints on its performance. While the two men are inside changing, Beckmesser comes in, sees Walthef's song, assumes it to be by Sachs and takes it. Sachs returns and offers to allow Beckmesser to keep the song, assuring him that he, Sachs, will not compete for Eva's hand. Beckmesser departs, Eva arrives, dressed ready for the contest and asks Sachs to adjust her shoes. As he does so, Walther returns and the young couple are clearly seen to be in love. Walther sings part of his song and Eva knows he is going to win the contest, thanks to Sachs's help and self-sacrifice, Sachs upgrades David from Apprentice to Journey-man and they ail depart for the meadow where the song-contest will take place. As Sachs rises to speak to the Masters, the crowd break into a great paean of praise for him, Wach auf ('Awake'). Beckmesser sings, making a terrible mess of the song he has acquired from Sachs, and then Sachs urges them all to allow Walther to have his turn. The easy winner, Walther at first refuses to accept admission to the Masters' Guild, but Sachs points out to him that he must respect the Holy German Art which has ensured his victory, and Sachs places the Master's chain round Walther's neck. The crowd hail Sachs's wisdom. Arias: Was duftet dock der Flieder, so mild... ('How mild is the scent of the elder"一known as the Fliedermonolog); Wahn! Wahn! Oberall Wahn! (‘Madness! Madness! Everywhere madness!'一the Wahnmonolo); Verachtetmir die Meister nicht ('Do not scorn the Masters'). Created (1900) by Ettore ВогеШ.

Magic Flute. "Queen of the Night Aria" -Natalie Dessay


VEIT POGNER, goldsmith - Bass
KUNZ VOGELGESANG, furrier - Tenor
buckle-maker - Bass

SIXTUS BECKMESSERtown clerk - Bass

FRITZ KOTHNER, baker - Bass
BALTHASAR ZORN, pewterer - Tenor

AUGUSTIN MOSER, tailor - Tenor
HERMAN ORTEL, soap boiler - Bass
HANS SCHWARZstocking weaver - Bass
HANZ FOLTZ, coppersmith - Bass



Nuremberg, towards the middle of the sixteenth century.

Prelude (Vorspiel)

Wagner seems unwontedly modest in calling his introductory thoughts merely Vorspiel, or Prelude, equating it with, say, one of Chopin's one-page poems. The very opening theme is that of the mastersingers, the sixteenth-century guild of vocalists, Nuremberg chapter. It is followed by each of the other principal themes of the opera—Longing, Prize Song, Love Confessed, The Art of Brotherhood, Ridicule, and others, which have been so labeled by leitmotiv detectives. In the deveiopment, two, three, and one time even four of these are juggled together with consummate skill. A tremendous climax is achieved with the reiteration of the opening theme; and (excepting in Wagner's own concert anangement) the Prelude leads directly into.

Act I

Scene 1: Interior of Katharinenkirche (St. Catherine's Church) in Nuremberg, St John's Eve or Midsummer's Eve, June 23

After the prelude, a church service is just ending with a singing of Da zu dir der Heiland kam (When the Saviour came to thee), an impressive pastiche of a Lutheran chorale, as Walther von Stolzing, a young knight from Franconia, addresses Eva Pogner, whom he had met earlier, and asks her if she is engaged to anyone. Eva and Walther have fallen in love at first sight, but she informs him that her father, the goldsmith and mastersinger Veit Pogner, has arranged to give her hand in marriage to the winner of the guild's song contest on St. John's Day (Midsummer's Day), tomorrow. Eva's maid, Magdalena, gets David, Hans Sachs's apprentice, to tell Walther about the mastersingers' art. The hope is for Walther to qualify as a mastersinger during the guild meeting, traditionally held in the church after Mass, and thus earn a place in the song contest despite his utter ignorance of the master-guild's rules and conventions.

Scene 2

As the other apprentices set up the church for the meeting, David warns Walther that it is not easy to become a mastersinger; it takes many years of learning and practice. David gives a confusing lecture on the mastersingers' rules for composing and singing. (Many of the tunes he describes were real master-tunes from the period.) Walther is confused by the complicated rules, but is determined to try for a place in the guild anyway.

