The Master-singers Of Nueremberg

In three acts by WAGNER.

This opera carries us back to the middle of the 16th century and the

persons whom we meet are all historical.

Amongst the tradesmen, whose rhyme-making has made them famous, Hans

Sachs, the shoemaker is the most conspicuous.

The music is highly original, though not precisely melodious and is

beautifully adapted to its characteristically national subject.

In the first act we see St. Catharine's church in Nueremberg, where

Divine Service is being celebrated, in preparation for St. John's Day.

Eva, the lovely daughter of Master Pogner the jeweller, sees the young

knight Walter Stolzing, who has fallen in love with Eva, and who has

sold his castle in Franconia to become a citizen of Nueremberg. She

tells him that her hand is promised to the winner of the prize for a

master-song, to be sung on the following morning.

We are now called to witness one of those ancient customs still

sometimes practiced in old German towns. The master-singers appear,

and the apprentices prepare everything needful for them. Walter asks

one of them, called David, an apprentice of Sachs, what he will have to

do in order to compete for the prize. He has not learnt poetry as a

profession like those worthy workmen, and David vainly tries to

initiate him into their old-fashioned rhyming. Walter leaves him,

determined to win the prize after his own fashion.

Pogner appears with Beckmesser the clerk, whom he wishes to have as

son-in-law. Beckmesser is so infatuated that he does not doubt of his

success. Meanwhile Walter comes up to them, entreating them to

admit him into their corporation as a master-singer.

Pogner consents, but Beckmesser grumbles, not at all liking to have a

nobleman among them.--When all are assembled, Pogner declares his

intention of giving his daughter to the winner of the master-song on

the day of St John's festival, and all applaud his resolution. Eva

herself may refuse him, but never is she to wed another than a crowned

master-singer. Sachs, who loves Eva as his own child, seeks to change

her father's resolution, at the same time proposing to let the people

choose in the matter of the prize, but he is silenced by his

colleagues. They now want to know where Walter has learnt the art of

poetry and song, and as he designates Walter von der Vogelweide and the

birds of the forest, they shrug their shoulders.

He begins at once to give a proof of his art, praising Spring in a song

thrilling with melody. Beckmesser interrupts him; he has marked the

rhymes on the black tablet, but they are new and unintelligible to this

dry verse-maker, and he will not let them pass. The others share his

opinion; only Hans Sachs differs from them, remarking that Walter's

song, though new and not after the old use and wont rules of Nueremberg,

is justified all the same, and so Walter is allowed to finish it, which

he does with a bold mockery of the vain poets, comparing them to crows,

oversounding a singing-bird. Sachs alone feels that Walter is a true


In the second act David the apprentice tells Magdalene, Eva's nurse,

that the new singer did not succeed, at which she is honestly grieved,

preferring the gallant younker for her mistress, to the old and

ridiculous clerk. The old maid loves David; she provides him with food

and sweets and many are the railleries which he has to suffer from his

companions in consequence.

The evening coming on we see Sachs in his open work-shop; Eva, his

darling, is in confidential talk with him. She is anxious about

to-morrow, and rather than wed Beckmesser she would marry Sachs, whom

she loves and honors as a father. Sachs is a widower, but he rightly

sees through her schemes and resolves to help the lovers.

It has now grown quite dark, and Walter comes to see Eva, but they have

not sat long together, when the sounds of a lute are heard.

It is Beckmesser trying to serenade Eva, but Sachs interrupts him by

singing himself and thus excites Beckmesser's wrath and despair. At

last a window opens, and Beckmesser, taking Magdalene for Eva addresses

her in louder and louder tones, Sachs all the time beating the measure

on a shoe. The neighboring windows open, there is a general alarm, and

David, seeing Magdalene at the window apparently listening to

Beckmesser, steals behind this unfortunate minstrel and begins to slap

him. In the uproar which now follows, Walter vainly tries to escape

from his refuge under the lime-tree, but Sachs comes to his rescue, and

takes him into his own work-shop, while he pushes Eva unseen into

her father's house, the door of which has just been opened by Pogner.

In the third act we find Sachs in his room. Walter enters, thanking

him heartily for the night's shelter. Sachs kindly shows him the rules

of poetry, encouraging him to try his luck once more. Walter begins

and quite charms Sachs with his love-song. After they have left the

room, Beckmesser enters, and reading the poetry, which Sachs wrote

down, violently charges the shoemaker with wooing Eva himself. Sachs

denies it and allows Beckmesser to keep the paper. The latter who has

vainly ransacked his brains for a new song, is full of joy, hoping to

win the prize with it.

When he is gone, Eva slips in to fetch her shoes, and she sees Walter

stepping out of his dormitory in brilliant armor. He has found a third

stanza to his song; which he at once produces.--They all proceed to the

place where the festival is to be held and Beckmesser in the first to

try his fortunes, which he does by singing the stolen song. He sadly

muddles both melody and words, and being laughed at, he charges Sachs

with treachery, but Sachs quietly denies the authorship, pushing

forward Walter, who now sings his stanzas, inspired by love and poetry.

No need to say that he wins the hearer's hearts as he has won those of

Eva and Sachs, and that Pogner does not deny him his beloved daughter's


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