Scene 3

The first mastersingers file into the church, including Eva's wealthy father Veit Pogner and the town clerk Beckmesser. Beckmesser, a clever technical singer who was expecting to win the contest without opposition, is distressed to see that Walther is Pogner's guest and intends to enter the contest. Meanwhile, Pogner introduces Walther to the other mastersingers as they arrive. Fritz Kothner the baker, serving as chairman of this meeting, calls the roll. Pogner, addressing the assembly, announces his offer of his daughter's hand for the winner of the song contest. When Hans Sachs argues that Eva ought to have a say in the matter, Pogner agrees that Eva may refuse the winner of the contest, but she must still marry a mastersinger. Another suggestion by Sachs, that the townspeople, rather than the masters, should be called upon to judge the winner of the contest, is squelched by the other masters. Pogner formally introduces Walther as a candidate for admission into the masterguild. Questioned by Kothner about his background, Walther states that his teacher in poetry was Walther von der Vogelweide whose works he studied in his own private library in Franconia, and his teachers in music were the birds and nature itself. Reluctantly the masters agree to admit him, provided he can perform a master-song of his own composition. Walther chooses love as the topic for his song and therefore is to be judged by Beckmesser alone, the "Marker" of the guild for worldly matters. At the signal to begin (Fanget an!), Walther launches into a novel free-form tune (So rief der Lenz in den Wald), breaking all the mastersingers' rules, and his song is constantly interrupted by the scratch of Beckmesser's chalk on his chalkboard, maliciously noting one violation after another. When Beckmesser has completely covered the slate with symbols of Walther's errors, he interrupts the song and argues that there is no point in finishing it. Sachs tries to convince the masters to let Walther continue, but Beckmesser sarcastically tells Sachs to stop trying to set policy and instead, to finish making his (Beckmesser's) new shoes, which are overdue. Raising his voice over the masters' argument, Walther finishes his song, but the masters reject him and he rushes out of the church.

Act II

Scene 1: Evening in a Nuremberg street, at the corner between Pogner's house and Hans Sachs's house, opposite. A lime tree stands outside Pogner's house, an elder outside Sachs's. The apprentices are closing the shutters

David informs Magdalena of Walther's failure. In her disappointment, Magdalena leaves without giving David the food she had brought for him. This arouses the derision of the other apprentices, and David is about to turn on them when Sachs arrives and hustles his apprentice into the workshop.

Scene 2

Pogner arrives with Eva, engaging in a roundabout conversation: Eva is hesitant to ask about the outcome of Walther's application, and Pogner has private doubts about whether it was wise to offer his daughter's hand in marriage for the song contest. As they enter their house, Magdalena appears and tells Eva about the rumours of Walther's failure. Eva decides to ask Sachs about the matter.

Scene 3

As twilight falls, Hans Sachs takes a seat in front of his house, to work on a new pair of shoes for Beckmesser. He muses on Walther's song, which has made a deep impression on him. ("Was duftet doch der Flieder", often called "the Fliedermonolog")

Scene 4

Eva approaches Sachs, and they discuss tomorrow's song contest. Eva is unenthusiastic about Beckmesser, who appears to be the only eligible contestant. She hints that she would not mind if Sachs, a widower, were to win the contest. Though touched, Sachs protests that he would be too old a husband for her. Upon further prompting, Sachs describes Walther's failure at the guild meeting. This causes Eva to storm off angrily, confirming Sachs's suspicion that she has fallen in love with Walther. Eva is intercepted by Magdalena, who informs her that Beckmesser is coming to serenade her. Eva, determined to search for Walther, tells Magdalena to pose as her (Eva) at the bedroom window.



Scene 5

Just as Eva is about to leave, Walther appears. He tells her that he has been rejected by the mastersingers, and the two prepare to elope. However, Sachs has overheard their plans. As they are passing by, he illuminates the street with his lantern, forcing them to hide in the shadow of Pogner's house. Walther makes up his mind to confront Sachs, but is interrupted by the arrival of Beckmesser.

Scene 6

As Eva and Walther retreat further into the shadows, Beckmesser begins his serenade. Sachs interrupts him by launching into a full-bellied cobbling song, and hammering the soles of the half-made shoes. Annoyed, Beckmesser tells Sachs to stop, but the cobbler replies that he has to finish tempering the soles of the shoes, whose lateness Beckmesser had publicly complained about in Act 1. Sachs offers a compromise: he will be quiet and let Beckmesser sing, but he (Sachs) will be Beckmesser's "marker", and mark each of Beckmesser's musical/poetical errors by striking one of the soles with his hammer. Beckmesser, who has spotted someone at Eva's window (Magdalena in disguise), has no time to argue. He tries to sing his serenade, but he makes so many mistakes (his tune repeatedly places accents on the wrong syllables of the words) that from the repeated knocks Sachs finishes the shoes. David wakes up and sees Beckmesser apparently serenading Magdalena. He attacks Beckmesser in a fit of jealous rage. The entire neighborhood is awakened by the noise. The other apprentices rush into the fray, and the situation degenerates into a full-blown riot. In the confusion, Walther tries to escape with Eva, but Sachs pushes Eva into her home and drags Walther into his own workshop. Quiet is restored as abruptly as it was broken. A lone figure walks through the street – the nightwatchman, calling out the hour.


Act III   Scenes 1–4

Prelude (Vorspiel), a meditative orchestral introduction using music from two key episodes to be heard in Act 3: Sachs's Scene 1 monologue "Wahn! Wahn!" and the "Wittenburg Nightingale" quasi-chorale sung by the townspeople to greet Sachs in Scene 5.

Scene 1: Sachs's workshop

As morning dawns, Sachs is reading a large book. Lost in thought, he does not respond as David returns from delivering Beckmesser's shoes. David finally manages to attract his master's attention, and they discuss the upcoming festivities – it is St. John's day, Hans Sachs's name day. David recites his verses for Sachs, and leaves to prepare for the festival. Alone, Sachs ponders last night's riot. "Madness! Madness! Everywhere madness!" (Wahn! Wahn! Überall Wahn!) His attempt to prevent an elopement had ended in shocking violence. Nevertheless, he is resolved to make madness work for him today.

Scene 2

Sachs gives Walther an interactive lesson on the history and philosophy of music and mastersinging, and teaches him to moderate his singing according to the spirit (if not the strict letter) of the masters' rules. Walther demonstrates his understanding by composing two sections of a new Prize Song in a more acceptable style than his previous effort from act 1. Sachs writes down the new verses as Walther sings them. A final section remains to be composed, but Walther postpones the task. The two men leave the room to dress for the festival.


Scene 3

Beckmesser, still sore from his drubbing the night before, enters the workshop. He spots the verses of the Prize Song, written in Sachs's handwriting, and infers that Sachs is secretly planning to enter the contest for Eva's hand. The cobbler re-enters the room and Beckmesser confronts him with the verses and asks if he wrote them. Sachs confirms that the handwriting is his, but does not clarify that he was not the author but merely served as scribe. However, he goes on to say that he has no intention of wooing Eva or entering the contest, and he presents the manuscript to Beckmesser as a gift. He promises never to claim the song for his own, and warns Beckmesser that it is a very difficult song to interpret and sing. Beckmesser, his confidence restored by the prospect of using verses written by the famous Hans Sachs, ignores the warning and rushes off to prepare for the song contest. Sachs smiles at Beckmesser's foolishness but expresses hope that Beckmesser will learn to be better in the future.

Scene 4

Eva arrives at the workshop. She is looking for Walther, but pretends to have complaints about a shoe that Sachs made for her. Sachs realizes that the shoe is a perfect fit, but pretends to set about altering the stitching. As he works, he tells Eva that he has just heard a beautiful song, lacking only an ending. Eva cries out as Walther enters the room, splendidly attired for the festival, and sings the third and final section of the Prize Song. The couple are overwhelmed with gratitude for Sachs, and Eva asks Sachs to forgive her for having manipulated his feelings. The cobbler brushes them off with bantering complaints about his lot as a shoemaker, poet, and widower. At last, however, he admits to Eva that, despite his feelings for her, he is resolved to avoid the fate of King Marke (a reference to the subject of another Wagner opera, Tristan und Isolde, in which an old man tries to marry a much-younger woman), thus conferring his blessing upon the lovers. David and Magdalena appear. Sachs announces to the group that a new master-song has been born, which, following the rules of the mastersingers, is to be baptized. As an apprentice cannot serve as a witness for the baptism, he promotes David to the rank of journeyman with the traditional cuff on the ear (and by this also "promoting" him as a groom and Magdalena as a bride). He then christens the Prize Song the Morning Dream Song (Selige Morgentraumdeut-Weise). After celebrating their good fortune with an extended quintet (Selig, wie die Sonne meines Glückes lacht) — musically capping the first four scenes of Act III — the group departs for the festival.

Act III  Scene 5

Almost an act in itself, this scene occupies about 45 minutes of the two hours of Act III and is separated from the preceding four scenes by a Verwandlungsmusik, a transforming Interlude. Meadow on the Pegnitz River. It is the Feast of St. John.


Various guilds enter boasting of their contributions to Nürnberg’s success as a city. Wagner depicts three: the Cobblers, whose chorus, Sankt Krispin, lobet ihn!, uses the signature cry streck! streck! streck!; the Tailors, who sing the chorus Als Nürnberg belagert war with the goat cry meck! meck! meck!; and the Bakers, who cut the tailors off with Hungersnot! Hungersnot!, or Famine, famine!, and its beck! beck! beck!, or bake, bake, bake!

This sequence leads into the well-known Tanz der Lehrbuben, or Dance of the Apprentices. The mastersingers themselves then arrive grandly in a section usually referred to as the “Procession of the Masters.” The crowd sings the praises of Hans Sachs, the most beloved and famous of the mastersingers. Here Wagner provides a rousing chorus, Wach’ auf, es nahet gen den Tag, using words written by the historical Sachs himself and musically relates it to the “Wittenberg Nightingale.”

The prize contest begins. Beckmesser attempts to sing the verses that he had obtained from Sachs. However, he garbles the words (Morgen ich leuchte) and fails to fit them to an appropriate melody, and ends up singing so clumsily that the crowd laughs him off. Before storming off in anger, he yells that the song was not even his: Hans Sachs tricked him into singing it. The crowd is confused. How could the great Hans Sachs have written such a bad song? Sachs tells them that the song is not his own, and also that it is in fact a beautiful song which the masters will love when they hear it sung correctly. To prove this, he calls a witness: Walther. The people are so curious about the song (correctly worded as Morgenlich leuchtend im rosigen Schein) that they allow Walther to sing it, and everyone is won over in spite of its novelty.

They declare Walther the winner, and the mastersingers want to make him a member of their guild on the spot. At first Walther is tempted to reject their offer, but Sachs intervenes once more and explains that art, even ground-breaking, contrary art like Walther’s, can only exist within a cultural tradition, which tradition the art sustains and improves. Walther is convinced; he agrees to join. Pogner places the symbolic master-hood medal around his neck, Eva takes his hand, and the people sing once more the praises of Hans Sachs, the beloved mastersinger of Nuremberg.

Influence of Schopenhauer

In 1854, Wagner first read Schopenhauer, and was struck by the philosopher's theories on aesthetics. In this philosophy, art is a means for escaping from the sufferings of the world, and music is the highest of the arts since it is the only one not involved in representation of the world (i.e. it is abstract). It is for this reason that music can communicate emotion without the need for words. In his earlier essay Oper und Drama (Opera and Drama) (1850–1) Wagner had derided staples of operatic construction: arias, choruses, duets, trios, recitatives, etc. As a result of reading Schopenhauer's ideas about the role of music, Wagner re-evaluated his prescription for opera, and included many of these elements in Die Meistersinger.

Although Die Meistersinger is a comedy, it also elucidates Wagner's ideas on the place of music in society, on renunciation of Wille (Will), and on the solace that music can bring in a world full of Wahn (delusion, folly, self-deception). It is Wahn which causes the riot in act 2 — a sequence of events arising from a case of mistaken identity, which can be seen as a form of self-delusion. Commentators have observed that in his famous Act 3 monologue Wahn, Wahn, überall Wahn (Madness! Madness!, Everywhere madness!), Sachs paraphrases Schopenhauer's description of the way that Wahn drives a person to behave in ways that are self-destructive:

in Flucht geschlagen, wähnt er zu jagen; hört nicht sein eigen Schmerzgekreisch,
wenn er sich wühlt ins eig'ne Fleisch, wähnt Lust sich zu erzeigen!


driven into flight he believes he is hunting, and does not hear his own cry of pain:
when he tears into his own flesh, he imagines he is giving himself pleasure!


Following the completion of Tristan und Isolde, Wagner resumed work on Die Meistersinger in 1861 with a quite different philosophical outlook from that which he held when he developed his first draft. The character of Hans Sachs became one of the most Schopenhauerian of Wagner's creations. Wagner scholar Lucy Beckett has noted the remarkable similarity between Wagner's Sachs and Schopenhauer's description of the noble man:

We always picture a very noble character to ourselves as having a certain trace of silent sadness... It is a consciousness that has resulted from knowledge of the vanity of all achievements and of the suffering of all life, not merely of one's own.
(Schopenhauer: Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung – The World as Will and Representation)


The other distinctive manifestation of Sachs's character – his calm renunciation of the prospect of becoming a suitor for Eva's love – is also deeply Schopenhauerian. Sachs here denies the Will in its supposedly most insistent form, that of sexual love. Wagner marks this moment with a direct musical and textual reference to Tristan und Isolde: Mein Kind, von Tristan und Isolde kenn' ich ein traurig Stück. Hans Sachs war klug und wollte nichts von Herrn Markes Glück. ("My child, I know a sad tale of Tristan and Isolde. Hans Sachs was clever and did not want anything of King Marke's lot.")